April 26, 2021
This Block Island summer home is more global market than breezy beach house.
Text by Marni Elyse Katz Photography by Nat Rea
Sometimes you just need a bit more glam and a bit less granola—even in a barn. The well-traveled couple who commissioned Chris Delaney of Maple Hill Design to create a timber-frame summer home on Block Island imagined an altogether different vibe than the barns on their working farm in Woodstock, Vermont.
“They wanted a distinctly modern take on a traditional barn,” Delaney explains. While the gambrel roof of the new house is all barn, the front of the house is absolutely contemporary. “There’s a three-story stretch of glass that frames a floating steel stair running from the lower level to the loft,” Delaney says.
That said, the timber-frame aspect of the structure was equally important. “The husband camped out on the island off-season to help us raise it,” Delaney adds.
The couple was lured to the Island by friends, who not coincidentally own the house next door. “We met fifteen years ago when our kids began ski racing together,” the husband says. “We thought it would be fun to carry our friendship over to Block Island.” The two families host large groups of friends from up north, spreading merriment over both properties. “We wanted to create a gathering space built for easy open-air entertaining,” the husband explains.
The barn sits at the mouth of Great Salt Pond, capturing not only sailboat-studded views of the pond, but expansive views of Block Island Sound. “Every side of the house looks out to the water, and the design is focused on honoring those views,” designer Courtney Taylor says. The living area, for instance, features massive barn doors that lead to the patio, where music from the top-notch sound system spills out for summer revelry, including the sixtieth anniversary party that the couple threw for the husband’s parents.
Inside, the exposed timber frame fashioned from yellow heart pine reclaimed from a linen mill in Connecticut provides a rustic backdrop for global-meets-Americana decor with a side of glam. The couple once lived in the Far East and have traveled extensively, which sparked Taylor’s creativity. Their Moroccan rugs, for instance, prompted layers of upholstery in rich colors and patterns. Taylor points to the leather sling chair from BDDW as the embodiment of her clients’ casual-chic aesthetic. “They’re not stressed about having wet bathing suits on leather,” she says. “They totally understand that [the leather] will get better with age.”
The pairing of refined materials with the barn’s authentic ones creates a tension that Taylor pushes further by introducing elements with shimmer and even glitz. There’s the glass teardrop chandelier in the living area, the sculptural shelving fabricated from walnut and polished brass in the kitchen, and disco-worthy sconces and antiqued glass tiles in the powder room.
While the owners commend her for creating a “warm, inviting space” for their family and visitors, Taylor says the home conveys so much more. “They didn’t want typical coastal seaside decor,” she says. “This really reflects their sophisticated but unfussy style.”