A movie industry maven makes this Rhode Island jewel the site for his dream vacation home. By Anna Kasabian
The beaches and architectural purity of Block Island, Rhode Island, have captured the hearts of Tom Bernard, his wife, Nena, and their two children for 15 years. When the opportunity came about to purchase a two-acre hilltop property, designs for their year-round vacation home quickly followed.
Â“[Block Island is] listed as one of the last 100 great places in the world,Â” Bernard says. Â“ItÂ’s maintained so it doesnÂ’t change or get [visually] polluted with modern-day advertising.Â”
Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, and his family had few requirements; among them was having an outdoor observation tower, a guest wing, and a layout that took advantage of the 360-degree ocean views. Â“It is a simple design; no unnecessary bells and whistles,Â” Bernard says.
The Newport firm Estes Twombly Architects, Inc. took on the projectÂ—their fourth on the islandÂ—on property that James Estes says was once slotted for a phone tower that islanders, not surprisingly, did not welcome.
Says Bernard, Â“One of the great things about being here is you can find a beach with just one person on it. YouÂ’ve got Long Island Sound on one side and the Atlantic on the other, and you can even see the two bodies of water come together in a division of color.Â”
The tower sits between the main house and the guest wing, offering a sense of privacy for guests and convenience for winter escapes, for which only the main house needs to be used. The main house consists of two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen; the guest wing has an entertainment room and garage on the first floor and two bedrooms above. This upside-down layout was embraced to allow the public spaces to capture the views.
There are mini-escapes within this Block Island escape, including the deck where the family comes together to watch the sunset, and the maze Bernard had designed to weave through the propertyÂ’s woods. Â“ItÂ’s a natural walkway weÂ’ve landscaped to create privacy. We cleared overgrowth and vines to expose some of the old trees and stone wallsÂ—all to create views as you walk,Â” he says of his little piece of paradise.