Land Of Enchantment

Lovely grounds and a house that’s a contemporary riff on classic style make this getaway home on the shores of Narragansett Bay a private little Eden.

Text by Paula M. Bodah Photography by Nat Rea Produced by Stacy Kunstel

The magic begins at the top of the curvaceous driveway. A shady, tree-lined drive follows the property’s downward angle, winding past a lawn terraced gently to accommodate the slope and accented by gardens of lush ferns, colorful perennials, low-growing groundcovers, and flowering shrubs, all tucked in among arrangements of rugged rocks. The landscape strikes a pleasing balance of elegance and informality and sets the tone for the Shingle-style house that awaits at the end of the drive.

The owners of this Jamestown, Rhode Island, home on five shoreline acres on Narragansett Bay were drawn to the property by its water views, its private dock, its spacious grounds—perfect for frequent gatherings of a large, loving extended family—and its handsome house. The dwelling, a classic New England beauty with a stone-clad lower facade and a sweeping shingled roof, was designed by architect Gale Goff when she was working with Newport-based ­Estes/Twombly Architects and was built by Highland Builders, of Tiverton, Rhode Island. “We fell in love with the house because of the way it was sited and the views,” the wife says. “There were views from just about every space.”

The couple knew they would want to modify the house and yard to suit their own style both aesthetically and for the way they live. For starters, the wife suspected she’d want a bigger kitchen. And the landscaping, while attractive, was more formal than she and her husband liked. Wisely, however, they didn’t rush a renovation plan. “We used the house for a year or so, so we could understand what we needed to do to make it meet the way we live,” the wife says.

In the process, they confirmed her initial feeling that the kitchen needed expanding. “We host lots of big family gatherings. We’ll have fifteen to thirty people, ranging in age from six months to eighty-four years. And everyone likes to be in the kitchen.” A larger kitchen opening to a new family room would mean everyone could be together during meal prep.

They also wanted the house to feel lighter and airier. The natural fir ceilings and oak floors were good looking, but a bit too dark for the couple’s taste. “We use it year round, but we wanted to make it feel more like a summer house,” the wife explains.

If they were smart about taking their time, they were wiser still in their choice of an architect to help with the changes. “We loved the design of the house, and we wanted to make sure whatever we did complemented what existed,” the homeowner says. It made perfect sense, she and her husband decided, to call on the original architect.

Goff, who by now had moved on to form her own architectural firm, welcomed the chance to take her earlier work a step further, designing an addition that would expand the kitchen and turn a smallish screened porch into a large family room. “An addition was a challenge because the house had a very complex and distinct roofline,” she says. “It was a tricky roofline to figure out.”

That the house shows no evidence of having been expanded is a tribute to Goff’s thoughtful reworking of the south end of the structure and the talents of the crew at Newport Housewrights, a building firm based in Middletown, Rhode Island. The larger kitchen opens to a spacious, glass-walled family room created by pushing the back of the house out and adding a dormered balcony above it. A new, long, covered porch with a dining area and a fire pit runs the length of the kitchen and family room, adding yet more space for gathering and forming a smooth segue to the pool area.

The new kitchen is a cook’s dream. Double islands topped with glossy Caeserstone offer plenty of surface space for helpers, and those who just want to keep the cook company can pull up a stool and sit. The handsome cabinetry of quarter-sawn and rift-sawn white oak, designed by Goff and crafted by Joseph Yoffa Custom Woodworking of Newport, is a modern riff on the Shaker style.

The window-lined family room, with its bay views, inspired the work of Boston-based interior designer Andrew J. Paraskos. “Basically, the whole idea was to focus on the incredible view,” he says. The sofa, situated to face that lovely vista, sits on a textured Steven King carpet. The stripes in the carpet echo the horizontality of the windows, Paraskos says, while their colors—a mix of blues and sand-hued neutrals, speak to the waters of the bay. Porcelain tiles set in a running-bond pattern give the fireplace a streamlined, modern look. The art on the fireplace, by Massachusetts photographer Alex MacLean, hangs on a pulley, allowing it to be raised to reveal the TV.

Throughout the rest of the downstairs, the renovation was mostly cosmetic: cherry floors were replaced with white oak, fir ceilings were painted white, stained-glass transoms were swapped out for clear glass, and the stairway’s handrails and newel posts were given a new, darker finish.

Meanwhile, Jamestown landscape architect Hali Beckman was transforming the yard into the enchanting setting it is today. The couple’s first spring in the house had been a particularly rainy one, revealing considerable drainage issues. By removing several ponds from the sloping front yard and adding gentle terracing and strategically placed gardens, Beckman gave rainwater an escape route that prevents it from reaching the foundation of the house. In the pool area, perennials and shrubs create a sense of privacy, while the backyard holds a series of beds that become looser and more natural as the grass meets a pathway that leads down to the dock at the water’s edge.

The wife praises her design team for putting their hearts and souls into bringing her home to its current state of perfection. “Everybody delivered, and then some,” she says. “I just felt this entire team was magical.”

For the homeowners and their friends and family, the whole place—from the top of the driveway to the edge of the dock— is a little piece of paradise. •
Architecture: Gale Goff
Interior design: Andrew J. Paraskos
Landscape design: Hali Beckman
Builders: Highland Builders and Newport Housewrights

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