The stone walls of medieval hill towns were built to protect residents from intruders and the wilds of nature, but on this home site they metaphorically serve the opposite purpose: to defend the natural landscape against the intrusion of buildings. Surrounded by seven acres of protected wetlands, the house and it's accompanying buildings sit on the site's highest point, the only sliver that was buildable. Architect Peter Twombly conceived it as a miniature “town,” separating the building for living and sleeping from the garage and barn.

A literal line in the landscape, the Connecticut fieldstone wall links all of the structures. It begins on the north as the base of the barn, breaks to form an auto court gateway, then swoops southward against the garage and house. Along the way, two stone chimneys rise out of the wall and it ends on the opposite side of the house, holding up a corner of the terrace where the grade is steepest.

Like the old European towns whose clustered buildings helped to shape public spaces, these companionable structures allow the landscape to slip in among the buildings, creating intimate outdoor areas for entry, entertaining, and working. Walls of glass enhance those indoor/outdoor relationships. They enclose the entry hall and wrap corners, capturing sunlight and framing cove and wetland views. The owners, avid sailors who are at home in the elements, gave Twombly exact coordinates for the living room's orientation. So it's fitting that the house's materials and detailing are as crisp and straightforward as a marine vessel. Metal roofs, cedar shingle siding, deep overhangs, and exposed framing invite the bucolic backdrop to take center stage.

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Category: Custom one-of-a-kind, less than 3,500 square feet;

Entrant/Architect: Estes/Twombly Architects, Newport, R.I.;

Builder: Bob Wood, Stonington, Conn.;

Interior designer: Design Site, New York

STONE SHELF Not only does a stone wall touch the structures as it marks the edges of the built environment, but also a reveal of stone runs along the base of the buildings. “We did a stone shelf on the foundation so it looks like complete stone foundation all the way down,” Twombly explains. “In reality, the foundation is concrete with a recess that accepts the stone veneer work.”

But it wasn't quite that simple. Ordinarily, a box-frame floor deck hangs over the shelf, and masons can do the non-structural stone infill anytime. In this case, to keep the building profiles low, the floor decks are flush with the top of the foundation wall. Because the buildings' walls sit on top of the stone, it had to be load-bearing and finished before the framing could begin. The builder inserted pressure-treated plywood sills, laminated to control shrinkage, and installed anchor bolts for the walls, floors, and shear panels through the stonework. “The end result was worth the wait,” Twombly says.