A Seaside Sanctuary in Warren
At this dreamy waterfront property, the view steals the show.
A porch facing the water was a must-have feature for the owner. The architects took that request one step further and gave her an extra deep space where she could entertain comfortably without having to rearrange the furniture.
Photograph by Warren Jagger
Discovering the property felt like fate. The owner, a busy financier living in Boston, stumbled upon the “for sale” sign tucked away on a private road during one of her regular visits to see her brother and his family in Warren’s Touisset neighborhood. The property was barely a sliver, wedged in between neighboring homes, and the house that inhabited it had long ago fallen into disrepair. But through the dilapidation she could see loads of potential, starting with an unobstructed view of the Kickemuit River, and immediately began to dream of mornings spent on a porch facing the water, coffee in hand, the stresses of her demanding job miles away.
In short time, the property was hers. But realizing her vision would take some work. For that, she contacted Jamestown’s RFD Architects to share her ideas for a weekend retreat and eventual home to retire to. Thomas J. Principe and Sons in Warren signed on as contractor. The porch was a must-have component of the design, but she had other requirements as well.
“One of the reasons she selected our firm was because she liked how our designs relate to the land and appear to grow out of it. It was also important that the home had a lot of natural light and really let the outdoors in,” explains the project’s lead architect, Laurie Keene.
A former summer home colony, Touisset is a tight-knit community where some of the original un-winterized cottages remain today. The owner was adamant about honoring that history. She envisioned a home that wasn’t too big and maintained the same cottage-y feel of those original homes.
The open kitchen’s features skew to the classical side with Carrara marble counters, schoolhouse lighting and a polished nickel faucet, but there’s still plenty of character with the open shelving and a painted screen door that encloses the adjacent pantry. Stools by RISD alum Geoffrey Warner add a sculptural touch to the simplified palette.
Despite everyone’s desires to save the property’s original home, it was too far gone to renovate. The plus side was that starting from scratch meant a lot more options, beginning with its location on the property’s nearly three acres, which was promptly moved 350 feet closer to the water to maximize views without obstructing those of the neighbors.
Once a new spot had been settled on, attention was turned to the home’s design. One of the main priorities was making sure the structure didn’t look too big for the neighborhood.
“We wanted the look of the home to be unassuming and gracious upon approach, not overscaled,” Keene says.
An articulated roof breaks up the home’s mass, while extending the roof out over the entry — no easy architectural feat — makes the structure appear lower to the ground. Sloping rooflines soften the overall appearance of the home and oversized columns, windows and lighting fixtures also aid in scaling down its size.
Rather than shingles, a wooden roof and board and batten outfit the gables, a nod to the cottages that once dominated the neighborhood.
“Those features give the feel of a camp-style home while still looking updated and modern,” Keene says.
A copper weathervane tops everything off while showing love for the owner’s golden retriever.
In the breakfast nook, pink chairs by Warren’s O and G Studio add an unexpected pop of color.
Relaxation was the primary focus and every detail was considered with that goal in mind, starting with the long, sweeping driveway that forces the owner to slow down and enjoy a sneak peek of the water as she approaches the home.
“We wanted her to relax from the moment she reached the property,” Keene says.
While much of the design of the home’s exterior was dictated by its surroundings, the interior’s inspiration was the owner herself.
Upon entering, the view of the Kickemuit River is front and center through large windows at the rear of the house. A double transom cased opening in the entry maximizes the use of natural light and sets the tone for the rest of the space.
In the family room, the stone mantle is the star. Architects Keene and DiMauro looked for stones that resembled those that make up the original fence outlining the property, one of many ways they tried to connect the home with its surroundings.
The first floor is designed so that the owner can enjoy as much daylight as possible. DiMauro and Keene chose to put the kitchen, breakfast nook and family room on the south side of the house, spanning east to west, so that the owner can start her day with the sun and keep it with her as she moves into other areas of the home through the day. The overall design is light and airy, with lightly stained maple flooring, lots of white and pops of pastel that reflect the owner’s preference for a more feminine style.
On the other side of the house, the guestroom, with an extra large closet and shower should the owner decide to forgo the stairs and make it the master bedroom one day, is equally light-filled thanks to French doors and a transom above. The doors open up to a private alcove with a garden and outdoor fireplace that share a chimney with the one in the family room.
Upstairs, in the serene master suite, the gas fireplace is framed by tiles made by former Tiverton studio Roseberry Winn, as well as cabinets hiding a coffeemaker, along other necessities, ideal for those mornings when going downstairs too early just doesn’t appeal. In the bathroom, both the private commode and walk-in closet get their own dose of natural light by way of a solar tube and porthole window, respectively, so that the owner never has to feel as if she’s missing a minute of sunshine.
Beautiful details and views downstairs aside, the piece de resistance of the entire home just may be the second floor master suite. A true retreat, it shares the space with nothing else. DiMauro and Keene designed the walk up to the room to be as special as the space itself, with a nautilus staircase that forces the owner to be mindful of her journey upward.
“They cause her to slow down, make the experience special and, finally, have that ‘Ahh’ moment when she reaches the bedroom,” Keene says.
It would be hard not to react as such upon entering the carpeted space, where twelve-foot-wide French doors slide open to a covered balcony so the view can be admired rain or shine.
The master bath, with a soaking tub, tiled shower tucked into the curve of the nautilus staircase and laundry chute, exudes just as much tranquility with its monochromatic color scheme dominated by Carrara marble tile and polished nickel finishes.
Keene and DiMauro designed the master suite so that the owner could spend much of her day there, should she so choose. But if she does descend the stairs, it’s easy to imagine her heading straight to the massive south-facing porch that overlooks the water and spans the length of the first floor. The dream of a porch was, after all, what drew her to the property in the first place and informed the rest of the design. Now she not only has that dream realized, but also an entire retreat that checks all her boxes for an escape from her busy city life, says Keene.
“Our goal was to help her create the perfect sanctuary to enjoy for years to come and I think we’ve done just that.”