their summer home, caring alone was not enough to salvage the not-so-well-built house. Besides, the children, by now grown, had lives
and places of their own. So in 2013, they replaced their tired beach-side friend with a year-round house that would serve for their retirement as well as continue to be a haven for their children to visit.
The Kellys had admired a couple of houses that architect George
Penniman of George Penniman Architects in Essex, Connecticut, had
built nearby. After the couple hired Penniman, his first task was to photograph every house on their street, Claudia recalls, “so that we could
isolate the Weekapaug characteristics that we most liked,” such as
screened porches and picturesque skylines. They insisted that Penniman preserve the neighborhood’s Shingle Style vernacular and achieve
sustainability. (The house has the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Silver certification.)
Penniman understood his clients’ desires and gave them a house
that has modern systems (a super-insulated, thermal envelope means
heating costs $100 a month and cooling just $15) while respecting the
traditional style of the area’s beachfront houses. Claudia asked him
to make “our house look like it has always been there.” Yet, Penniman
is quick to point out that he “will not deliberately copy or re-create
works of the past.” Thus, his designs walk a fine line between util-
ity and nostalgia. As Michael O’Neill of Evergreen Building Systems
in Stonington, Connecticut, the general contractor for the project,
says, “There is no architectural review in Weekapaug, but commu-
nity approval is very strong.” He adds, “What we loved about George
was how he matched the rhythm of the line of houses along the street.
That the house does not stand out is a real compliment.”
Aesthetics aside, what is still referred to by locals as the Old
Wylie Place is a canine bailiwick, which turned out to be a good thing.
In the house’s plan, the dogs were given the middle zone, or dogtrot,
which demarcates the house’s two parts and has a door to the outside.
The front, which faces the ocean, is for living and entertaining, with
a master suite and office above. ( There is another office on the third
floor.) The rear of the second floor is divided into a pair of self-con-
tained suites, designed for the children and, in time, their children.
Aided by abundant pocket doors between rooms, the plan opens
up to create one giant, free-flowing living space. Like its Shingle Style
predecessors, the house gently rambles along its site. The primary
entrance at the side of the house leads to a long hallway, from which
there are views southward through the living room to Block Island
Sound and back to a sensible mud — or sand — room and an outdoor shower.
While hard to ignore the Atlantic at the doorstep, one of the
most appealing aspects of the Kellys’ house is the large second-story
sleeping porch that adjoins the children’s rooms at the back of the
house. This quintessentially summer feature overlooks two ancient
apple trees and a lawn marked with the round boulders that crop out
everywhere along the Rhode Island coast. When the house was photographed for this story, the stylist said, “The house just
says ‘vacation.’ Fill it up with family, friends, and fun.”
Or as the owners say, “We have a special smile that we
reserve for Weekapaug.”
claudia used her second favorite color, orange, for the powder room (right
top) off the downstairs hall. A rescued antique chest of drawers became the
vanity. Her third-floor office (right bottom) — with an eternally distracting
view — occupies a sensuously coved dormer.