Main House: The Stone House Inn, a historic property on Rhode Island’s eastern shore had seen better days. It’s wooden features including exterior porches, cupola and distinctive brackets had been lost to neglect and hurricanes. The original stucco overlay of the stonework had worn away and the wooden windows had long been replaced by commercial aluminum storm windows.
The Stone House, originally constructed in 1854 as an Italianate private residence has a storied history, first as home to a prominent Rhode Island family and shortly thereafter, with some crude alterations, as seaside inn. During Prohibition the inn’s basement served as the local speakeasy and to this day is a beloved local destination for food and drink. Our clients purchased the Stone House and asked us to transform it and an adjoining barn into a destination boutique hotel. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Properties, making it eligible for state historic tax credits. We worked closely with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission to meet their strict guidelines for such qualifying structures. Since the house had been transformed to inn well over 100 years ago we were asked to preserve non-original historic features such as the inn’s hallway which had cut through the earlier ballroom and living room of the home. The challenge was to develop a modern, amenity-rich, suite-based hotel within the historic fragments and compartmentalized order of the old inn.
Our decision to rebuild the original Stone House porches and cupola was partially motivated by the fact that in the past they had served as very effective passive cooling devices. Our interest was to lower the energy demands of the new hotel, to make the most of the green technologies used, such as PV’s (on the porch roofs) and a geothermal heating and cooling system. The porches greatly reduce solar gain in the summer months and the cupola is a natural venting device drawing hot air up and out of the building. Modern insulation was discretely incorporated behind historic walls further lowering heat and cooling loads.
The remaining restorative work was based on photographs, forensic investigation and the fortunate discovery of old brackets in an adjoining shed. Two more recent additions to the Stone House were also renovated albeit in a different manner. The historians asked us to preserve an addition that had been built in the old porte cochere, but allowed a newer, poorly constructed one story addition to be demolished and rebuilt on the same footprint. The new addition, a separate ADA compliant suite, was designed as a quiet, ivy covered, stucco and wood clad block, with discrete openings for light and view. The photographs show the newly completed block without its ivy.
Each of the 9 suites are bespoke in layout and character. Finishes and furnishings were selected balancing the contemporary spirit of the new hotel with the inherent character of each suite. To maintain a sense of unity we developed a palette abstracted from the natural context of the Stone House. Sand, hay, oyster shell, fog, lichen, bleached bones are all sources for the finishes and colors. Completing the décor, a well known quilt designer worked closely with us to develop unique quilts for each suite.
Barn: The Barn, part of Little Compton, Rhode Island’s historic Stone House Inn property, had long since ceased to shelter horses for the adjoining inn. Over the years it was converted to a banquette room with living suites above. New steel structure was added in the early eighties shifting the loads from the original deteriorating post and beam structure. Our clients requested we transform the barn into a spa center, complete with full service treatment spaces, spa hotel living suites, and a new restaurant devoted to a cuisine of locally grown organic food.
The Barn, despite its lack of historical detail and structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Properties as a contributing structure, permitting us to redesign the exterior with the stipulation that the design be sympathetic to the spirit of the original barn. One original façade was rebuilt to match historic photos; its syntax of large sliding barn doors and small windows was further developed in the other faces of the barn. Outboard balconies from the early 80’s were removed and new inboard balconies were integrated into the new façade.
The old post and beam barn interior had been lost with the addition of the steel structure in the 80’s. Our design intent was to evoke the lost barn without becoming thematic. The high, lofted spaces of the past are hinted at in every suite and the restaurant. Each of the suites on both the second and third floor has a large light well over the soaking tub, and the restaurant entrance has a deep cut of space to the roof. The restaurant was conceived as a wooden shell within the old structure, its ceiling design abstractly mediating between the new shell and the old bones of the barn. Other evocations of the barn’s past are a large blowup of a historic photo of the barn serving as a semi-transparent screen for the glassed off private dining area, and the reuse of some beautiful old salvage wood for bar tops and large tables.
Each suite fuses bathing, sleeping and sitting rooms into one continuous wall-free experience. The spa and suites were developed as an ensemble and to make the whole a seamless experience, the walnut millwork and patterned color glass tile of the spa extends to the suites but with a different application and effect. The spa itself, located in the basement of the barn is distinguished by a long metal coil curtain lined passage; discrete breaks in the curtain mark the entry to the treatment rooms. In the suites, the coil curtain reappears as a simple divider between sleeping and sitting areas.