Our client, a ceramicist and artist, lives in a loft residence in a renovated manufacturing building in Providence. Although it is large, open, airy, and home to her studio, the loft lacks the outdoor space she desires for a balanced life.

The request was simple – a cottage in the woods for our client to retreat from urban loft living, reconnect with nature and develop a garden landscape with walking trails.

The design challenge of this project is tight. The exterior of the cottage, a cubic volume measuring 25’ x 25’ x 25,’ is cut like a gemologist shaping a stone. Facets are cut to shed water, or carved into a protected entry or shaped for a venting chimney. Like the rocks of the site the cottage is an understated angular block that opens up in celebration of nature. The cottage’s exterior is entirely clad in Alaska yellow cedar – a durable wood that has been left untreated and will weather to a silver-grey.

The interior is one large cavity with its ceiling rising to the diagonal ridge at a height of 17’. The wide sliding-glass opening faces south towards the garden landscape and deck. The high corner window faces east for morning light. Aligned windows at the desk and entry allow views right through the cottage. Walls and ceilings are painted vertical pine boards laid with small gap for the seasonal expansion of the wood and floors are of clear Douglas fir.

Alcoves of Douglas fir have been carved for an entry alcove with a bench, a desk alcove with bookshelves, a counter with open firewood storage, and a kitchen with solid butcher-block counters. Cabinets and window frames are painted with grey enamel paint to contrast with the warm coloring of the Douglas fir. A pigmented plaster wall forms the surround for the wood-burning stove.

The north side of the cottage is thick and contains a bathroom and sleeping area. The sleeping nook opens to the main living area and is just large enough for a queen-sized mattress. A pyramidal shaft connects the sleeping nook towards a skylight 14’ above, making it an observatory at night and a light filled chamber during the day.

From the large sliding doors, a stepping-stone sequence of Alaska yellow cedar decks and placed boulders create a series of outdoor living spaces that extend the cottage outwards. The garden and terrace areas, created by arranging large boulders that were unearthed by the excavation, are bounded on the south by an existing field stone wall and overlook a small meadow.

General Contractor: Machon Custom Builders, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Structures Workshop, Inc.

Cottage sleeping alcove