Worth the Wait
A Rye couple hits a home run with their rebuilt beach house
Written by Crystal Ward Kent
Photographed by Greg West
Produced by Marsha Jusczak
Tom and Barbara Archibald had long enjoyed summering in Rye, New Hampshire. They had planned to retire there, but as the date drew closer, they realized that their summer home would not meet their needs. Rather than hunt for a new property, they decided to start over—tearing down the existing home and rebuilding a new one with a design that suited their lifestyle.
“We have three sons that live away from home but frequently return here,” explains Barbara. “We have grandchildren, and both Tom and I come from large families. Tom is one of five, and I’m one of 11! Everyone likes to come and visit, so we often have a houseful!”
The Archibalds also wanted their living space to all be on the first floor, leaving the upstairs to become the guest quarters. Their dream house would be suitable for entertaining, yet maintain a comfortable ambiance that invited relaxation.
For more than a year, they worked with builder Ron Houghton of Houghton Builders of North Hampton, New Hampshire; architect Ralf Amsden of Living Spaces in Rye, New Hampshire; and designer Mary Beale of The Kitchen Advisor in Portland, Maine. In the end, the finished home was worth the wait.
Steps away is the kitchen, a bright, light-filled space that can easily accommodate preparing a meal for a multitude of guests or a casual lunch for Tom and Barbara. Small, dark blue wall sections contrast with golden beadboard and the blond wood of the cabinets. Gold subway tiles of the stove’s backsplash, placed vertically, echo the lines of the beadboard. A subtle diamond pattern set within the backsplash mimics the diamond panes of glass in Barbara’s top cabinets. Extensive counters wrap the kitchen, which also features a large L-shaped island. The island is fitted with a second sink, giving Barbara plenty of preparation space. Both the countertops and island are granite in hues of gold, black, and cream. Tall chairs with gold leather cushions provide handy seating. “I wanted an L-shaped island so we could use one section for dining when it’s just Tom and I, and use the other section for prep,” she says.
Although Barbara didn’t want the kitchen to be dominated by cabinetry, she wanted plenty of storage. To accommodate her, Beale designed an old-fashioned bureau. Built by cabinetmaker Jamie Gowing of Hampton, New Hampshire, and stained to a cherry finish, the piece was placed in a corner. This unexpected touch has become one of Barbara’s favorite pieces. Another favorite is the built-in desk Beale placed under the window. Barbara frequently plans her week at this desk, where it is easy to note any needed supplies for upcoming events or gatherings. Next to the desk, frosted glass doors lead to a large walk-in pantry with plenty of cabinets for Barbara’s pottery collection and other dishes. A line of low shelving offers additional workspace or storage, if needed, and the pantry is also home to a large freezer, thus freeing up space in the kitchen proper.
Going with the Flow
One of the room’s most striking features is the pentagon-shaped molding on the ceiling. The molding conceals lighting, and when the lights are on, a golden glow suffuses the design. A pentagonal ceiling medallion, from which hangs a pewter chandelier, repeats the motif.
An Oriental rug in reds and blues lends a splash of color to the dining room’s hardwood floor. Other furnishings include a white satin sofa on one side of the room and, on the other, a striking curved-front buffet inlaid with cherry. Tall silver lamps on the buffet pick up the sheen of the chandelier.
Just off the dining room and kitchen in a small alcove is a wet bar. The Archibalds enjoy this feature since they entertain frequently. Opposite the bar is a charming little nook outfitted with a small round table and two upholstered chairs. The nook, by a large window filled with plants, is perfect for relaxing with a cocktail or for quiet conversation during a party.
The open concept design allows family and guests to flow easily from the eating areas into the living room and adjacent sunroom. Amsden repeated the cool white pillars and low dividers that separate the kitchen from the dining room in the living room, using them to frame the space rather than enclose it. Here the walls are restful sage green offset by white trim, and a coffered ceiling adds visual interest. A sofa in deep gold is piled with pillows in olive and brown and flanked by comfy leather armchairs. Within easy reach, an oversize hassock picks up the same hues as the pillows. Directly opposite, a large flat screen television hangs over the fireplace, which has a striking surround of gold tiles with a rose design. Off to one side, a large window seat is full of pillows, creating a cozy spot for telling stories to their grandchildren or, as Tom notes, “the perfect diaper changing station for baby dolls!”
