Homes architects design for themselves are often the most revealing works of their
careers. Idealistic young designers are drawn to such self-referential exercises. But, like a composer’s later music, dwellings formed by an experienced practitioner may offer a sense of resolution and a reassuring maturity. Sheila Bonnell’s cottage on a seaside meadow in Orleans,
Massachusetts, is the distillation of a lifetime’s aspirations. When the architect got this commission, however, she did not know it was to be her own home.
Bonnell and her client, Mon Cochran, have known each other since first grade. They left
their native Orleans for the wider world but eventually returned to their roots. Bonnell went
to architecture school at the University of Michigan and practiced in Japan and Boston, while
Cochran was a professor of psychology at Cornell University. The collaboration on the house
led to more than a meeting of creative minds; Bonnell and Cochran, married at the time it was
completed, moved into the house as a couple.
Bonnell grew up in an old house in the Rock Harbor section of town, amid the bustle of a
working fishing fleet, while Cochran’s great-grandfather bought a farm overlooking Pleasant Bay