Contemporary Design in Jamestown, Rhode Island
April 12, 2021
A contemporary house finds its place on island farmland.
Text by Megan O'Neill Photography by Warren Jagger
On the western edge of Jamestown, Rhode Island, sits a modern field house on five acres abutting conserved land. The parcel, originally part of a 300-year-old farm, is tucked into a bucolic setting, with chirping birds, expansive fields, and ocean breezes. It’s surprising then, that stepping into the house, designed by architect Peter Twombly, feels like a breath of fresh air.
To take advantage of the location, Twombly sited the 2,000-square-foot house with an angled roofline that’s low on the north side and rises upward to the south, flooding the space with natural light. As a result, interiors are comfortable and spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide beautiful views and dampen outside noise.
Twombly, a partner at Estes Twombly + Titrington Architects in Newport, Rhode Island, was determined to keep the house compact. “The building was designed as a series of structures with views through each space,” says Twombly. For example, the building’s open-plan kitchen-dining-living area is connected by a glass hallway to a two-story mass. Here, perched above a study and guest room, the main suite offers northern views of the harbor. It was the homeowner’s idea, says the architect, and “I have to admit, he was right.”
The client, who works in yacht construction management, wanted superb craftsmanship and efficient spaces, much like those found on boats. Twombly also designed the unfussy
interiors, hiding drapery tracks in ceilings, for example, and using cove lighting to replace overhead cans.
The client wanted to avoid ceiling lights “that looked like a machine gun spit them out,” he says. Repeated elements throughout rooms, such as oak cabinetry and flooring and sleek countertops, further minimize distraction.
Achieving such precision began with plans that dictated a carefully constructed envelope. “We treated the framing of the building like finish work,” says builder Wade K. Paquin, principal of WKP Construction. Paquin’s team also painstakingly poured the board-formed concrete siding and chimney, which adds contemporary character to the facade and living area.
Just as the house’s distinct spaces are thoughtfully connected to one another, so is the building itself to its surroundings, which include a handful of antique farm buildings. The scale, height, and cedar shingling reference the local vernacular, but it’s a modernist sensibility—along with superior materials and methods—that blends the site’s past with a vision for the future.