A Grand Shingle-Style Home on The Rhode Island Coast
May 14, 2020
Text by Lisa H. Speidel Photography by Michael Partenio
As the old saying goes: when opportunity knocks, answer the door.
And that’s exactly what the homeowners did in this case—but in reverse: they saw the door, then seized the opportunity. It was an image of a grand front door in an advertisement (in this magazine, in fact) that led the homeowners to Andrew Reck of Oak Hill Architects.
They had bought a sweeping swath of land on the coast in Rhode Island with plans to create a multi-generational summer home, a place where their grown kids and grandkids could gather.
The location was unique with its 270-degree views, and it was a blank slate (a seaside estate had been torn down in the mid-1900s). “It was a tremendous honor, and it came with a tremendous sense of responsibility,” says Reck about the project. “This is a very special piece of property.”
In a nod to Rhode Island’s roots, Reck designed a house that would “evoke the Gilded Age, but have a quiet grandiosity.” He opted for a gambrel-Shingle-style design to both blend with the pastoral surroundings and—thanks to a double-pitch roof that contains the second story in the eaves—decrease the overall massing. To make it feel as if it emerges from the ground, it is built into an existing stone ledge outcropping.
The materials, too, conjure classic New England: natural fieldstone, cedar shingles, heavy wooden dentil molding, and granite sills that run the perimeter.
While the house brims with architectural pride of place, the layout was inspired from further afield. “I’ve been drawn to courtyard houses since I studied in Italy and spent time in the Swedish countryside,” says Reck. Here, all of the main living spaces, as well as the overall circulation, are organized around a central courtyard, he explains. Different wings (there are designated areas for the parents as well as the grown kids and their families), are marked by a series of grand arches. “Through all of the arches you can see out to the water,” the architect points out.
Indeed, there are lots of arches, says Reck, to soften the overall feel of the house. And one of those arches just happens to be a magnificent custom-made mahogany front door with ornate wrought-iron detailing and a pergola-style overhang. A door so striking, in fact, it could appear in a magazine.
Architecture: AndrewReck, JustinWeil, and Li Yang of Oak Hill Architects.