Saint Peter’s Cottage is a retreat from urban life for a sophisticated family and reflects the playful joie de vivre of the clients. The New England shingle style provided the initial inspiration, as did the seaside location. Symbolic interpretations are possible at the large scale of the entire house, the medium scale of individual spaces, and the small scale of details. Take a look, for example, at the street-facing side of the house, with its asymmetrically curved roof at the taller eastern end, low roofed but vertically accented center entry, and eyebrow-dormered sloped roof at the western end. What do you see—locomotive, cresting wave, abstracted vernacular Dutch colonial…? There is motion here. The house appears to reach for the ocean, just to the east, or to be driving toward the village, just to the west. Multiple possible readings make it rich and interesting, like its neighborhood that is part beach community, part dense village, and part suburb. The possibilities don’t just result from aesthetic ideas though. When our clients purchased it, the existing home on the property had two wings. They requested a similar layout in their new house, with a main wing for family and a guest wing for visitors. This layout gives the family intimate gathering spaces for when it is just them, but extended space for added privacy when guests are present. To accommodate this request, fit into the neighborhood, and capitalize on water views, the house shifts in scale, each side having its own distinct and dynamic character. The larger scale east (family) wing is almost all glass facing the best views available. The smaller scale west (guest and garage) wing gestures toward the village while an eyebrow peels up out of the roof to bring light into the back stair beyond and to add a touch of anthropomorphism. The balanced asymmetry of the street-facing façade accommodates eccentricities, in fact it benefits from them. The small window at the western end of the white-painted entry porch is joined to the larger window by reverse curve woodwork, like a bracket, but here just a profile on the wall plane. This may appear to be pure whimsy. There is an “a ha” moment, however, once inside and one sees the functionality—laundry machines are tucked below, accommodated by the smaller window.
At the back of the house, the full two-story nature of the wings is revealed. The connector between them is shallower in plan and lower in height. A three-sided courtyard is the result. A cupola brings light into the entry hall and accentuates the center of the courtyard and entry door. A central circulation corridor connects the two wings and opens up to the courtyard with a wall of windows along its full length. The abstracted Gothic revival columns that flank the entry door create a shallow but welcoming front porch—important visually and symbolically, but not as a place to sit. Arched window muntins in the adjacent windows have an abstracted Gothic revival character as well, as do the interior details at both the front and back stairs. The complex shape of the spaces themselves can be seen as a bit Piranesian. There is simple yet evocative column capitols and, in the family room, a fireplace mantel showcases a miniature version of the front porch with a frieze pattern engraved into the wood. Rich, playful, and whimsical spaces and details make this house unique to its owners and a great place to relax and have fun.