New England is filled with multi-family homes, better known as “three-families.” If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve lived in one. The narrow floor plan generally includes a front entrance leading to two large main rooms segmented by a wide door frame; a kitchen with a back entrance and pantry, one bathroom, three bedrooms, and sometimes, exits to railed porches. Third floors generally have high ceilings and all levels are lined with windows. Original features like built-in cabinets and drawers, and barely any closets, are typical. What these homes lack in amenities they make up for with space, sunlight, and character.
When a family with young children living in Atlanta was planning their return to Providence, they intended to make some modifications to a three-family property they’d owned for years and kept as a rental on the East Side. “They wanted to convert it into a two-family home that would be their residence,” explains David Sisson, principal architect at David Sisson Architecture, PC in East Providence. At first, Sisson tried to convince his clients that they didn’t want to lose a unit, but they were insistent. “We began to dig deeper into their needs and wants, and I did come around to their point of view.”
What the couple wanted was the East Side experience and walkable life, but they were not finding a single-family home that met their needs. “Of course, they already owned this one,” says Sisson, who describes the home as being in rough shape, which he notes is “fairly typical of a rental.” Sizing up the property, Sisson realized that the footprint was a bit wider and taller than most three-families, boasting almost a fourth level with dimensions in both width and depth that could allow for a very luxurious layout.
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