a greenhouse on their 2½-acre property. It ended with a stunningly Modern
structure brought to life by architectural designer Michele Foster that is part
greenhouse, part living area, and full-on indoor-outdoor haven with a wall of
sliding glass doors that, when open, create a 40-foot-wide entry.
“This is as close to California as it gets in Newport,” says Foster, whose
firm, Foster Associates, is in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and it is exactly what
homeowners Michael Walsh and Susan Ruf had wanted for more than 30 years.
“Even though we’ve owned several old houses, we have always loved
Modern houses,” says Walsh, a self-avowed real estate junkie who has stewarded numerous properties with Ruf since the couple bought their first house
together in the early 1980s.
The new structure isn’t a house, however. It is a thoroughly Modern out-
building. “I needed a good working space for growing indoor plants year-
round,” says Ruf, an accomplished gardener and horticultural judge. “I can’t
stand gardening, but I like being near Susan,” says Walsh, who was a driving
force for the living areas that developed under the same roof as the green-
house. “Our instructions to Michele were above all to give us a strong indoor-
Foster designed the space to meet those needs while also respecting sev-
eral givens dictated by the site, a strip along the eastern edge of the sloping
property where a greenhouse built in the late 1800s and modified in subse-
quent years had stood. Nearly derelict, the old building was razed to make
way for the new.
“We had to observe setbacks and conform to a footprint that was essentially long and narrow,” says Foster, who also needed to show restraint in the
IT STARTED INNOCENTLY ENOUGH WHEN THE OWNERS
OF HILLSIDE, AN ARCHITECTURALLY SIGNIFICANT 1882
HOUSE IN NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, DECIDED TO BUILD