Bridge House – Small Scale Built Design – By: Kate Field & Associates


Project Statement:
“Bridge House” is a newly renovated, contemporary shingle-style house on the coast of Rhode Island. The property consists of a 2.4-acre lot in a quiet residential community overlooking scenic Narragansett Bay. The landscape scope included an overall update of the entire site and reprogramming to provide a resort like environment to meet the changing needs of a growing family while being sensitive to the coastal buffer zone. The project was completed in 2010.

Project Narrative:
In developing our master plan, we worked to incorporate into the design the majestic character of the coastal landscape of Rhode Island and the scenic shoreline of Narragansett Bay. Our philosophy was to create an elegant family resort that transformed conventional expectations of a traditional landscape and pool area and to seamlessly blend resort functionality with the environment and context of the home. The final result communicates both physically and intrinsically, the beauty of nature.

All aspects of the design for the landscape were conceived by the landscape architect. Our primary role was as a consultant working directly with the client in developing the site. The design process included site analysis, master plan, schematic design, permitting, design development, construction drawings, 3-D modeling, as well as full scale detailing and mock-ups for all of the custom site amenities. We worked collaboratively with the architect, interior designers, contractors and the artists who created the glass panels, pavers and the bronze shells.


The focus of the family was an active summer schedule with friends and family filling the house. The large scale of the bay, the nearby bridge and the open sky demanded well-proportioned spaces using materials that were sensitive to the natural palette and sustainable in the constant breezes and wind-born salt.  In addition, there was an opportunity to make the exterior spaces feel as well- furnished and gracious as the interior spaces, with careful detailing, artwork, and subtle, yet playful, lighting.

The client’s program included a new pool and spa, outdoor living and dining areas, a/v connections for multiple screening of sports programs, areas for outdoor entertaining for 150 people, open play space for teenage activities, stronger connections between the landscapes on all sides of the house, reduced maintenance, abundant lighting, and multiple gathering areas that flowed directly between the house and pool.  The plantings were also in need of rehabilitation, thinning, removals and replacements. The pool and spa required auto-covers for safety, heat retention and fencing to meet the local codes. The landscape, whether the structured areas around the house and pool, or the unstructured planting areas, offered memorable experiences in nature while taking advantage of the unique vistas throughout the site. A glass artist carved water images on the glass panels at the fountains and in the paving. The inspiration for the materials came from celestial telescope imagery and the water in all its forms in this coastal environment.  Fog, rain, waves, spray, foam, color and gentle reflections were captured in the glass design, the waterfalls and splash pools, the pool tile pattern and colors, the selection of granite and orientation of the venation for the buttresses, piers and wall caps.

In addition to safety lighting at steps and changes of grade, we used soft illumination to create a new nighttime experience. A warm glow was created from up lighting the waterfalls and illuminating the glass panels that were etched as an image of the outer cosmos. Other lighting elements included paving inserts of frosted glass and glowing light from under wall caps of large granite slabs and steps.

The custom fiber optic lighting design in the bottom of the pool reflected the constellations overhead on the clients’ wedding anniversary.

Our approach was to upgrade the look of the landscape to match the sophistication and detail of the interiors. This required connecting and integrating the sloping gardens and terraces with the house, the greater landscape and vistas beyond the property lines while enhancing the aesthetics of the site.  The conflicting geometry of property line, coastal setbacks and house orientation was resolved in the transition terrace between the pool and main seating terrace. Granite blocks appear randomly orientated, but reflect all three geometries. By aligning the pool with the north property line, it opened a wedge between the house geometry and the site boundaries.

The natural elevation change from the pool area to the house created a challenging opportunity for connected spaces and exterior room definitions. The redesigned plaza holds the marriage of angles between home, pool and property line. The multi-functioning sculptural use of stone integrated the house and landscape. Walls and stone blocks provided seating and tables and ”floating” black granite slabs retained the sun’s warmth for lying on when chilled from the wind or water activities.

The strength of the granite and fieldstone reflected the iconic rock outcroppings that penetrate the soft coastal plantings. . The veination of jet mist granite resembles the glass carvings. Plant materials were selected for their hardiness to the coastal environment with a focus on summer interest. Natives were used as the palette for perimeter plantings, with ornamentals nearer the house. Perennials and pots of annuals, succulents and tropical foliage provided added color. Our work enhanced and protected the natural site’s drainage and infiltration. To maintain the natural significance of the site, efforts were made to preserve and restore the native coastal buffer and to restore the property borders with native plants.

The 19’ x 51’ pool is clad on the bottom with handmade Italian glass tile in a custom radial pattern. The bottom of the pool is punctuated with 100 fiber optic stars each encircled with 24 carat gold tiles. The fiber optic under the coping is in a custom stainless steel bracket. The pool coping and surrounding paving is Jerusalem limestone. The custom-designed bronze speaker grill covers, bronze fencing, gates and fence latches, and the bronze hood and frames for the waterfalls and glass carvings all expressed the strength of a material well suited to the coastal exposure. The patina was repeated in door hardware and lighting fixtures on the house.

The outdoor kitchen area features a stainless steel gas grill, refrigerator, towel warmer drawers, and a recessed flat screen TV. A limestone mantle found in a local antique yard complimented the limestone paving which was chosen for its light color and low heat absorption in contrast to the darker stone and granite walls. The outdoor lighting is controlled by a state-of-the-art system, allowing for fully remote control fixtures with a timing schedule. Manual switching panels and cable ports for additional

TV screens were hidden behind our custom covers with a bronze cast shell cover.

This design is significant because of the landscape architect’s attention to detail and the use of artists and artistry to create a place of natural beauty that feels like home. The engineering of the adjacent bridge structure served as inspiration for the design. New design territory was broken in a short amount of time with elements such as the bronze gas torches and the massive granite buttresses and slab seats. The client desired a unique blend of sophistication and resort-level luxury. The inspiration from the surrounding natural environment pushed the designers to envision every detail as a connection linking form to function and back to the natural world.