Tradition and Creativity in Renovations

The sky is blue, an impossibly bright shade of blue that is just about the only thing to tip you off that the house is not in England. It is grand and rambling, unfolding across the lawns in a wonderfully earthy sprawl of rustic charm. Stately like it’s been there for centuries, the kind of place that is owned by a duke or an earl and is profoundly aware of that fact. The grass is a luminous green with bright blooms of flowers, and rust-red shrubs off to the side exude the professionally kept yet slightly rumpled appearance of a courtly English garden. It’s the kind of house whose surroundings you instinctively call the grounds rather than the yard.

Renovated English Tudor from the 1920s.

A renovation is a tricky balancing act that boils down to a core tenet: you must respect the original while introducing change. It is crucial at this stage to identify which elements are integral parts of the existing style and which are merely ancillary. If you remove the central pieces, the style will lose its visual clarity as a style distinct from its predecessors and its followers. A similar logic goes into adapting a book into a film; certain elements are essential to the storyline, while others can disappear and leave the story structurally sound. The task of the movie producer is to recognize which are the former and which the latter. This is the task of the architect as well. We must recognize that in this case, art is not just in what we change, but in what we allow to stay the same.

Patio of a renovated English Tudor house.

It is a running theme at MMA that our projects can often be distilled to a marriage of two styles, two ideas, two origins. At its core, this is a discussion of checks and balances in the middle of a vast gray area. It is a discussion of how to show respect to both pieces, how to know what is indispensable, and how to find a creative way to make something new out of them. None of our projects exists in a vacuum: each is the combined result of every design we have studied and created over many years of practice. We aim not only to avoid falling too heavily upon yesterday’s tropes, but also to honor their value and embrace their place in the progression of architecture as an art. We do this with the hope that what we create will have both roots in tradition and branches outward toward something new that we cannot quite see yet. We hope we have done this, and we hope you find it beautiful.

Stone arches on renovated English Tudor.