Block Island Small Homes

My name is John Warren. I met Andrea Tremols and Cedric Baele at an oyster roast last night in Charleston. They told me about their project and I told them about a series of photos I took of small dwellings out on Block Island, Rhode Island. They are mostly highly efficient summer homes that are are all uniquely designed to withstand sustained winds of over 100 miles per hour.

I photographed about 20 of them, but there are many more. I became interested in small dwellings when I went to Whidbey Island, Washington.

I didn’t take photos of them, but there are also numerous bungalow style houses in New York City down in Far Rockaway, Queens. These are interesting because they are basically very old low income housing and you get to see the stark contrast between the nearby project buildings and these small free standing structures with compact yards. I wish I’d gotten some some photos of these because many are in bad shape and I could imagine them getting demolished at any time.

Block Island is a fascinating place, think Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket 50 years ago. There are large houses on the island, but the modest scale of much of the architecture stems from a number of factors beginning with its remote location, a 12 mile ferry ride from the mainland. The wind is extreme and larger structures would be less wind resistant.

Everything tends to decay faster on the island, as a result of the salt spray and harsh winters, so renovation and upkeep are a constant battle as well.

Electricity costs on the island produced through burning coal are the highest in the nation, having a smaller structure with a wood stove is a no brainer.

One other interesting thing. The South Lighthouse also is rather small and stout for a lighthouse. This is because it is high up on a 200 ft bluff and doesn’t need to be especially tall. They actually moved the whole structure in a famous engineering/construction project away from the eroding bluff it was dangerously close to. The whole coastline is eroding quickly just like everything else on the island. Here is a link about that.

Thank you John for taking all of these great photos and sharing them with us -Kent

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tinycottage - January 20, 2012 Reply

talk about character! i adore these little houses. the weathered siding, the simple shapes…perfect!

the_medic - January 20, 2012 Reply
Are these the Queens houses that you spoke of? I love these Block Island houses! So many stories and history in such a small place.

robin yates - January 20, 2012 Reply

the author says these houses are built to withstand sustained high winds of over 100mph. Strange, they look just like ordinary houses built anywhere.If anything they seem taller than a standard house.Usually habitation anywhere with extremely high winds are ground hugging single storey.Nice houses though, thanks for posting

    Adela - January 20, 2012 Reply

    There are a lot of variables to wind resistance. The internal framing might be different. Pitch of the roof changes how susceptible it is to lift from wind. Shorter cross spans have less torque. Direction the building is facing, surface area, profile, turbulence all matter against wind.

mary - January 20, 2012 Reply

Thanks, medic, for the posting for The Rockaways. I had not seen or known about that area. It was very interesting. Too bad they are almost gone. Glad they are working to preserve the ones left. Love those little houses.

Alex - January 20, 2012 Reply

Great collection of photos. I love how the last one has a private entrance to the loft/upstairs, hehe.

Gary Eddey - January 20, 2012 Reply

Readers of this blog may be interested in another house on Block Island, RI. It is called the Weather House and it is the setting of my novel, also called The Weather House. My debut novel is available as an ebook only on

BigGoofyGuy - January 20, 2012 Reply

Those are neat little houses.

Deek - January 20, 2012 Reply

Dwell magazine just had a one-page on a famous smallish Block Island home. I’ll take Block Island over Nantucket, or the Vineyard anyday (although they’re great too). I recognize a couple of these- great shots! Seriously, if you ever have the chance, Block Island is such a cool place to visit!

Deek - January 20, 2012 Reply

PS- The first two sentences of this post….I don’t understand- what project? Who are the people he mentions, Etc….just curious- unless I’m missing something…

Ryan Surface - January 20, 2012 Reply

I visited block Island 20 years ago in the late spring and rode a bike around the island your shots bring back memories – great houses.

molly - January 21, 2012 Reply

How many square feet are these Block Island houses?

Lizaloo - January 21, 2012 Reply

Truly delightful! These houses are just what I’ve been looking for as inspiration. I’m interested in small rather than tiny. I love the charm and integrity of these houses and the way they are sited. Only wish I could see some interiors. Thank you!

Larry - January 21, 2012 Reply

Cool look
I like that look. I may need to incorporate some
of those features on some of my designs.


LMackey - January 21, 2012 Reply

Whidbey Island got you interested in small dwellings? That’s where I live!! Best place to live, in my opinion.

JT - January 21, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing the pictures John,
It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been to Block Island , it was nice to see pictures from there again. I was born and raised in RI but have been living in Wyoming now for over 12 years. It was nice to see a post from a fellow Rhode Islander.

brooklyngreene - January 21, 2012 Reply

Thanks Kent! I told the husband unit that we’re going to Block Island this coming summer (we’re in Rhode Island…on the mainland…most of the time).

Abel Zimmerman Zyl - January 22, 2012 Reply

Boy, do I adore the silvered cedar, with the streaks under hinges, etc. It doesnt turn that color where i live in western WA, though… You have to oil it or it gets mildewy.

Thanks for the pics!

Nancy - January 22, 2012 Reply

I am LOVING your blog. I love all of these tiny houses that you write about. I’m only on page 9 but am catching up.

My family and I are about to embark on our own “tiny house” adventure. We’ve made the decision to relocate to our cabin as our “home” because it’s more the lifestyle and upbringing that we want our 3 children to have. A family of 5 (plus 2 dogs) in about 800 square feet (downsizing from over 4000 square feet) is going to be interesting!

sesameB - January 23, 2012 Reply

Wonderful, just wonderful! As you can see, I never miss reading your blog!!
Barefootin’ in rural south central sunny Arkansas

Cedric - January 29, 2012 Reply

Thanks so much John for these amazing photos! So glad you could get them posted for everyone to see. I love to see such stylistic adaptations to local weather. Next, we should build a Charleston-style single tiny house, with side porch and side entry. If we use local materials, why not emulate some local architecture as well?

John D. Haynes - March 21, 2012 Reply

Frank Lloyd Wright was the master of small compact houses. Take a look at !,340 sft, 2BR. Enjoy!

Carla - November 5, 2012 Reply

You’ll find the same thing on Monhegan Island Maine.

jane - October 29, 2014 Reply

I, too, am interested in a small house, not tiny. Also in houses that are built to the climate they are in. built more sustainably so that a storm, hurricane or tornado does not destroy one of the most important things in our lives.

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