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David Welch

3.20.20

Mom and Pop Open Shop

She designs, he designs, and together they have big plans for their new adventure in West Tisbury.

Interior designer Mika Durrell first moved to the Island as a young adult, visiting with her father toward the end of high school and staying through the early part of her twenties. “I loved it,” Mika, now thirty-six, said of those years.

Fast forward about a decade. Mika was well established in an exciting career designing luxury residential spaces for a prestigious Boston-based firm, but she knew it was only a matter of time before she’d be back on the Island. So when, soon after Mika and her husband Ben welcomed their first daughter, Olive, she learned about an open position at Cape-and-Islands-based Hutker Architects, she sent in an application.

“We didn’t feel much sense of community in Boston,” she said.

“I’ve always worked a lot,” she added. “Eighty hours a week is normal. We thought that living here would make that balance easier.” 

When the couple learned a year later that they would be welcoming a second daughter, Elke, the decision to relocate to the Island made even the more sense.

“We kept imagining our girls running down the beach,” she said. “Our kids want to be running away from us at all times. In the city you have to keep them so close.”

Over the course of Mika’s four-year tenure at Hutker, she went from being the only interior designer to helping to establish an entire department, where she ultimately managed a staff of six as the firm’s director of interior design.
“I was really dedicated to Hutker,” Mika said. “They had broken out of their comfort zone to expand with me. It was a lot of hours, but I loved it.”

Gradually, though, she began to imagine that those hours could be spent investing in something that was truly her own. When a client approached her about taking on a major project independently, Mika and Ben, who is also a designer, realized the time had come to start their next chapter. Together.

“It was the perfect storm of events,” Mika said in the bright, airy offices of Able Moraine, the design studio and collective they opened in West Tisbury in the fall of 2019. “I hadn’t taken a vacation in four years. I was burnt out. And I had this opportunity to go out on my own. I thought I would take some time, work from home for a bit.”

Ben interrupted with a laugh. “I knew that she would be busy right away,” he said.

“And we knew that me working from home would kill our marriage,” Mika agreed. For one thing, she needed a physical space to store her supplies and samples. “The girls were getting into everything.”

Through friends they discovered the old Bodfish building, an historic West Tisbury storefront, which had most recently operated as a veterinary office. The couple stripped the space and turned reception areas into a cozy meeting space, and offices into a design studio and resource library. A small corner office serves as a painting studio for artist-in-residence Alexis Russillo.

Supporting and collaborating with local artists and artisans is at the heart of the couple’s long-term vision for Able Moraine. “We want to bring local makers to the table early on,” said Ben, who has a background in furniture design. “The community here is so willing and talented.”

The couple already highlights the work of local and regional metal workers, reclaimed woodworkers, glass blowers, and furniture makers, including their own line of furniture designed by Ben.

“Not everyone can afford or wants a top-to-bottom redesign,” Mika said. “But a lot of people are interested in a custom-built dining room table made by a local craftsperson. The studio space will serve as a platform to connect people with local makers.”

As for their design aesthetic, Mika resists classification. “Every house I’ve done is completely different,” she said. “I truly get to know the client, their families, what they love. I push their boundaries and try to expose them to new things, but at the end of the day I want them to feel like it’s their home, not mine.”

Though her specialty is in new construction and full renovation interior design, Mika emphasizes the studio’s interest in meeting people where they are.

“We have a huge investment in the Island,” she said. “We’re always helping friends with their restaurants and shops. We want to be a part of that experience, and a part of making the places that we like to go more beautiful. We believe everyone deserves beautiful design.”

Comments (3)

Patrice B
Edgartown
Congratulations Mika, I know you’ll do well!
April 27, 2020 - 10:53am
Leo Mc Cormack AIA
Mashpee
Hi Mika, congratulations to you and your husband on taking the dive into the pool. I am semiretired at this point, I could give you some pertinent professional advice having experienced over 38 years in my own practice and 12 years as Supervising Architect for a national Design/construct firm. I can be reached at 508-380-7833. Good Luck to you and Ben.
June 23, 2020 - 7:12pm
Cynthia Carpenter
Vineyard Haven
Congratulations Mika & Ben!! Wishing you every success! I know you'll create beautiful & wonderful things.
July 8, 2020 - 9:41am