rom the rustic granite steps that lead to the stone
cottage in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, there
is no hint of the suburban cul-de-sac that is just
a few dozen yards away. The view ahead is a forest of cedar trees that dip into a shallow valley cut
through by a stream. The wee structure, with its
granite beams and a sturdy mahogany door, seems fit for a Hobbit.
But this is no fantasy.
It is the real-life creation of Neil and Samantha Best, the husband-and-wife team behind Magma Design Group in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Built atop a single wall left from an existing fieldstone foundation
— presumably an outbuilding on what was once a farm — the 20-by-
20-foot folly is sited to capture the south-facing views and the light of
the 6-acre property.
The tiny retreat, which the owner uses for reading, relaxation, and
gardening chores, looks as though it’s always been there. Built largely
from fieldstones found on the property, in a way, it has.
When the designers presented the owner with the initial concept,
she immediately fell for it. “But then I had to go find these stones that
would make it work,” says Neil, a landscape architect, of the undulating, organic facade that sprang from his imagination. Luckily, “
amazing materials were coming up from the ground right here,” says Samantha, a certified horticulturist who was charged with moving boulders
on the property so that necessary machinery could get to the site and,
later, skillfully placing them back with a mindfully natural aesthetic.
Construction began in the fall and was completed the following spring, with a very snowy winter in between, leaving the Bests to
get to know the property intimately in all seasons. Neil wore micro-spikes over his work boots to steady his footing as he built the structure by hand throughout the treacherous weather. Invisible underpinnings such as the new 42-inch-deep concrete foundation, insulation,
and waterproof flashing belie the structure’s timeless appearance. Neil,
who has a background in carpentry, painstakingly fitted the rounded
stones together without cutting or carving a single one. The three
roughly 11-foot pillars that became the facade’s lintels framing the
to create the cottage’s sinuous facade (above), Neil Best used fieldstones
found on the property and reclaimed granite pillars sourced from a farm in
Tiverton, Rhode Island. The mahogany door was crafted by Aaron Murray of
Springfield, Massachusetts. The client decorated the reading room (facing
page, top) with her own Mission-style furniture and other favorite pieces. The
cottage was sited on the lone wall of an existing stone foundation (facing
page, bottom), and its sides are clad in stained pine board-and-batten.