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Sliding Barn Doors and Cozy Breakfast Deck Update 1960s Prefab Home

Block Island Housewright, Estes/Twombly Architects


  • General Contractor: Shea Butcher
  • James Estes

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Project Description

Buffeted by brisk ocean winds and reached only by boat or plane, tiny Block Island slows to a crawl in winter, most of its homes and inns shuttered until summer. Not this home. Visually and functionally improved per the wishes of its new owners, it is used year-round, thanks to a core “winter house” consisting of all public spaces, utilities, and two bedrooms. The judges found the home “lyrical” and “the essence of Prairie.” In deference to the harsh climate, architect James Estes aimed for simplicity and durability. For instance, the remaining four bedrooms are in a two-story annex whose outdoor stair is protected by an extended roofline. Sliding barn doors block wind from the deck that connects the annex to the core house.

The home began as a 1960s prefab with a flat-roofed core and two open gables, later gaining a hipped roof and other ill-conceived additions. Contractor Shea Butcher first took the house back to what remained of the original form. He then made the core wider (4 feet) and longer (14 feet); replaced the square annex with a slimmer, two-story version; and outfitted a small garage with its own barn door and gabled roof.  

Sunlight and views are maximized throughout. A small breakfast deck faces east; doors and other decks open to the west; and the windows in the bathrooms of the stacked annex jut out at an angle, their mirrors bringing in the dramatic views.

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