For architect Peter Twombly, AIA, of Estes/Twombly Architects, who works in the legendary seaside town of Newport, R.I., commissions follow a familiar pattern. His typical clients want a contemporary Shingle-style weekend house for their families, and they want it right on the water. The client for the Wilson Field House, however, sought something quite different: an unabashedly modern—but modest—primary residence for a single person. The elbow room of acreage abutting conservation land was more important to him than immersive views of the water, despite the fact that he manages yacht building for a living.
“He told us he wanted the house to belong in the field, instead of a bold architectural statement,” says Peter. “He wanted it to be transparent, tranquil, and modern, but with a touch of the local vernacular. So it has some characteristics of a New England farmhouse—but pretty loosely.” Its 2,800 square feet are apportioned to a combination kitchen/living/dining room in a low-slung volume, and a couple of first-floor bedrooms capped by a master suite in a tower volume. It’s the master suite that captures water views.
There are no nautical references, but the level of finish is as buttoned-up as a yacht, Peter notes. The exteriors are board-formed concrete, cedar shingles, standing seam metal roofing, and triple-paned German glazing. Interiors are plaster walls, white oak, and steel stairs.
“We’ve gotten lots of positive comments on how the house nestles into the land form,” says Peter. “But then there was one guy who said it looks like a chicken coop. I guess you can’t please everyone.”
Project: Wilson Field House; architect: Peter Twombly, AIA, and Joseph Fenton, Estes/Twombly Architects, Newport, R.I.; landscape architect: Robyn Reed, ASLA, studio cosmo, Cambridge, Mass.; builder: Wade K. Paquin, WKP Construction, Newport. Drawings: Estes/Twombly Architects, Ezra Smith