Near the living room is Tom’s office. In this masculine retreat, the walls are sponge-painted in deep earth tones. Large mahogany bookcases provide space not only for reading material but also for golf trophies, photos, a small flat screen TV, and Tom’s weather station—he receives real-time data remotely from sensors affixed to the garage roof. A handsome cherry desk sits in front of the window, and a tartan rug in burgundy and green adds bold color against the hardwood floor. Glass doors allow the room to be closed off as needed.
In keeping with the open concept, the living room flows into the sunroom—a captivating space done in shades of pale gold, yellow, and blue, with panoramic views of the spacious yard. The color scheme is pulled from a pair of antique French-Provincial couches that once belonged to Barbara’s mother. In the center of the room, a striking glass tabletop perches on a large blue ceramic base filled with shells. A piano graces one corner, while near the windows, a round table inlaid with a basket pattern provides an ideal spot for dining. “When the family isn’t here, this is where Tom and I take all of our meals,” Barbara says. “Even in winter, we just love the view. There’s always something pretty to look at.”
An open-beamed ceiling adds to the airy atmosphere of the room, which opens onto the patio and makes it easy to transition to outdoor entertaining. The tile floor, done in a stone design, conceals a radiant heating system. In fact, the entire house is geothermal-heated. “We have seven 500-foot wells in the yard,” Tom explains. “A geothermal system uses the earth’s natural heat to cool the house in summer and warm the house in winter. It has been a great way to save energy.”
In keeping with the Archibalds’ desire to have their living area on one floor, they have a private master suite just off the living room. (The upstairs has three bedrooms, two baths, a laundry room, and a den for family visits.) The suite, which can be completely closed off from the rest of the house, features their bedroom, complete with his and her walk-in closets, a bath, and their own laundry. The master bedroom is the essence of simplicity with walls the color of sand, white trim, and a pale beige carpet. A large four-poster cherry bed, adorned with a pale blue coverlet and floral pillows, commands the center of the room. Opposite the bed is a fireplace of white marble. Barbara deliberately kept furnishings to a minimum, adding only his and her bedside tables and one low ivory satin chair next to the fireplace. “I wanted this to be our sanctuary,” she says. “This room is a restful, peaceful place to unwind and I wanted to avoid a lot of clutter.” Even the walls are bare, helping to focus attention on a large picture window with a stunning view of the perennial gardens and backyard. The bedroom opens onto a private deck with a hot tub. The Archibalds also access the hot tub from the walk-in shower in the master bath, which has his and her vanity areas. The shower features earth-tone tilework and a floor with smooth, slightly raised stones. “This is our beach rocks floor,” Barbara says. “We love it—it’s like a massage for your feet!”
By starting from scratch, the Archibalds gained a house perfectly suited to their needs. “The best decision we made on this project was to use both Ralf Amsden and Ron Houghton,” Tom says. “They work well as a team, and they brought the best designers and contractors to the table.”
The Green Monster
“When our sons first saw the yard, they said, ‘What a perfect whiffle ball field,’” Barbara says. “Then, our nephew, Tyler, had the idea of building a ‘Mini-Fenway.’ Before we knew it, someone had gotten a CITGO sign, and things just came together. The kids added a Jordan’s sign this month.”
The family has Fourth of July baseball tournaments here, with the winners getting their names on a plaque. “Everyone wants to say they’ve hit one over the Green Monster, including me!” Tom says with a laugh. “All ages enjoy this field, from three-year-olds to adults.” Because of that, the Archibalds happily donate the use of their field to charity, and it has been a prize at a benefit auction. They also invite the Friends Project, a group of kids and adults with developmental disabilities, to come and play there each summer.
“It wasn’t what we initially planned for the backyard,” Barbara says of this family project. “But we wouldn’t change a thing. Archway Park is all about fun, and we love it!”