Best Memory Care Design of 2020: Small House Principles with Regional Flair

Standing at two stories with latticed windows and clad in shingles, Duxbury House at the Village might fit in on any residential street in New England.

Part of the Village at Duxbury continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the memory care center gives residents a homelike environment with sunny common spaces, an open-plan country kitchen and 24 private studio apartments for person-centered care.

Creating a scaled-down, homelike setting for residents was the goal of Village at Duxbury owner and operator Welch Senior Living, according to President Paul Casale Sr.

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“We really wanted it to be small and intimate, and have a very residential atmosphere for a relatively small number of residents,” Casale told Senior Housing News.

The community’s compact local design, coupled with its use of natural light, earned it top accolades from the judges of the 2020 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards in the “Best Standalone Memory Care” category.

The concept

The catalyst for Duxbury House came in 2015, when a fire burned through a portion of the building that previously occupied the plot of land. Welch worked with construction and design firm and previous project partner Cutler Associates on the insurance process in the aftermath, which is how Design Project Manager Matthew O’Connell and Vice President Kevin Kozak got involved.

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When it was determined that the fire-damaged building would need to be replaced due to the fact that it was not up to modern standards, Cutler and Welch decided to move in a different direction with its planned replacement, and in 2018 Cutler Design began collaborating with Welch and EGA Architects PC on an initial conceptual site plan.

Welch includes a memory care component at each one of the seven communities it operates, and wanted to continue that trend with Duxbury House at the Village.

The project ran into some challenges early on, such as a narrowly zoned one-acre site that complicated laying out the building. Civil engineering, such as where to locate stormwater runoff, was also a hurdle to overcome.

“The biggest challenge was just fitting this into this tight site, and having it feel like it was a part of the campus,” Casale said.

The design they ultimately landed on pays homage to the surrounding region with historically inspired details, and includes New England-style shingles and a distinctive entrance tower. The community’s interior is designed in a coastal style that mirrors the character of the surrounding area.

“It was very important to me to have a building that really looks like it belongs in Duxbury and belongs on that campus,” Casale said.

Duxbury House spans two floors containing 12 private studios, each one its own neighborhood embodying some small-home concepts. And residents have access to amenities such as shared activity spaces, a roof patio, memory care gardens and an open-plan country kitchen. The community’s interior design, handled by Kentco Corporation, is reminiscent of a private household with large windows, high ceilings and a covered porch, alongside a design that includes art and materials meant to evoke Duxbury Bay, a regional landmark.

“We wanted to have a lot of space for the residents to be able to socialize and enjoy activities without crowding, and we didn’t want long walks to get to these spaces,” Casale said.

The property also utilizes energy-efficient mechanical systems with on-demand heating and cooling and filtered fresh air.

The construction

Construction on Duxbury House at the Village began in the fall of 2019 and lasted about a year under the direction of Cutler Associates, which also served as the project’s general contractor. The fact that Cutler handled both design and construction was a boon for the project.

“The installation above foundation went extremely smoothly thanks to all of the prior planning submittals and approvals that we had from our construction operation side,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell added that having a coordination team handling mechanical systems, electrical and plumbing engineering “significantly helped us in construction.”

Though much of the construction process occurred as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the U.S., the project didn’t encounter any serious delays. The $7 million project was financed privately by a local bank that has worked with Welch in the past.

“It didn’t affect the project in any real way,” O’Connell said. “We were out in the field every week, in the office multiple days a week … to really deliver this building, on-schedule and on-budget.”

The completion

Duxbury House began moving in residents in October, 2020, and has since leased 10 suites, with another two slated to be filled by mid-March. The community’s small-home design and low resident-to-staff ratio are a selling point with prospective residents and their families.

“We’re very happy with the exterior and interior,” Casale said. “Right now, we’re continuing to move people in and provide them with a great experience.”

The project also received praise from the SHN Design Award judges.

“Nice to see the small house design, good use of the outdoor space and excellent interior color scheme,” said Steve Levin, co-president of the Hana2.0 Property Group and a judge for this year’s competition.

Other judges praised Duxbury House for its sunny, spacious design and local feel.

“Good use of natural light coming in from both sides of the building to the center core of the household,” said Eric Krull, principal and executive vice president with THW Design. “The exterior and interior design captures the coastal New England shingle style vernacular.”

Bruce Hurowitz, president of Merlino Design Partnership, added that “an abundance of natural light is a real plus in the design of this compact building.”

And Casale is confident that the project will continue to pay off well into the future.

“We were, on paper, able to create what we thought was a tremendous plan,” Casale said. “That did play out. We got everything that we wanted.”

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