Habitat: Atelier 11, the East End of Easton and Adaptive Re-Use

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This year, the architecture and interior design firm Atelier 11 celebrates twenty-five years of design excellence in architecture and interior design.  Notable projects include the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Building Complex, the Talbot Hospice building, the Community Center at Londonderry and Evergreen Cove as well as numerous new residences, seamless addition and renovations.

The ESLC complex was unique for its sustainability and for its being a historic building that now has a new life to house the ESLC offices and other non-profits.  Glass interior walls encourage collaboration and the stained concrete floors and brick walls are preserved elements of the building’s early days. The building’s welcoming form, colors and sunny interior spaces of Talbot Hospice have drawn back many people whose loved ones spent their last days there. Many people return to visit the chapel or stroll the grounds and feel the presence of their loved ones.

The Londonderry Community Center was an opportunity to provide an environment for residents to socialize or to try a new skill including dance, art, crafts, or attend lectures to exercise the “little grey cells” as Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot, was fond of saying. Evergreen Cove was an opportunity to literally think “outside the box” of a brick rancher.  Atelier 11’s solution opened up the box to nature and is a peaceful setting for yoga and other healing arts.

What many Talbot County residents may not know is the firm has also made a significant contribution to urban design. When they built their office at 11 S. Aurora Street in 2002, the East End needed revitalization to eliminate vacant lots and to renovate the existing housing stock before structures deteriorated to the point that demolition was necessary.  They constructed their building in the middle of a vacant block and opened for business.

Slowly but surely other building owners or investors followed Atelier 11’s pioneering lead and rescued this neighborhood to give it a solid future. After completing their building, Atelier 11 added development to their list of services. They designed and built two new houses on lots near their building to knit the streetscape back together. Now that the Easton Town Council has voted to approve the creation of an Arts and Entertainment District, the availability of tax credits will ensure the East End will continue to thrive.

Their office building is also an example of how good design matters in creating a building that can adapt to changing economic times and uses. When the housing and real estate crash occurred in 2008, firms in Easton had to make painful choices about staff but luckily Atelier 11 retained core staff. They consolidated their office on the second floor and opened a gallery on the first floor.

After five years of having a second office in Lynchburg, VA, to add University work and downtown development projects to their repertoire, the firm converted their Easton building to a live-work space and relocated staff to a studio at the corner of Washington and Dover Streets. Now on the market, 11 S. Aurora St. could be a gallery/living space, a single family residence, or a commercial building. As Principal Architect Lauren jokingly remarked to me, “it is probably the only residence that has a fully compliant ADA bathroom on the first floor.”

On the day I visited, one of the firm’s associates, Tom Batchelor, gave me a tour of the completed construction.  I had always admired the distinctive front door mat created by embedding rounded edged stones into mortar that provides a distinctive way to remove mud from one’s shoes.  The former reception area now becomes a spacious entrance hall with filtered light from both the front French door and sidelights and from the stair landing beyond. The ADA compliant restroom now is a full bath with the renovation of an adjacent storage room for an ADA shower. The former studio space has been transformed and could be an open plan living-dining-kitchen or a studio area . The rear high windows at the South Street side of the building filter sunlight in while maintaining privacy. The former Principals’ two offices are now a bedroom and a den.

As we climbed the stairs to the second floor, we paused at the landing with its dramatic large window overlooking the surrounding neighborhood. I asked Tom how many buildings we could see that had been renovated since Atelier 11’s pioneering building. He told me the firm had actually compiled a map that showed over seventeen buildings which is an amazing statistic.   

The second floor now contains three bedrooms, one of which is a spacious master suite.  The overlook to the first floor has been maintained and also provides light into the hall from the window at the side wall. The master suite has a French door to a terrace with a stair down to the sidewalk along South Street and would be a great space for sunbathing. Opposite the terrace is the “Tower”, a two-story rental unit with living, dining and kitchen on the first floor and a bedroom and bath on the second floor.

Co-Principals  Jon Braithwaite and Lauren Dianich divide their time between offices according to who is the lead on projects.  The next generation of Atelier 11 will continue under the leadership of senior staff of Christian Chute and Tom Batchelor and support staff in both offices.  Happy Anniversary to a talented team of architects and interior designers who have been responsible for some of Talbot County’s best design work, and for the community service that is part of the firm’s mission.  Bravo!

For more information about this property, contact Kelly Showell with Benson & Mangold Real Estate at 410-822-1415 (o), 410-829-5468 (c) or kshowell1958@gmail.com, “Equal Housing Opportunity”.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

 

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