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How to Design the Perfect Beach Home: An Interview with Glen S. Fontecchio of Glen S. Fontecchio Architects

By Glen Fontecchio

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a full-service architectural studio focusing on historic restorations and neotraditional New England beach homes. I have over 25 years of experience with large- and small-scale architecture and planning projects. In addition to my design work, I have developed design guidelines for several coastal communities and served as chairman of the local historic district commission for over ten years.

We specialize in small (moderate to mid-sized), thoughtfully designed homes focused on open spaces and linkages between the exterior and interior living environment. Spaces are planned to function as intimate getaways for two, yet be flexible enough to entertain friends and family. Our aesthetic is clean and casual, barefoot elegance.

What are some of the biggest decisions that a homeowner will need to make about the design of a new waterfront or beach home?

For me, the site and its relationship to the view is equally important as the design of the home. We start with layout plans and work with the owner to select the best options for their site and lifestyle.

Can you briefly explain what an architect likes to know about the future homeowners to create the perfect house for them?

I like to have several casual meetings with prospective clients. The first question I always ask is are we a good fit for each other? Do we have similar values and will my style of design suit them? A list of questions I typically ask include:

Do they like to entertain? Do they like to cook?
How do they spend their free time at home - for example, reading books, watching movies, gardening or spending time outside?
Are they active and what types of spaces do you want to have in their home? Do they desire a workout room, bike storage in the garage, art/craft studio space, wine cellar, etc.?
How do you envision the site? Do you garden or prefer a fairly maintenance-free natural setting?
Is this a retirement home?

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across about beach homes?

Beach homes are no longer cheap cottages. Clients typically expect all of the modern amenities. The challenge is to hide all of these systems so it still feels like that comfy, peaceful beach home of the past.

What are a few of the most in-demand features for waterfront homes in Rhode Island?

Open, airy spaces and the ability to connect to the outdoors. Kitchens, both inside and outside, are the center of living spaces and often feature open-seating bars. Everyone spends the majority of their time in the kitchen, the social center of most homes. The key is to layout efficient work spaces that connect to the fun and also offer private, quieter spaces away from the noise and activity. As a cook myself, I like to entertain but want to participate in the party while I cook. The key is to design the space in such a way that it is open to the social activity, but I also want guests to not be in the way while I'm moving a hot pot or working between prep counters.

What advice would you give a client who wants a beach home that combines progressive design and comfort?

Go for small and manageable. Design spaces that can serve multiple functions and have flexibility. Start by finding an architect you feel comfortable with.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Visit our website or give me a call. I am always happy to talk to someone about their property. Whether I am in my Providence, Rhode Island, studio or our summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, I am always available to talk. Email me at glen@gfontecchio.com or call my cell 401.368.7191.

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