Ipe Decking Featured in Ocean House Reconstruction

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A neglected landmark hotel in Watch Hill, Rhode Island had a bleak future. Scheduled for demolition, it was saved with a massive, and successful, renovation. An important part of the reincarnation was the many levels of wood decks with water views on the back of the hotel. Learn why Ipe wood was chosen for these high traffic surfaces that had to be beautiful, luxurious, and welcoming to guests. 

Ipe Deck Ocean House


The story of the Ocean House - Watch Hill, Rhode Island’s landmark hotel - spans generations. Originally built in 1868, only three years after the Civil War, it catered to the elite and their families. It was originally designed with a magnificent yellow facade and wraparound decks overlooking pristine beaches.

But, eventually, time took its toll. By 2003, years of neglect and corrosive sea spray had deteriorated the infrastructure to a point where renovation was deemed unfeasible. The hotel was sold to a developer who planned to demolish it. As one can imagine, the Watch Hill community was strongly against these plans.

After a two year effort to save the historical property, a successful entrepreneur and longtime summer resident of Watch Hill, Charles Royce, purchased the property from the developer. By his own admission, Royce was not a real estate developer. He was quoted in Conde Nast Traveler about this project, saying, “It was an emotional decision. It certainly wasn’t with knowledge of the hotel business, I can assure you."

" Royce... promised supporters that if he could not restore the Ocean House in its current state, that he would replicate the building to the best of his ability. And the recreation far exceeded expectations.

A Remarkable Recreation

When Royce purchased the crumbling hotel he promised supporters that if he could not restore the Ocean House, then he would replicate the building to the best of his ability. He did just that, and the re-creation far exceeded expectations. 

Faced with the impossible task of renovating the hotel’s existing shell, Royce built a new edifice from the ground up. During construction, historic pieces from the original building were salvaged and reused including a grand reception desk and a beach stone fireplace. What couldn't be saved was meticulously recreated, including 247 windows! But much more expert architectural work was needed.

Architectural Marvel by Centerbrook Architects

The team that made the Ocean House rise from the proverbial ashes was the talented Centerbrook Architects in Connecticut. Working with Royce's promise to the community in mind, they succeeded in creating an uncannily similar replica of the original Ocean House front exterior from what they called on their website the "historic kernel" of the existing building. Then they designed improved, modern additions and spaces where needed. This includes an impressive number of wood decks, porches and balconies on the back of the hotel, hidden from the street and overlooking the ocean.

RELATED: Read the Centerbrook Architects project profile, and see more photos, here

Built atop a rocky slope on eleven shoreline acres, the hotel’s elevation and multi-tiered design gave it spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean from all directions. In an effort to capitalize on this, the Centerbrook design team cleverly designed wood decks off the private guest rooms, for dining, and for entertaining. They also replicated and designed new architectural details to the interior using natural wood so it would blend seamlessly. 

Looking for the best wood for your next commercial decking project?

Download The Ultimate Guide to Selecting The Right Decking for more species options and details to compare. 


Why Ipe Wood for Commercial Design?

Ipe hardwood decking is the preferred decking material among builders and architects as a result of its incredible durability and strength it lends to any exterior project. Mataverde Premium Ipe is no exception, and is the best in its class.

The most important feature Ipe lends to commercial design in particular, is the incredibly high natural fiber density and the resulting strength. That's because this strength equals:

- The ability to withstand heavy foot traffic and frequently moved patio furniture without showing wear, tear, scuffs, or scratches.

- Weathering New England storms in all seasons and flying storm debris won't gouge it or damage it.

- Incredibly high insect damage resistance, since it's way too hard for insects to bite.

This sustainable Brazilian species will remain beautiful for decades in volatile weather conditions (like only coastal New England can provide) and Mataverde decking requires minimal maintenance in the form of an annual washing. Given the ultimate deterioration of the original structure, the Ocean House architects were forced to put considerable thought into the longevity and strength of their decking material, and other building supplies. Wisely choosing Mataverde Premium Ipe Decking will repay them with many years of beauty and durability.

How Ipe Wood Adds To The Warmth of the Hotel

When Ocean House guests arrive, white Shaker rocking chairs on the warm, natural Ipe wood wraparound porch greet them.  and contrast the rich warm tones of the Ipe hardwood wraparound porch. In the building's rear, hardwood decks of various size create picturesque niches for dining, sunbathing, cocktails and hotel functions. The Brazilian wood surrounding their lap pool offers a smooth surface for bare feet thanks to the eco-friendly hardwood’s incredible durability and resistance to splintering. Travel further still and elegant staircases guide you to award-winning outdoor dining and ultimately a sustainable Ipe boardwalk that winds its way leisurely to the shore.



Despite his lack of experience in the hotel industry, Charles Royce launched himself to the top of the industry when he redesigned the Ocean House. The revitalized hotel has since been awarded a five star rating by Forbes magazine (hotel, spa & restaurant), Coastal Living’s 2015 #1 Best Hotel (in the world) and a AAA 5-Diamond ranking. The Ocean House is, of course, luxurious and elegant but more importantly remains ever charming and welcoming. If given the opportunity, everyone should stop by Watch Hill's gem if they get the chance: a weekend, for brunch, or a cocktail on one of their many beautiful decks. And see the Ipe wood decks for yourself. 


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