Character and Craftsmanship

Thoughtful Architecture Meets Quality Craftsmanship at The Savoie Family Home in Ipswich.

The Savoie home was one of 10 that were featured on the 2015 Open Doors of Ipswich House Tour. Proceeds from the event benefit the Ipswich Visitor Center at the Hall-Haskell House. The next tour will be held in 2017. For updates and more information, visit

When Cathy and Ken Savoie made their home available for the 2015 Open Doors of Ipswich House Tour, they knew what to expect. Their blended Arts and Crafts/New England Shingle-style home had been on tour before. Additionally, Ken Savoie, the founder of Savoie Nolan Architects, often welcomes prospective clients into the house for a firsthand look at his style and thoughtful planning.

Built in 1999, the Savoie home combines Arts and Crafts details with the traditional exterior shingle style that’s popular in the Ipswich coastal area. “The shingles wrap the home like a blanket, and that’s a look that I’ve always liked,” Savoie says in his kitchen as he shares his passion and vision with Merrimack Valley Magazine.

The Savoies’ home was built on an empty lot that was originally part of a 10-acre parcel. The property was subdivided from an estate known as “Rocky Hill,” where the main house remains and can be seen on a nearby hill. The estate’s carriage house and caretaker’s cottage still stand as private residences.

Opposite page: The Savoies’ kitchen, with its standout center island, is the hub of the house, where Cathy, Ken and their two children, Lily, 22, and Michael, 19, gather. It acts as a dining area, workspace and conversation spot. The arched, overhead beam unifies the tapered columns at each end of the island and creates a powerful design element. Photos by Emily O’Brien.

At the Savoie family home, the semicircular pebble driveway provides arriving guests with their first taste of the property’s grandeur. The home’s stone foundation and bold portico columns add to the impressive exterior. Charming rain chains hang from the portico roof, and a custom-made wood front door extends an air of warmth and welcoming as you approach. Upon entering, you are instantly drawn to the kitchen, where Savoie’s attention to architectural detail and his love of wood stand out. The dramatic center island catches your eye first, then the Arts and Crafts-inspired two-toned cabinetry.

“I’ve always been a big fan of wood,” Savoie says. “I love working with wood and I love designing with wood. Throughout the house there are a variety of woods.”

The cabinets are a combination of cherry and maple, the floors are beech, and all the doors are constructed of maple and basswood.

While the kitchen island is attractive, it was designed to be functional. Hidden within one decorative column is a structural post, the second column was added for visual balance.

“We wanted a central focal point within the kitchen, and the island really is the place where everything happens,” Savoie says.

The depth of the island is also purposeful. It provides abundant storage in the drawers below, while the butcher-block maple top is wide enough for prep on one side and eating on the other. Counter height was increased 2 inches above standard to make cooking more comfortable for Cathy and Ken, both of whom are taller than average.

The musical instruments in the living room are most often played by Michael Savoie. The violin to the far left is not a working violin but a piece of art created by award-winning American sculptor, George Sherwood. The piece, called, “3-Legged, Bow Billed Stringer,” resembles an egret in profile.

Just off the kitchen, a piano and other musical instruments draw attention to a sunken living space, Ken’s favorite room. This space, often used for entertaining and quiet relaxation, is television-free.

“We wanted a place that was dedicated to conversation and enjoyment and wasn’t dominated by television,” Savoie says. “It worked with the topography of the site and it makes for a more comforting type of room because it’s sunken.”

Opposite the piano is a fireplace with a brick and stone surround. A keystone etched with the year the home was built adds a personalized touch. The warmth of the room is further enhanced by the unusual choice of flooring, which consists of 2-inch x 4-inch end-grain fir blocks laid out in a parquet style. It is extremely durable, and Savoie loves it for its texture and distinctive appearance.

Other interesting details can be found throughout the house. In both the dining room and small TV room, you’ll find the geometric shape of each ceiling mimicked on the floor below it. The dining room boasts a round tray ceiling with a circular floor inlay, and the TV room features an octagonal inlay with custom cut carpet that lies below the same shape in the ceiling. You might also notice a repeated tapered pattern in the columns as you enter the house. The tapered lines are replicated in the panels of every custom-made door, all of which were created by Peter Buchanan of PrB Woodworking in Ipswich.

This is the small TV room where a portion of the octagonal inlay floor and tray ceiling can be seen. Carpet was cut to the exact shape of the inlay and permanently installed. The coffee table was designed by Ken Savoie so that it would not be an obstacle in the room. The table was built by Robert Hanlon of Walker Creek Furniture in Essex.

The coffee table in the TV room is another specialty item. Savoie designed it himself in the shape of an elongated triangle, which allows for easy navigation though the room. Robert Hanlon, who specializes in the use of reclaimed wood, built the table at Walker Creek Furniture in Essex. The curved legs of this table were reclaimed.

The Savoies’ house is truly a conversation piece from floor to ceiling. Much of the home’s charisma comes from Ken’s desire to work with many local craftsmen and suppliers. He has even installed a working, built-in phone booth purchased through Ipswich antiques dealer Harry Zeltzer.

While the Savoies are closely connected to every inch of this home, Ken envisions building a zero energy house suitably sized for the couple’s retirement years. But for now, this home, with its many personal touches, is the perfect place for the Savoies to live.

“I don’t want to leave this house any sooner than I need to,” he says. “I’m grateful that we can stay here and have a place
that our kids and friends and family can come to.”

Savoie Nolan Architects LLC
Ipswich, Mass.

(978) 356-7786


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