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Design Associates Inc.

Cambridge, MA

Licensed AIA Architect in Massachusetts

About Design Associates Inc.

Whether new construction, historic restoration, or renovation/adaptive reuse, Design Associates’ approach frees each client and project from dogmatic formulas and lets architectural design excellence thrive. Practical, workable, and buildable alternatives are set forth in response to client input at every step of project development. Design Associates’ guidance and understanding lead to the best use solutions.

Long considered the preeminent architectural firm on Nantucket Island, Design Associates began exporting its refined expertise throughout New England with the establishment of the firm’s second office in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1983. Clients include private real estate owners and developers, municipalities and institutions who seek out Design Associates both for its demonstrated sensitivity to New England’s historic fabric and this energetic team’s ability to create new buildings worthy of future preservation.

Hundreds of well-designed, custom single-family homes, hotels, inns, and restaurants, recreational facilities, and many other institutional, commercial, and mixed-use projects are the firm’s distinctive, classic New England style--a signature which deftly balances history, architecture, and modern context. In recognition of Design Associates’ creativity and technical competency, since 1980 the firm has provided architectural services and consulting for “This Old House”, a nationally syndicated production of WGBH-TV/Boston. The firm’s work has also been published in Historic Preservation, Cape Cod Home and Garden, Cape Cod Life, House and Garden, House Beautiful, Boston Magazine, Home, Traditional Home, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Nantucket Journal, This Old House Magazine and included in books such as The Timber Frame House, Nantucket Gardens & Houses, This Old House Kitchens, This Old House Bathrooms and Shingle Style Houses, Past and Present.

Header image courtesy: Peter Vanderwarker
Bottom images (L-R) courtesy: Eric Roth,
Nathan Coe, Eric Roth

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“As a client and as a collaborating designer, I have loved working with Chris Dallmus and the team at Design Associates. Having worked in New York, London and Boston, there is no other firm I have worked with that so demonstrates the professionalism, attention to detail and dedication to getting the job done right, on time and on budget. Chris’ “no nonsense”, no ego approach to guiding a client’s vision and listening to their needs and wishes means the best design ideas are presented the first time and executed flawlessly. There is never a battle of design ego between architect and client. The DA Team provides a strong capable hand to make sure the client gets the best architecture to fit their vision. From new ideas and considerations to diligent follow through, meticulous record keeping and organization, working with Chris and the entire team at Design Associates has been a professional pleasure. I have recommended Design Associates to several clients, all of whom have enjoyed the same professional, sensible and responsible approach to delivering great architecture and a highly successful project.”
—Kristin Paton, Kristin Paton Interiors, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“We turned to the good folks at Design Associates nearly thirty years ago for their help on a complicated This Old House Project, the Bigelow House in Newton, MA, a former residence designed by H.H. Richardson. When It became an outstanding example of sensitive historic renovation, it helped establish our reputation as leaders in the field. We liked working with Jock Gifford and Chris Dallmus of Design Associates so much we asked them to assist us on subsequent TV projects and perhaps most notably to help us design our own homes. There are many architectural firms to choose from but none will listen harder to your agenda, suggest more clever solutions, deal skillfully with cranky historic commissions, create appropriate designs that please both occupants and neighbors alike while staying within the budget. That’s our idea of a good fit between architect and client.”
—Russell Morash, Founder/ Exec Producer Emeritus, This Old House, Nantucket and Lexington, Massachusetts

“For several years before we had the good fortune to learn about, meet, and hire Chris Dallmus and the excellent team at Design Associates, we had struggled to come up with the right plan to rebuild, restore, and refurbish our nobly pedigreed but sadly neglected Federal house in Cambridge, not far from Harvard Square. The challenges we faced seemed almost insurmountable. Although the original three-story house, built in 1824, exuded a sense of history from almost every pore, it had been allowed to fall into a state of dishevelment and disrepair over the course of many decades by a series of quick-fix and no-fix owners. Even more problematic, several haphazard, architecturally inappropriate additions, slapped on in the mid-1900s, had left the house looking disconcertingly like a military barracks on the outside, while on the inside confusion reigned in a free-for-all of uninviting rooms, misaligned floors, staircases leading to nowhere, and bathrooms situated in bizarre nooks and passageways.

After floundering through a succession of dead-end design scenarios with another architect, we started meeting with Chris Dallmus in the spring of 2002. Chris is a good listener and a quick study, and his knowledge of and passion for historic house restoration were apparent from our first conversation. Thanks to his exceptional problem-solving talents and time-and-money-saving instincts for what will and won’t work, things rapidly began to fall into place. Before long, we had a felicitous conceptual scheme on the table that seemed to us both workable and winning.

Maureen and I will always be grateful to Design Associates for helping us achieve all of our major goals. Our house is now fully restored to its quintessential Yankee roots and stateliness; infrastructure and creature comforts have been brought up to twenty-first-century standards; and that cluster of clumsy additions has been replaced with a new structure that, in scale, design, and decorative language, both defers to and honors the original three-story Federal building. Above all, for the first time in nearly two centuries, the house has become a single, unified, thoroughly integrated edifice, in which the original three-story Federal building and the new addition can now live happily ever after in functional, structural, and aesthetic harmony.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of DA’s contributions to the ultimate success of our long and ambitious undertaking. The Boston Globe shelter magazine, Design New England, took note of them a couple of years ago in a glowing photo essay about the house entitled “American Beauty.” But perhaps the most gratifying compliment that has been paid so far to the wonderful team of architects, contractors, and craftsmen who worked on our project came from an unexpected source — Charles M. Sullivan, the long-time Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission. Mr. Sullivan, a man not usually given to superlatives (as far as I know), had this to say in an email to me shortly after the completion of the restoration: “I think this [house] has become one of the most significant and beautiful buildings in Cambridge.”
Robert Vare, Cambridge, Massachusetts

BSA Design Awards

Peter Norton House 1994

1996 Honor Award for Design Excellence
The Corbin-Norton House, Martha's Vineyard, MA

Services and Experience


1. The 2020 Urban Land Institute's Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce House Small Development Award to Beach Plum Village, Nantucket, Massachusetts, a 40-B Project

2. The 2016 Prism Gold Award for The Best Detached House 2,500 Square Feet to 5,000 Square Feet, The C Lazy U Ranch House, Granby, Colorado

3. The Cambridge Historical Commission's 2019 Preservation Award for 27 Craigie Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Mid Size (6-15 Architects)
Locations Served:
Cape Cod/Islands
Central Mass
Greater Boston
Metro West
New Hampshire
North Shore
Rhode Island
South Shore
Western Mass
Practice Areas:
Style Focus:
Cape Cod
ADA Compliance Review
ADU (Accessible Dwelling Unit/Mother-in-Law Apartment)
Bidding & Negotiation
Building Design / Renovation
Code Analysis
Construction Documents
Design Development
Existing Conditions Evaluation
Feasibility Study
Floor Plans
Home Addition
Schematic Design
Site Planning
Space Planning
Technical Drawings (Blueprints)
Project Experience:
Attic Conversion
Basement Design & Remodeling
Bathroom Renovations
Custom Homes
Exterior Details
Home Office Design & Construction
Interior Details
Kitchen Renovation
New Construction