The Boothden restoration on the Sakonnet River rewrites history
A Queen Anne, Stick-style home along the Sakonnet River in Middletown, RI, once belonged to noted Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth. Booth, billed as one of the finest lead characters in the tragic play Hamlet, had commissioned famed architect Calvert Vaux to build him a cottage along the water’s grassy banks, where, when he wasn’t at the theater, he could take in the beauty of the setting and its filtered views of the Atlantic. The summer enclave was inhabited by other artists of the time who preferred its serenity to the opulence and vanity fair of high-society Newport nearby. The private nature of the retreat no doubt appealed to Booth, given that by 1865 he’d be dogged by unwanted fame, and more widely known for his role as brother to Abraham Lincoln’s assassin Edwin Wilkes Booth than for his compelling character portrayals.
The ‘good son’ only enjoyed “Boothden,” as it’s named, for four years before it was willed to his daughter, Edwina, and sold shortly thereafter. At the time it was built in 1883, the home was a 40x40-foot structure set upon rolling, estate-style lawns punctuated by a windmill folly by the river’s edge. In the years since, Boothden has seen a series of additions and renovations, each unrelated to the next, which muddied Vaux’s original vision. Its most recent incarnation, an ambitious collaboration by Andreozzi Architects, Kirby Perkins Construction and LeBlanc Jones Landscape Architects, resets the clock, returning the residence to its historic grandeur even as it positions the home in the here and now.
At the project’s outset, a historian was enlisted to discern what was original to the design and what wasn’t. Clear additions from the 1940s and ’50s were removed and a new plan was designed that “recreated the image of what Calvin Vaux intended the house to be,” contends architect David Andreozzi. As the home’s foundation had deteriorated and needed replacing, the team, together with Boothden’s current owners, took the opportunity to reposition the home at an angle that maximizes its site and views toward the ocean. They tailored the new location “to how the new owners want to experience the environment,” reveals Andreozzi Architects’ associate David Rizzolo, and the experience they want for others. The residents share a unique inner ethos; they love entertaining and welcome a steady parade of visitors to their one-of-a-kind property all summer long.
The way that Boothden mingles the old and new is a construction tour de force. As the eave, bracketing, decorative trim and shingle pattern on the exterior of the north end of the home was intact, explain co-owner Tom Perkins and project manager Randon Mendes of Kirby Perkins Construction, the builder had to match up the many interesting roof lines and mirror the facade’s intricacies on the additions.
The homeowner feared he’d notice where the old house ends and the new begins. He needn’t have worried. While the Kirby Perkins team knows exactly where that point is on all three levels, inhabitants are blissfully unaware.
For the interiors, the client, an artist with a true eye for design, cultivated a setting of peace and elegance that hints at the formality of yesteryear yet captures the easy spirit of today’s coastal homes. Andreozzi Architects specified elaborate finish work and flourishes (what Perkins calls “details on top of details”) that showcase the exacting craftsmanship of Kirby Perkins Construction and Jutras Woodworking.
It’s the finer points that set the home apart: the Stick-style beam ceiling lends a nautical flair to the family room; museum-grade mahogany veneers line the chart room; crowd-pleasing Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances modernize the kitchen; handblown stained glass alights the ceiling of the master bedroom; and a hand-carved stairway adds drama to the dining room, creating a refined space that “almost feels like a stage set,” says Andreozzi.
While Andreozzi Architects designed the paneling of the refridgerator to evoke an old icebox, appliances are anything but vintage. The kitchen and pantry feature Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, supplied by Clarke & Sub-Zero Showroom, and an oversized island allows three couples to cook and prep comfortably.
"The home has a fanciful, intricate design. There are details on top of details and many layers to its rooms." - Tom Perkins, Kirby Perkins Construction
The stone carving over the mantel pays homage to the windmill of long ago.
The grade of the pool was sited so that the gaze looks over the beautiful lawn and water. The hardscape is surrounded by plantings that bloom in summer.
LeBlanc Jones Landscape Architects entered the scene early to set the rotation and elevation of the house, and select the grades for landscape features, including: a new pool, spa and cabana; a barn-turned-artist studio and greenhouse; a small orchard, and perennial and vegetable gardens. There were also “a lot of existing conditions we wanted to maintain,” explains principal Keith LeBlanc, like the copper beech tree that greets you on arrival and a waterside gazebo that “floats out on the lawn” on the site of the earliest generations’ windmill. These exquisite details were woven into the overall composition in a “sort of artful arrangement.”
The pool terrace is outfitted with an outdoor grill area, pergola, and a cabana that has beach club-style snack bar doors and a full kitchen.
As with the home itself, the landscape’s newer features, like the gently graded slopes, laid stone retaining walls and soft natural grasses along the riverbank are quietly integrated among elements that have long been part of the terrain. The gardens are beautiful but not obvious, says LeBlanc, so as not to upstage the view. After all, the vistas are the home’s marquee attraction, in years past and for years to come.
Architect: Andreozzi Architects
Construction: Kirby Perkins Construction
Landscape Architecture: LeBlanc Jones Landscape Architects
Casework: Jutras Woodworking
Appliances: Clarke/Sub Zero/Wolf (Seven Tide)
Windows: Pella Windows and Doors
Photography: Aaron Usher & Anthony Crisafulli
As seen in Boston Design Guide, 21st edition.
"Second Act," pages 134-145
View the Digital Edition here.