Thirteen years ago, architect Paul Weber was living in Boston with his wife Bonnie when he unexpectedly stumbled across two and a half acres in the center of Newport. A RISD graduate, Paul had lived in the City by the Sea post-graduation, and he knew he had a rare opportunity on his hands. “I’d have to convince my wife to move here,” he recalls. But when he took her for a closer look at the property, it had an unexpected familiarity to it. “She took a look and she said it looked a lot like Philly, where she’s from,” says Paul. Though exponentially larger, it’s true; Philadelphia’s Historic District, much like Newport, boasts cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings and Old World charm. The Webers bought the land and soon Paul got to work, skillfully designing a 4,600-square-foot shingle-style home called Sulthorne for his growing family.
Though a home had once stood on the land, it had been torn down in the 1960s, giving Paul carte blanche to design from scratch. “I say it’s the only house I ever designed between 9pm and 2am,” Paul jokes, as his daughters were just one and three years old at the time. There were myriad tree varieties on the property including Copper Beech, Tulip trees, Turkey Oak and English Hornbeam, so Paul designed the home to capitalize on the pastoral views in lieu of facing the street. “The house faces East, and that is thought to be good feng shui,” he adds.
With four bedrooms and three and a half baths, an open floor plan featuring a spacious kitchen and various indoor/outdoor spaces, the home has served the family well both for everyday living as well as for entertaining. Coming from a long line of architects, including his grandfather and great-grandfather, Paul integrated part of his past into the home. “They made Pewabic tiles in Detroit, Michigan. They used a lot of these tiles in commercial buildings in downtown Detroit and residential houses,” explains Paul. He remembers his mother picking him up from school one day in Ann Arbor and taking him to a house being renovated where they collected piles of the colorful tiles. “Eventually, I brought them east and I’ve used them in my fireplaces and backsplash in the kitchen.”
Paul shares some sage advice for homeowners working with an architect. “Make sure your architect is a good listener and willing to incorporate your ideas and lifestyle,” he says.