Peter DuPré has what one might describe as an obsession with mid-century modern design and architecture. “I grew up in a mid-century home. In 1950, my father built a house in Bethesda, Maryland, that was the Saturday Evening Post’s Home of the Year,” says DuPré with pride. “My parents were very forward thinking.” Surrounded by Heywood-Wakefield furniture as a child, a manufacturer dating back to 1897 which hit its stride with mid-century modern pieces, DuPré developed an appreciation for the aesthetic at a very young age. “I grew up in that – very streamlined design, very modern and functional and now, hugely popular,” he says.
An actor who had landed a role on soap opera As the World Turns, DuPré switched gears and began his career in the club and restaurant industry, though he never abandoned his passion for mid-century design. Instead of taking what was left after his cost of living expenses from his paycheck and socking those dollars away in a bank account, DuPré invested in well-made furnishings. “As I made money, I never saved. Instead, I did buy good quality mid-century design pieces – great pieces of gold standard furniture and Eames chairs, and I would put them in storage,” he explains. “I did it for 30 years as an investment. I knew they were blue chip pieces of furniture.” Much like a stock or bond, furniture value can mature. Case in point, a pair of 1974 Gilbert Rohde dressers DuPré picked up for $2,000 years ago now worth $15,000. (Rohde is credited with helping to define post-war American modernism.) “So I was very fortunate that I had a great eye and studied the aesthetic,” he explains, adding that at its peak, his collection filled five storage spaces to capacity.
While the most common practice might be to build a house then furnish it, DuPré and his wife Lisa Castellucci consciously did things the other way around. The two met when DuPré owned Amsterdam’s, a bar and restaurant on South Main Street in Providence that is now home to Parkside Rotisserie & Bar. The first location he owned by the same name was located on Newport’s lower Thames Street, later called the 509 Grill. “I also had another place, Pink, a nightclub in Newport... It was quite the place.” After selling the Providence location, DuPré and Castellucci wed and moved to New York City where DuPré opened Rue B in 2000 with partners, a jazz bistro in the East Village known as much for craft libations as it is live music. Naturally, the collector had plenty of art and décor pieces to populate the swanky space.
But he left a part of his heart – and an undeveloped lot – in the Ocean State. It took the better part of ten years to prepare the land just past Scarborough State Beach and secure the proper permissions (and find them time in between running businesses) to break ground. Faithful to their shared passion for mid-century architecture, DuPré and Castellucci sought designs that would express that aesthetic. The couple was inspired by the work of master architect Richard Neutra who worked with legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Neutra designed more than 300 houses in California and beyond between 1927 and 1969, including the Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, considered the most famous home there. He is also credited with introducing “International Style” as an architectural genre, appeared on the cover of Time magazine and participated in the Case Study Houses Program created by the publisher of Arts and Architecture magazine. The editor and visionary commissioned architects like Neutra to design simple, innovative and modern homes for a budding post-war housing market.
In a sea of cedar-shingle, cottage style homes celebrating coastal design, elements of Richard Neutra’s International Style stands out at DuPré and Castellucci’s modern abode. While the couple says some neighbors were initially uncertain about such an architectural departure, which they could understand, they intentionally designed the footprint as not to obstruct anyone’s ocean views. “I must say we’ve been welcomed warmly,” says DuPré about the three-story, 2,100 sq. ft. residence. As an “upside down” house, where the first floor was designed to mimic a gallery space while the kitchen and main living area are on the middle floor, the design was intentionally drafted to take advantage of the panoramic ocean vista. Channeling Neutra, an entire wall of glass opens up to a deck so that in the warmer months, indoor and outdoor living merges into one harmonious space.
DuPré and Castellucci’s turned to custom homebuilder Steve Lawrence, based in Narragansett, to execute their vision. “This was his first foray into a home this modern, so he was equally thrilled to have the building experience as we were making the home come alive,” says DuPré. “Even though he hadn’t built a modern home he could point to, we looked at the quality of his other work and the styles he had executed were done so beautifully and with such attention to detail we instilled total confidence in him.
The trio also shared a passion for green living and looked to fashion a home that was energy-efficient and had a minimal impact on the environment. Lawrence Builders’ work resulted in only the fourth Rhode Island home to achieve the prestigious National Green Building Standard certification. They used soy-based spray foam to insulate the entire home for increased energy savings, installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, and chose Energy Star fixtures to achieve a 5+ rating – the highest offered by Energy Star. “We hit the bull’s eye,” DuPré gushes.
Completed in 2011, the couple and their many guests are enjoying the fruits of their labor. With a shared passion for food, libations and entertaining, DuPré and Castellucci look to escape the Big Apple as often as possible and relax in stunning Narragansett. “I’m really into custom mixology,” says DuPré. “Lisa is an exquisite chef. We just live to eat, drink and entertain. The house is truly a reflection of what we love.”