An architect puts a new spin on the classic shingled Rhode Island beach house. The result? A modern stunner that meets new flood requirements and takes advantage of its gorgeous seaside setting.
The design of this Charlestown, Rhode Island, beach house honors the farm buildings and Cape Cod-style summer cottages that have inhabited the nearby rockbound peninsulas for hundreds of years. “It’s inspired by that old coastal architecture, but the two-building design is an updated take,” says architect James Estes, who designed the smaller wing (situated parallel to the shoreline) for cooking, dining, and living and the larger, two-story structure for bedrooms, and then linked the companion structures with a glassed-in breezeway. Estes’ two-building twist on the classic shingled barn ensures that nearly every space in the house takes advantage of the site’s killer salt pond views.
“We had always imagined spending summer days in a tranquil setting,” says owner Bob Shanfield of his family’s search for the perfect coastal getaway. “We saw ourselves on a pond, a quiet place on the New England waterfront where we could fish, kayak, clam, swim, and paddleboard with our children and our friends.” But even against such a storybook backdrop, adds his wife, Francine, “We wanted some modernity blended into the local traditional architecture we love.”
A grassy lot that stands yards from Ninigret Pond, a tidal body protected from the ocean by a barrier beach. Oysters and quahogs populate the shallow waters, and kayaks bob along its serpentine shoreline.
Get the Look: An open floor plan and 8-foot picture windows (adjoining a sliding door to the deck) ensure the living areas have uninterrupted views of the pond. The shiplap paneling is painted Cloud Cover by Benjamin Moore. Round, coppercoated sconces cast light in all directions: “When you have sconces that only point down, it’s easy for high ceilings to get lost at night,” Estes says. “Fixtures like these light the whole room.”
Light floods the contemporary, loft-like interior, and syncs well with the “faded, barefoot palette,” saysdesigner Anne Hardy. “During summer, the light is filled with the blue of the water and green of the grasses. We wanted to bring some of that inside,” she says, adding that the natural harmony adds warmth to the sunny rooms.
In place of a traditional fireplace for chilly evenings, the team opted for a more modern freestanding direct-vent heater. Outdoors, a stone fire pit helps keep the deck cozy.
A law that required a new house built in this flood zone to stand 8 feet above ground. Most of the historic barns and cottages of old Rhode Island nestle comfortably on the rocky shore, so one of the biggest challenges for the architect was giving the house a sense of belonging within the landscape and among its older neighbors. In addition, notes Estes, “it’s difficult to make the entrance interesting and notable when the front door is so high off the ground.”
Get the Look: A floating vanity and a soaking tub give the master bath a spa-like feel that syncs with the serene pond setting.
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