Tour a Shingle Style Home with a Contemporary Twist
June 27, 2017
At this coastal family retreat, memories are made in unlikely spaces.
Text by Debra Judge Silber Photography by Tria Giovan Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent
It’s said that we don’t remember days; we remember moments. The same might be true of houses. It’s not usually whole rooms, but rather those fleeting architectural delights that stick in our memories. It’s the soothing repetition in a row of brackets, or that unexpected window that frames the scene beyond like a still life. It’s the protective shelter of that built-in bench that invites us to lose ourselves in thought only to find ourselves again. It’s why so many in the practice refer to these memorable spaces, so appropriately, as “moments.”
It’s also the word that interior designer Jennifer Palumbo uses to describe the delights found throughout this new Shingle-style home in Westerly, Rhode Island. Along with a stunning waterfront location and enough room for an extended family, it was these kinds of memorable moments that her clients, a Boston couple with two teenage daughters, sought in their “forever summer house.” The unique spaces were also what attracted them to Westerly-based architect Lyman Goff. “They love those spaces,” Palumbo says, “and Lyman loves to create those spaces.”
To Goff, inventive spaces are a natural occurrence in the traditional Shingle-style homes he designs. “Shingle houses allow you to do anything you want to do that’s fun and whimsical,” he says. Goff’s creative nuances had caught the attention of the couple more than a decade ago, when they were searching for an architect to design their first home in Westerly. Unable to find an architect whose style suited them, they passed a house under construction that stood out from the mundane designs they’d seen. Peeking inside the unfinished structure, they saw plans on a table and were able to make out Goff’s name. They promptly enlisted him to design their home, and when the opportunity came to build a larger house on the bank of sprawling Quonochontaug Pond, they called him back.
It’s Goff’s old-school process as much as his product that the couple values. “He draws everything by hand before it’s put into CAD,” says the husband. “It’s like a work of art. He owns every little piece of it, and pours his soul into it.”
Designing the new house—a process complicated by permitting and sitework on the undeveloped lot—took four years, during which the house expanded and contracted several times. “We wanted to have plenty of room, but we didn’t want it to feel like a ridiculously big house,” the husband says. The final design is classic, but simple, featuring a prominent front gable and wide wraparound porches on the front and back. A tower resembling a squat lighthouse anchors the corner next to the front door. Inside the tower, a staircase winds up to the second floor—a nice touch in itself, but then you notice that the newel post is a miniature replica of the tower, and beneath the curved staircase a framed opening reveals a hidden room lighted by a window. It’s the first of many moments that give the roughly 6,000-square-foot house the intimate charm of a cottage. So, too, do the home’s solid beams and tongue-and-groove walls, a hallmark of Goff’s style that the clients embraced, with a few departures to satisfy the wife’s more modern taste. “We worked closely with Lyman to marry that cottage feel with her modern and bold aesthetic,” says Palumbo.
The front entry is one place where the couple chose to depart from traditional wood-clad walls in favor of textured grass cloth accentuated with a piece of contemporary artwork from the wife’s collection. Here, as in other rooms, art dictates the palette.
From the entryway, a wide hall leads through the house to the back porch, opening along the way to the living room and sunroom on one side and the kitchen and dining room on the other. On the far side of the dining room is a three-season porch with a fireplace and dining area. An adjacent hall leads to the “away” room—a comfortable, out-of-the-way outcrop that pairs casual sectional seating with a baby grand piano.
The kitchen’s central location reflects the family’s preference for dining in, and Palumbo called on Donna Venegas of Boston-based Venegas and Company to work through the details. “We needed a highly functional space, classically styled, but infused with some color,” Palumbo says. The result is a white kitchen with a wooden island top, blue-gray backsplash tile, and lemony-colored upholstery on the counter stools. Summery citrus colors reappear through the house, with a visual boost from some assertive blues in the living room and dining room.
Upstairs, the master suite offers its own views from a small balcony. It shares space on the second floor with two more bedrooms and two baths, but the most memorable moment is revealed in the second-floor hall, which opens into a clerestory above the living room. At the far end, a window centered in the stone chimney frames a view of the water. It’s one of many places where Goff refused to let his architecture get in the way of a view—and ended up making the architecture more memorable for it. As Palumbo describes it, “All through the house, you get these little peeks of stunning views where you least expect them.”
The three bedrooms on the top floor are served by an oversize communal bath—an approach Palumbo says works surprisingly well. “There are two separate vanities, two separate showers, and two water closets. It’s almost locker-room style, but in the most attractive sense of the word.” Even here, she notes, Goff found a way to capture the view with strategically placed windows.
The best reason for climbing to the third floor, though, can be seen at the top of the stairs, where double doors open to a screened porch furnished with two wooden daybeds suspended from the ceiling by ropes and decked with popsicle-striped cushions. “It’s like you’re a bird up in the trees,” Palumbo says.
It’s a special summer spot, one that’s made for a glass of lemonade and a good book. That is, provided you look up now and then to take in the moment.
Architecture: Lyman Goff
Interior design: Jennifer Palumbo
Builder: Ben Field, Field and Co.
Landscape design: Barbara Peterson Landscape Consultation and Design