Charlestown, Rhode Island
In plan and elevation, the house in Charlestown, Rhode Island, looks fairly straightforward. But step inside, and the ground floor is flooded with daylight—the result of double-height skylit spaces over the kitchen, living room, study, and entry foyer. “We were very interested in how we could sculpt light,” says Andrew Bernheimer, whose firm, Bernheimer Architecture, had previously renovated a Brooklyn, New York, townhouse for the family of five, who vacation in the small beach town year-round.
Large chunks of the ground-floor ceiling disappear as Bernheimer carved out light-filled volumes. The biggest, at the house's center, consists of two diverging pyramidal forms that culminate in standard fixed-roof skylights. Though modest in size, the building's mostly wood structure includes several steel beams to span the large cutouts.
To comply with coastal regulations, Bernheimer elevated the house on concrete piles 2 feet above Base Flood Elevation, giving it views of a nearby pond. Charred cypress slats compose the dark facade. Its first level is punctured by large sliding glass doors that open up to a pool area in front and a covered deck for grilling and dining al fresco in the back, where another double-height volume overhead opens to the sky.
In order to experience the shifting natural light patterns throughout the day that those large skylit volumes provide in the public spaces, the owners sacrificed private space on the second level, where three compact bedrooms surround a shared bathroom. But the family would not have it any other way, admitting to their architect that their Brooklyn house is too dark by comparison. Then again, anything would be.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Gross square footage:
House ' 2200 (not including garage)
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