The McDonalds' Serene, Minimalist Home

House Tour

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Name: Katie, Scott, Sage, and Pause McDonald
Location: Saunderstown, Rhode Island
Size: 3,200 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years, although Katie's parents lived there for over 20 years before she and Scott purchased the property.

When the McDonalds purchased the home of Katie’s parents four years ago, they were inspired by the spectacular view. The couple traded a Frank Lloyd Wright original in Rochester, New York, for a 1950’s colonial revival house overlooking a picturesque river in a small Rhode Island town.

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Although the location was ideal, the existing gambrel-roofed home, situated on nearly two wooded acres, felt disconnected from the bucolic surroundings. Numerous additions throughout the years had left the house feeling like a complex aggregation of rooms. Katie, a holistic health counselor and raw food chef, and Scott set out to transform the structure into a modern, minimalist space that would allow them to deeply connect to the natural beauty of the serene setting.

They worked with 3six0 Architecture to execute their vision. Like the the prairie-style home they left behind, the couple’s new house would celebrate the principles of simplicity and intentional use of space. “Honoring nature remained the constant mission throughout the transformation,” Katie explains. Exterior decks and large floor-to-ceiling windows blur the line between inside and out. This harmony is particularly evident on a February afternoon, as a thick layer of snow appears to seamlessly abut an indoor rock garden made up of stones gathered from beaches the couple visited during their courtship.

In keeping with the family’s Buddhist practice, Katie says, “we were deliberate in creating an uncluttered space to unclutter the mind.” The former dining room, living room, kitchen, and family room were combined into one large multipurpose area. Custom wenge cabinetry running the length of the downstairs keeps the space tidy and acts as a unifying anchor for the open floor plan, connecting the glass doors of the living area to the Eastern-inspired meditation room on the opposite end.

Upstairs, the master suite with a private deck and adjoining bath area — complete with a Japanese soaking tub — has no furniture besides a chair and bed. Like downstairs, extensive closets and cabinetry eliminate clutter. Katie and Scott's 12-year-old son Sage, who wanted to keep his second-floor bedroom private, says, “I love my room because it represents me.” The fencing enthusiast says the thing he appreciates most about his house is the serenity. “I love how every room is the same, but different too.” His friends refer to the modern home, a rarity in New England, as the “IronMan House.”

The minimalist environment the McDonalds have created allows them to live in harmony with their surroundings and focus on their favorite sights: foxes frolicking on the ice, bald eagles pulling fish from the river, snapping turtles crossing the terrace, and owls filling the night. “Our favorite time of year is whenever the breezes flow through the house,” Scott says, “Each season brings its nuanced beauty through critters, foliage, scent, and diversity.”

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Modern, minimalist.

Inspiration: The view.

Favorite Element: The serenity of the space.

Biggest Challenge: Transforming the preexisting house into this more modern interpretation.

What Friends Say: They vow to clean off the kitchen counters when they get home.

Biggest Embarrassment: Recovering from a disastrous choice of the first contractor and the resulting cost and time overruns.

Proudest DIY: Scott created the vision for the meditation room, sourced the materials and brought it to life.

Biggest Indulgence: The custom cabinetry running the length of the downstairs.

Best Advice: Partner with architects like our beloved 3SIX0 (Chris Bardt & Jack Ryan) who invest in getting to know you intimately and commit to honoring who you are with thoughtful design.

Dream Sources: Anything from Nakashima.

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

  • Sherwin Williams’ Kilim Beige throughout downstairs

ENTRY

  • slate tiles
  • custom black walnut live edge suspended bench, James Dean, RISD professor

LIVING ROOM

  • Sofa: Room and Board
  • Noguchi coffee table: Room and Board-
  • Hand-felted seamless rock pillows: Ronel Jordaan of Snob
  • Maple floors

LIBRARY

  • Bookcases: IKEA
  • Paint: Sherwin Williams Macadamia
  • Slate table: Custom
  • Rug: FLOR tiles in Dune
  • Chairs: LC3 by Cassina
  • Butterfly stool: Yagani
  • Lanterns: Design Within Reach

KITCHEN

  • Wenge cabinets: Custom
  • Fireplace wall: Blackened steel
  • Custom table and chairs: STAACH
  • Noguchi light: Noguchi museum
  • Countertops: Poured concrete

BEDROOM

  • Organic mattress: Lifekind
  • Bedding: Restoration Hardware

BATHROOM

  • Sinks: Duravit sinks
  • 90 degree faucets: Moen
  • Soaking Tub: Ann Sacks
  • Slate countertops: Custom

MEDITATION ROOM

  • Cedar: Liberty Cedar
  • Tatami mats
  • Shoji Screens (dealer no longer in business)
  • Zafus (meditation cushions): Rochester Zen Center

OFFICE (bnourished)

  • Glass top desk: Room and Board
  • Office Chair: All Modern
  • Existing oak floors
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Thanks, Katie and Scott!

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(Image credits: Jacqueline Marque)

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