Salt Pond Paradise

The family behind the century-old Arnold Lumber opens their house to us


Art and Betty Arnold know a thing or two about building houses. In fact, their century-old family business, Arnold Lumber, has provided materials for countless homes throughout Rhode Island and beyond. So when the couple bought a humble cottage on South Kingstown’s Salt Pond, they saw more than just a vacation home; they saw possibilities. However, the house wasn’t properly insulated: “We could only use [the house] very sparingly,” Betty explains. “We didn’t get the full use of the season, and if it was a gloomy day, it was damp and freezing. Finally, we decided after six years to just knock it down and start from scratch.”

The Arnolds turned to architect Nancy Leslie of Wakefield to design a home that was as elegant as it was unfussy. As the property is on a body of water, Leslie was tasked with working within the rigorous confines of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council and the Department of Environmental Management’s regulations for environmental protection, as is standard with waterfront and watershed properties. “So the goal was to fit as much living space as possible in a relatively small space,” Leslie explains. The solution, she says, was to build up instead of out, and to weave in elements that offered the illusion of more space. “We elevated the ceilings to let the space feel more expansive,” Leslie says. “We also kept the kitchen, living room, and dining room all in one area,” surrounding the open floor plan with oversized windows. It’s an approach that worked well for the Arnolds. “I wanted one big room because we’re a very large family,” says Betty.

With three adult daughters, a few son-in-laws and a brood of six grandchildren whose curiosity sends them to the shoreline to catch crabs and critters in the shallows, the home had to be functional, comfortable and able to handle the pitter-patter of sandy feet. Wes Deane of Highland Builders (based in Tiverton) was commissioned to build “Reel Point,” a three-bedroom home with rooms situated to capitalize on million-dollar views. Named after the serene expanse of land on Salt Pond, Reel Point is the combination of architectural skill, smart craftsmanship and Art and Betty Arnold’s taste and experience.

The kitchen was the predominant focal point from the outset, and though Betty undoubtedly knows how to please the palate, Art is the one most in his element there, slicing and dicing to his heart’s content. “My husband and our son-in-law, Kate’s husband – he’s a chef from France, she met him in cooking school – always love to cook, so they have great competitions,” she says with a laugh. The space can accommodate both comfortably, with a professional range, expansive counter space and an oversized island. “The kids catch crabs on the rocks with hot dogs on a string and we can go out and dig quahogs, cook ‘em up and make chowders.” A pizza oven is built into the far wall, made entirely of indigenous stones, bringing the outside in and adding a layer of texture to the neutral-hued space. The smooth, gleaming surface of the vanilla quartz and granite countertop reflects the sunlight and is neat and uncluttered. “I think it’s from South Africa,” she notes. “I mostly chose it for the color palate, of course. I had a hard time finding something I thought was going to go, and then to also pull in the color of the stone behind it.”

Betty liked the tone of the white oak floors so much she had the dining room table hand-crafted to complement the natural wood. Similarly crafted chairs, fashioned to invite a rustic feel, are both comfortable and eye-catching. “This I actually had made because I knew exactly what I wanted,” she says of the table. “It’s made from reclaimed white oak – you can see the worm holes and everything. So my husband said, ‘It’s got holes in it,’ and I said, ‘Yes, and you paid extra for it.’”

“Simple and clean,” is how Betty describes the white cream and taupe tones throughout the first floor. It’s the entire design scheme’s modus operandi, as the Arnold’s objective was to let the surrounding coastal milieu take center stage. “We wanted to capture the views,” she explains. “Every room you go into in this house has a view of the water.”

She also depended on the styling talent of daughter Kate, who owns Seaside Casual Furniture in Coventry, a division of Arnold Lumber Company. While Seaside Casual Furniture focuses on outdoor furnishings, Kate’s talent extends to interiors as well. “She was a great asset,” says Betty. Together they selected bold fabrics for throw pillows and accents in the bedrooms, including the children’s bunk room, which can sleep six. “Each child has their own reading light, and then, because everybody is so technological these days, they each have plugs for their iPods and all that.”

Reel Point was designed to be easy to maintain now and in the future. “We tried to keep the house green so that moving forward, the investment will be minimal for the girls to be able to keep the house in the family,” says Betty. Environmentally-friendly foam insulation allows the Arnolds to control the indoor air quality, while geothermal heating and cooling increases its energy-efficiency. “It’s so easy; I never have to touch anything. It’s a smart home, we just set it and go. You come in and shut the alarm off and the heat automatically comes on; it’s maintained at a certain temperature all the time.”

An extended deck invites outdoor dining and entertaining, and is equally simple to maintain. “All our trim outside is Azek, so we don’t have to paint or do anything to it. We really tried to keep it functional,” says Betty. “What’s really nice is – for the most part – everybody is outside all the time in the summer, but... winter nights down here are beautiful and we come in the fall. We visit year round.”

“Everybody comes and they all love it here,” Betty says with a smile. “It’s the family house and we hope to always keep it in the family, and that’s what it’s designed for, to be able to share going forward.”