Home Profile: Arts & Crafts Architecture

Joe and Denise Pierce find peaceful refuge in South Kingstown


Nestled on a small expanse in South Kingstown, Green Hill might be considered one of Rhode Island’s lesser known gems. But Denise and Joe Pierce of Dutchess County, New York, knew that was exactly where they wanted to build their second home, as the area offers tranquil living in a stunning coastal setting. “We wanted a place that was quiet but also close to everything,” explains Joe. When a plot of land became available within the coveted enclave, the Pierces jumped at the chance to become part of this community and were anxious to break ground.

To say they were chomping at the bit to get started is an understatement. “Right after we purchased the land, we started interviewing architects and builders,” says Joe. “Actually, we started interviewing before we even closed on the lot!” The two admit they were already focusing on flooring, appliances and fixtures that appealed to them before even signing the dotted line. Although the couple had never built a home from the ground up before, the process was exciting rather than intimidating. Denise’s brother-in-law, who is in the construction business back in New York, was also willing to assist as an unofficial advisor, which reassured the Pierces.

The couple decided on and arts and crafts architectural design, which they describe as a happy medium between their distinct tastes. “She is more contemporary; I’m more classic,” describes Joe. “We could agree on arts and crafts.” Denise says that in films and on television, she was always attracted to the style, which is also known as American Craftsman. Arts and crafts is a departure from the popular simple, cedar shingle cottage-style homes often found on Rhode Island’s coast, and architectural designer Zandra Rhodes was the person to make their vision a reality. “She’s a designer and not an architect, so we weren’t sure at first,” concedes Denise, “but this [style] is her specialty.”

“I love this style,” admits Zandra. “The Pierces’ [home] is what I would call a shingle style craftsman bungalow. I brought in some timber frame elements and post and beam elements in the porch. It has some heavy beams which is typical. There is a lot of what I would call ‘craftsman style’ there; the interior finishes and the way the house is laid out; the trim work and bead board in different places.”

Not only is arts and crafts style design her forte, but apparently so is listening to potential clients. Armed with just a conversation with the Pierces explaining their wants and needs along with the size of their land parcel, Zandra returned to the couple with a design that was spot on. “We gave her the basics – the size, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and her first draft hit it at 95%,” says Joe.

The couple says they started driving around neighborhoods to also get a good feel of how their vision fit within the landscape. They found a home in South County that they really admired, so they pulled over to the side of the road and Joe began snapping pictures. “Then a man came out of the house, we started talking, and he told me about Steve Lawrence,” he says. The Pierces soon took up the man’s advice and gave Steve a call. The experienced Narragansett-based builder known for custom homes and renovations met with the couple. Soon, the Pierces’ dream team was sealed. “Steve said he was really excited about building a home in this style,” recalls Denise.

“It’s a cool spot,” says Steve of the Green Hill area. “It’s not a big house but it shows from the outside as big home with multiple decks and porches, which gives it depth and detail, as do the pillars and posts at the entry. There’s a lot of curb appeal.”

One of the features both Joe and Denise had their heart set on was a spacious spa-like master bath complete with an extra deep, stand-alone tub, a rainshower and marble floors. The completed space was even better than the two imagined, and it remains one of their favorite rooms in the home. For Joe, having a lot of livable outdoor space was also essential – after all, one would be remiss not to revel in those salt-water breezes, so the multiple multi-level porches, some screened in and some open air, top the list of areas he savors the most. Denise’s favorite space is the deck off the master bedroom. Nearby, a newly designed lounge area with plush, welcoming chairs has also become a favorite nook. Why, you ask? Because “no one follows you up there,” laughs Denise. “I know better,” adds Joe.

Though Green Hill and nearby Matunuck Beach are both populated with many second or summer homes, the Pierces knew their home would be much more than just a weekend escape. Since its completion in 2013, the couple and their family stay for everything from three-day weekends to extended lengths of time. “We like this neighborhood; it’s like everyone is on vacation here,” laughs Denise.

With a community park, private beach club, easy waterfront access, sandy beaches and bucolic areas including Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge nearby, one could say this coastal South Kingstown enclave celebrates the best of both worlds.