A Rhode Island Cottage is Reimagined by John Dransfield Interior Design

June 20, 2022

A Rhode Island haven displays the colors and sensibilities of an English farmhouse.

Text by Jill Connors    Photography by Michael J. Lee

It all started years ago with a friendship between noted interior designers John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross and their New Jersey neighbors, a British couple whom the designers loved for their style, irreverence, and sense of humor. Fast forward to today, and the couple lives year-round in a Rhode Island house that evokes the English countryside.

The two-bedroom house itself dates from the 1930s and carries the legacy of Albert Harkness, a prominent architect admired for his Rhode Island residences; Harkness designed the house originally as an artist’s studio on a rambling farm.

Not only did the current homeowners modernize the interiors of the original house, but they also reimagined the front entry and added a guesthouse, pool, and cabana to the three-and-a-half-acre property. Impressive artwork, a mix of old and new furniture, an ironstone pottery collection, and block-printed cotton textiles purchased on trips to India by one of the homeowners are among the many elements that enliven the spaces.

“We knew they had wonderful taste,” says Dransfield, “but we loved that they wanted us to challenge them in terms of color choices and things that would ensure the house looks great twenty years from now. It’s a great perspective to have, to know that you don’t want to just slip back into your comfort zone, but you want something lasting.”

Dransfield, Ross, and the homeowners gave careful thought to every hue throughout the house—flattering pale pink in the living room, very British gray-brown in the kitchen, celadon-gray in the primary bedroom—and chose to be daring in the entry and main stairway with Farrow & Ball India Yellow, a color that speaks to the homeowner’s annual pilgrimages east. “Your entry sets the tone for the rest of the house, so we did something dramatic to carry through the interior,” says Ross.

They also went dramatic in the dining room, where black on the walls and cabinetry illustrates another Geoffrey Ross interior design maxim: “Every room needs a slap in the face.” The resulting magical atmosphere, especially at night, is a treasured aspect of the house…now. “I needed some convincing on that one,” says one of the homeowners, who adds that she is extremely happy with the outcome.

The end result couldn’t be more pleasing to everyone involved. “I like to think of it as fortuitous consequences, where we do things in stages, but it all comes together,” says the homeowner.

Project Team
Interior design: John Dransfield, Geoffrey Ross, John Dransfield Interior Design
Builder: Brad Hierholzer, Aquidneck Management