HOME TOUR: Providence

An East Side three-family gets reimagined with a reverse living space and cathedral ceilings


Providence 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 wanted 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,” says Sisson. 

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. 

The home was reimagined and the first floor was kept as an income-producing rental. The layout for the owner's suite was inverted, placing the public and domestic functions on the third floor and reserving the second floor for bedrooms. The third floor had an attic which was partially opened to create a cathedral ceiling over the living, dining, and kitchen areas, and Sisson and team also managed a small area on a "fourth" floor, which the parents use as an office, overlooking the kitchen and living rooms. Says Sisson, “this house offered some extraordinary opportunities!” 


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