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January 8, 2012
Originally published in Inspired Renovation

For Katie and Scott McDonald, moving into a Rhode Island family home meant recasting the previously renovated house as a sanctuary of peaceful, Japanese-inspired design.

Japanese-inspired design home renovation

Creative Direction

The arrowhead-shaped corner at the end of the living room evolved from the need to accommodate a standard sliding-glass-door module. “It would have been astronomically expensive to custom-build it,” says Chris Bardt. This architectural gesture— the arrow “points” toward the river—“enabled us to be very generous with the view area without having to extend the entire house.”

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COPYRIGHT 2011, JOHN HORNER
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Minimalist zen stone garden with floating black walnut bench

Shoes Off

The McDonalds wanted a comfortable place for people to remove their shoes, so the architects built a niche for a bench. The McDonalds hired local case-goods maker James Dean to craft a floating flitch-cut slab of black walnut—what Bardt calls “the affordable Nakashima moment.”

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Courtesy of 
COPYRIGHT 2011, JOHN HORNER
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Original Colonial ceiling beams

Trim Beam

“The most difficult part of combining the living and dining rooms was that the ‘fake’ Colonial ceiling beams in the dining space”—which took the already-low seven-foot ceilings down to a head-scraping six feet four inches—“turned out to be structural,” says Bardt. Working with an engineer, he and Leski “shaved down” the beams and reinforced them to achieve a uniform ceiling height “without tearing the house apart.”

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Minimalist interior zen stone garden

Stone Roses

“We wanted to make the interior seamless with the outdoors, and this is the first place we blur the line,” Katie says of the “stone garden” that flows from within the entry to the deck beyond it. “My 85-year-old father picked up the rocks at the beach, a bag or two at a time, over weeks and weeks,” says Scott.

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Courtesy of 
COPYRIGHT 2011, JOHN HORNER
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Minimalist neutral colored kitchen design

Grade A Maple

“For us, the dinner table is huge,” says Katie. The pair met furniture designer Seth Eshelman—whose Rochester-based company Staach produces what she called “environmentally conscientious furniture”—at a teatasting event, and they felt he shared their “vision and values.” Eshelman’s Cain dining set is made from maple.

Now Yukimi

“The meditation room is where we get our Japanese ya-yas out,” says Scott. “I wanted yukimi, which means ‘snow-viewing,’ shoji screens because they open from the bottom as well as side to side. Glen Collins, a guy in Oakland, California, is the one American I could find whose company makes them.”

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Courtesy of 
COPYRIGHT 2011, JOHN HORNER
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Japanese-inspired design home renovation

Creative Direction

The arrowhead-shaped corner at the end of the living room evolved from the need to accommodate a standard sliding-glass-door module. “It would have been astronomically expensive to custom-build it,” says Chris Bardt. This architectural gesture— the arrow “points” toward the river—“enabled us to be very generous with the view area without having to extend the entire house.”

Image courtesy of COPYRIGHT 2011, JOHN HORNER.
Project 
Saunderstown House
Architect 

Katie and Scott McDonald—she’s a self-described “holistic health coach and raw food chef”; he’s a psychiatrist—were living the architectural high life with their son, Sage, in Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1908 E. E. Boynton House in Rochester, New York. Alas, a desire to return to New England and inhabit a space that more actively incorporated the outdoors prevailed. “The 228 leaded-glass windows were beautiful, but they separated us from nature,” says Katie. Add to that the couple’s shared love of serene, clean interiors, and the McDonalds realized they were ready to exchange Wright’s inward-looking world of crafted ornament and heavy oak furniture for an Eastern-influenced, minimalist environment that embraced nature.

They purchased the house Katie’s parents had lived in for 22 years: a non-descript 1950s gambrel-roofed builder’s special on four bucolic acres in Saun-derstown, Rhode Island, a hamlet some 30 miles from Providence. “We didn’t want to add square footage,” says Katie, “but we wanted to capture the view [of the Narrow River],” which is best seen from the decks off the living room and master bedroom. They also desired a seamless, open floorplan where they could embrace their Far Eastern tastes.

Accordingly, 3six0 Architecture principals Chris Bardt and Kyna Leski, along with their senior associate Jack Ryan, removed the wall between the existing living and dining rooms. The three spaces (two old, one new) were combined into the McDonalds’ multipurpose zone, and a wall of river-facing glass sliders now frames the vista. They also converted the existing dining room into a library and enclosed its adjacent screened porch to create Katie’s office.

While keeping the square footage essentially the same, 3six0’s renovation turned the rambling structure’s complicated aggregation of Ls, angles, and rooms into what Katie calls “a healing sanctuary.”

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