The South Coast Rhode Island neighborhood in which Peace of the Rock is situated is largely flat—a coastal plain punctuated by large glacial erratics. Like these boulders, houses also sit as objects on the plain. We have added another object, but this one has a playful attitude appropriate for a family that uses it for summer vacations.
Compact gambrel roofed cottages—vernacular shingle style designs that look like they were built in the first few decades of the 20th Century—are common in the neighborhood. Newer homes tend to be quite large compared to their neighbors, and more elaborate; perhaps better suited to the traditionally more formal communities of Watch Hill or Jamestown. Our clients were not interested in something large and showy. They sought a compact but comfortable family home more in keeping with the vernacular cottages that give their neighborhood a character of laid-back, friendly, fun.
The gambrel disappears at the ocean-facing side of the house where corner pavilions, defined by octagonal roof shapes with finials at their peak, flank a full two-story façade. A second floor deck spans between the pavilions and offers ocean views directly to the south and diagonally to the southwest between other houses. The deck is accessible from the second floor hall and the master suite and via an exterior stair. Outdoor stairs often look like afterthoughts. They are a design challenge, especially on a site where blocking view is undesirable. Here we pulled the stair away from the façade and put it at an angle, making it more sculptural and blocking less of the adjacent screened in porch. Decorative arches make the underside of the stair playful and appealing but also brace the structure for stability.