A Basic Ranch on the Warwick Waterfront Gets a Bespoke Upgrade
Architecture firm, From in Form, helmed the chic yet sustainable project.
As a father of two young children, From in Form principal architect Jason Wood couldn’t imagine designing a house without space for a dining table. But that’s what these clients asked for. Rather than a table, they wanted an extended kitchen island that could serve as a dining surface. “I said to them, ‘What about Thanksgiving dinners?’ And she said, ‘I’ve done it and I’m done with it. If we can’t fit here, we’ll go out.’ ”
For the clients, this move was about downsizing. With their two kids in college, the couple no longer needed the grand space afforded them by their Barrington home. “They were being very thoughtful about scale and the way they wanted to live after their kids were gone,” explains Wood, who gauges the success of this project by how profoundly it speaks of its owners. “It’s really an extension of them because we worked so closely with them during the process.”
Old Meets New
“We do not buy new old materials, but we use a lot of old material,” says Wood. “What we salvage becomes a guideline for ideas.”
The deck juxtaposes beautifully weathered, pressure-treated pine with cedar and rusted steel. “This project was the first time we used cedar, the first time we got to burn cedar.” In addition to cedar and the repurposed Douglas fir rafters used in the kitchen, reclaimed oak was also incorporated.
A bit of creative engineering makes the view from inside the living room as captivating as the view from the deck. “The second floor is cantilevered out a little bit from the basement and, because of the way the ground drops, in the corner of the living room all you see is water,” says Wood. “It’s a very visceral experience.”
While this project didn’t change Wood’s design philosophy, it did shift his perspective by opening his eyes to the possibilities of creating in the moment. “What this house changed was realizing that people will follow you into the unknown — that a client could follow you into the unknown.”
His and Hers
When the couple purchased this home, it was essentially a box stacked on a box with a ranch roof; in other words, says Wood, it was malleable and full of potential. Both clients work in health care (one is a psychiatrist, the other a psychologist), but Wood describes them as artists: He paints and she writes. While increasing the home’s square footage wasn’t a priority, adding a painting studio was.
“In the end, we took the house apart almost completely,” he says. “We cut the building at the roof height, we cut it in half, and added the artist’s studio on top.”
In the end, his new studio was located above her office, giving them a very similar view from their respective workspaces. And, because the couple’s dining room table was no longer needed, From in Form repurposed it as well. The team cut it in half and fashioned it into a custom desk for her office.
A prime example of how integral the owners were in the completion of this project: The husband customized several surfaces, including the Baltic birch floor panels in his studio and the collar ties in the kitchen, before they were installed.
The landscape was also reimagined. “We didn’t create any new spaces, but we completely renovated what was there,” says landscape designer Laura Willson of Garden Endeavors, who worked with Kevin Baker Stonework to actualize the project.
In front, Willson designed a new parking area, a gravel garden and a fieldstone wall with a natural stone path. Rusted steel planters carry the aesthetic established by the decks to this side of the house. Between the house and the water is a perennial garden, a natural stone patio with a granite sitting bench, a gathering pit and stone walkways. As for vegetation, Willson selected low-profile plants that could tolerate the environment. “We used a lot of native plants, a lot of ornamental grasses, tough evergreens and groundcover plants,” and the color choices complement the home’s exterior palette.
Inside and out, the project uses space in ways that suit its owners. “In the way that they live, it’s so pleasant to think about twenty years later what my life with my wife might be like and how I might use space,” says Wood, “and how I might find myself saying that I’m done with dining room tables.”