The Next Wave – Kelsey Birchenall
Architectural Designer Kelsey Birchenall
Writer: Haley Cote|
Photo by Paige Biviano
Within the last two years, Kelsey Birchenall has gone from designing office spaces as a corporate design intern in New York to designing houses as an architectural designer for Longfellow Design Build on Cape Cod. It was during a trip to the Cape, where she has vacationed her entire life, in the summer of 2016 when the 24-year-old Delaware native discovered Longfellow and their new Chatham showroom. “I thought, ‘This is cool!’” she recalls. Birchenall decided to leave her phone number, and the rest is history. “It’s been great,” she says of working for the firm. “I enjoy making people’s lives easier through design.” Interview by Haley Cote
CCH: What lead you to pursue a career in architecture?
KB: I’ve always loved spaces and, as a child, little nooks and crannies, places to decorate and make my own. When I was little I was always making things—painting, drawing. I knew I wanted to do something that incorporated art and design in a practical way. In high school I went to the Pratt [Institute] PreCollege and studied interior design for a summer, and I realized that I liked it. Architecture was something I considered later on. I got into urban design when I was in college [at Pratt Institute, where she majored in interior design], so it was a culmination of interior and exterior design that lead me into architectural work.
CCH: What is your approach to architectural design?
KB: Here on the Cape, it’s a family lifestyle, so it’s important to know how an interior functions for, in most cases, a second home for people with a lot of family members. Growing up with a second home here, I know what a lot of people on the Cape are looking for. For example, they don’t need a bedroom where someone’s going to stay for a year; they need a bedroom for someone who’s going to stay there a few days on vacation. It’s about understanding the user and understanding what they need. When I was in school, I studied specific users and how they would use interior space. That’s helped me a lot in knowing how to analyze a person’s life and how they’re going to use their space.
CCH: How have you been able to achieve the success you’ve had so early on in your career?
KB: Through hard work—working hard for the client, for the company, and for myself—and by not being afraid to move, because I always saw myself staying in New York. I love being here, so I figured why not take a chance?
CCH: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now career-wise?
KB: I don’t have a set goal as to where I’ll be in 10 years, but I’d like to venture into other areas of architecture and design, such as hospitality and commercial work. I would like to be able to take everything I’ve learned so far and continue to strengthen my skills and be part of a design team.
CCH: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time on the Cape?
KB: I love being outside—I’ll go hiking, go to the beach. I’m a big foodie, so I love exploring new restaurants. Everyone I work with is so fun, so we’ll do a lot of activities together. We love positive energy here—everything is teamwork, and we try to convey that to our clients. We get along really well, and I think that’s been important.
CCH: If you could design a space for any celebrity, who would it be, and why?
KB: My dream celebrity client would probably be chef Rene Redzepi, who opened the restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. I’m a big foodie, and I love the whole experience of fine dining. I want to be able to take a chef’s vision and create a space around that. I’ve read a lot about his cooking methodologies, and I am fascinated by the processes he uses. I think architecture and food can really complement each other.
CCH: What words of advice do you have for fellow young professionals looking to succeed in the local home building and design industry?
KB: Don’t let your ego get in the way of your design work. You have to think about the client first. Use your vision—it can totally open up someone else’s—but don’t necessarily push it on people. It’s a balancing act.
Casual elegance preserves the Cape Cod cottage style appeal while carving out space for a modern lifestyle.
In the process of building and remodelling homes on Cape Cod, Longfellow Design Build sees a distinct design style and sensibility emerging from their clients’ choices. Whether they are in Falmouth, Osterville or Chatham, these clients ask for a casual elegance the company calls “Cape Cod coastal.” If you travel off-Cape, just a mile or two past either bridge, it’s just not the same.
Many individuals these days are building or remodelling a second home on Cape Cod—a retreat from the stress of their hectic lives in Greater Boston, Connecticut or New York.
Historically, a cupola or captain’s walk topped the homes of successful Cape Cod shipowners so they could search the horizon for their ships due in port. This cupola sits atop a home on Mashnee Island in Bourne.
“After our youngest went off to college, we regrouped and noticed that our fondest life memories, both from our childhood and as a young family, were on Cape Cod,” says one new homeowner in Pocasset. “And we wanted more of that. We wanted a simpler lifestyle with space to create more memories with our kids and grandkids.”
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER: Michael Bremneour
CATEGORY: Three bedroom dwelling, 1600 square feet or less
SPONSORED BY: Cape Cod Young Professionals and the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors Inc.
“I was fortunate to grow up in a small attic apartment above my grandmother and experiencing the richness of her Italian culture. Caterina came to the US from Italy when she was 19; She lived through two World Wars, and The Great Depression. Her husband died when he was forty, leaving her to raise 13 children. Caterina lived to the age of 104, longer than eleven of her children. I learned a lot from the experience of growing up along with such a strong and determined woman” – Michael Bremneour
Longfellow Design Build Architectural Designer Michael Bremneour’s entry Caterina’s Cottage has been selected as a finalist in a design contest sponsored by the Cape Cod Young Professionals and the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors Inc.
Caterina’s Cottage is a diverse home design suitable for multi-generational living. With an additional first-floor master bedroom, this design enables adult children to live at home longer, or for grandparents to live along with a small family without sacrificing privacy and autonomy.
To further cost savings, Caterina’s Cottage includes many high efficiencies features and sustainable materials. This design features:
- Loft for a small office or sitting room away from the rest of the family
- Traditional exterior w/ transitional interior & open living space
- Sustainable materials and easily expandable
- Low/no maintenance exterior
- Simple, straight-forward design allows for low-cost (approx. $150sf) construction
- High-efficiency windows, doors, HVAC, and insulation
Partnership Forms To Create Attractive, Affordable Model Homes
– FALMOUTH ENTERPRISE
Contest: Design the ideal Cape Cod affordable house
– CAPE COD TIMES
– CAPE COD YOUNG PROFESSIONALS