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.


Bernheimer Architecture PLLC

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Andrew Bernheimer, Principal (Registered Architect)
Max Worrell, Associate-in-Charge (Registered Architect)
Aaron Forrest, Project Architect (Registered Architect)

Interior designer:
Bernheimer Architecture

Structures Workshop, Providence, Rhode Island (Structural Engineer)

Landscape Design:
Paula Hayes

General contractor:
Highland Builders, Tiverton, RI
Wes Deane, Owner
Ned Connelly

Jeremy Bittermann

Gross square footage:

House ' 2200 (not including garage)

Completion date:

August 2014



Structural system
Concrete piers and foundation
Wood and steel framing above

Exterior cladding
Precast concrete:
FiberC Concrete Panels

Shou Sugi Ban Cypress' by Delta Millworks, Austin Texas

Moisture barrier:
Vaproshield RevealShield

Built-up roofing:
Carlisle Syntec TPO

Metal frame:


Custom Entry Door by Creekside Millwork

Sliding doors:
Arcadia (sliders at ground floor and upper planted roof)

Valli Valli

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Custom Ash millwork and paneling throughout by Joe Yoffa, Newport Rhode Island

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore Super White

Solid surfacing:

Special surfacing:
Concrete floor (1st floor)
Ash wood floor (2nd floor)

Floor and wall tile:
Mutina Tex (Master bathroom tile)
Mutina Pico (Ground floor bathroom tile)
14 OraItaliana Uon Uon (Garage loft bathroom)

B&B Italia Bend Sofa, B&B Metropolitan Chair, Arper PIX pouf, Cassina Dining Table, HAY About a Chair (Dining Chairs)

Interior ambient lighting:
Roll and Hill Counterweight Pendant by Fort Standard (Dining Room fixture)

Element Lighting (by Tech Lighting) LED downlights

Hansgrohe Axor Bouroullec (bathroom fixtures)
Toto (toilets)

Energy management or building automation system:
Warmboard radiant heating system