Two Houses, One Home
With children in one wing and parents in another, the great room brings everyone together.
Synopsis: Kate and Aiden Petrie had a pretty clear idea of the house they wanted to design for their Rhode Island property. They gave architect Peter Twombly a sketch of a house with two towers—one for them and one for their three girls. The Petrie’s home fits them perfectly and it fits its place, in large part because Kate drew on the local landscape for inspiration when choosing colors and furnishings. What isn’t of the nearby land and sea is mostly from the family—heirlooms and artwork that make the house unabashedly a home.
British-born Kate and Aiden Petrie liked the idea of building two houses—one for the kids and one for the adults—connected only by a long great room, though it surprised some of their American friends. The transplanted couple—she is English, he is Scottish—felt that separate bedroom quarters, more commonly seen in England, would give their three young daughters their own space and encourage their independence.
Their architect, Peter Twombly of Estes/Twombly Architects, however, admits to having premonitions of teenagers slipping out the windows at night when he heard the idea. Kate, trained as an architect and now a passionate photographer, gave Twombly a detailed drawing of her concept. His worries faded as he envisioned making dual houses come together, noting that the Petries’ design was still basic enough for him to have a significant impact on its form and function.
The collaboration begins
Over the next year, the Petries met weekly with Twombly, relying on his expertise to work out such complexities as lighting, plumbing, electrical, and construction plans. “It was my task to figure out how to make their concept buildable,” he says. He started by pushing the two structures closer together. Says Kate Petrie, “He roped in the size; made better use of dollars spent to square footage.”
With waterfront land on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, the Petries wanted to capture the ambiance of elegant but informal early-20th-century beach houses without copying them. Twombly fashioned a more contemporary structure using materials typical of the beach house style—like weathered shingles and painted clapboards—and adding details such as exposed rafter tails.
“The old beach houses had formal, closed-up floor plans with strict separation between areas for service and areas for entertaining,” says Twombly. While the Petries wanted a home that was more open and flowing, they still wanted to maintain the separation between the kitchen and great room. To that effect, the great room and the rooms adjacent are connected by passageways rather than doorways.
At each phase of the design process, Twombly presented the Petries with drawings, which in turn generated discussion and revision. Aiden Petrie, an industrial engineer and owner of a product-design company, relished the process of creating a home from scratch. “What are our priorities? How do we live? How do we want to present ourselves? How should the house relate to the land? I loved building from the ground up,” he says.
For more photos and details on how this home incorporates separate domains, click the View PDF button below.