Katherine Frost spent the summers of her childhood in the seasidecottage colony of Quonochontaug in Charlestown, R.I. Her parents owned a cottage there, as did her two uncles and her two aunts. And every August they would all convene, creating memories that last a lifetime. So it was hardly surprising when Katherine and her husband purchased a home in the area in 2005.
Photography by: Aaron Usher
Construction: Gardner Woodwrights Custom Home Building
Appliances provided by: Gil’s Appliances
The location was perfect, but the house wasn’t
But while the location was ideal, the antiquated cottage wasn’t. “It was an older Cape that had undergone a bad renovation,” she said.
After spending two summers in the home, they decided to tear it down and build from scratch. But they wanted to retain the historical look, right down to salvaging the knotty pine. “I wanted (the new home) to look like it had always been there, kind of like a throwback in time,” Katherine said. “I grew up coming to this neighborhood and the beach cottages were all knotty pine. You could smell it as you walked in the door. I definitely wanted that. And I really wanted a screened porch.”
Gardner Woodwrights Custom Home Building tackled the project of creating a woodsy beach cottage that appears to be transported from another era. Along with Arnold Design Group of Westerly, R.I. and interior designer Wendy Valliere of Seldom Scene Interiors, this 4,100-square foot New England-style shingled home looks as though it could be on the island of Nantucket. With a fieldstone foundation, porches, balconies, a wood roof, custom-made shutters and window boxes, the farm-style exterior blends in flawlessly with the laid-back neighborhood.
Exceptional custom details, both inside and out
“The homeowners didn’t want anything over the top,” said Randy Gardner of Gardner Woodwrights. “The inside of the home is really where the elegance takes place.”
Wood dominates the house. Hickory floors run throughout the four bedrooms, the family room, the dining room, the kitchen and the living room. White-stained Nantucket bead board adorns the walls, while the ceilings are a combination of solid poplar and fir. Doors are mahogany. And the knotty pine so desired by the homeowners is evident in the family room, where built-in bookcases flank each side of a television that is encased in wood paneling when not in use. “They wanted to match the color of the knotty pine in the old house,” Gardner said. “We spent three hours mixing and matching one day and finally were able to come up with the right stain.”
The master bedroom is distinguished by a peaked ceiling with trusses that actually hide cables needed to stabilize the rafters. A faux finish gives the trusses the appearance of distressed wood. Flanking the stone fireplace are French doors leading to separate balconies. White bead board walls matched with an ocean blue-striped area rug are a soothing complement to a room that feels partly like a ski chalet.
Befitting its proximity to the ocean, the house has a seaside theme, with clever touches like a nautical rope serving as a decorative handrail, and an arched doorway and ceiling that evoke the sensation of being on a ship. “They wanted the home to feel summery and nautical. A lot of the fixtures came from Nantucket,” Gardner said.
Three fireplaces…and a sense of history
The house flows seamlessly from the kitchen, dining room and family room, all with extraordinary water views. Three fireplaces made of Pocono stone warm the master bedroom, the living room and the screened porch. “Pocono stone is more rounded, less jagged than the fieldstone that’s on the outside,” Gardner said. Bathrooms feature farm-style sinks, a claw tub, marble flooring and nautical-themed wallpaper. Even the mudroom is stylish, with transom windows above a mahogany door, set aside matching mahogany window frames that were custom built at the Gardner Woodwrights shop.
A magnificent stone fireplace centers the 22×16 living room. A series of striking Marvin doors with transom windows provide entry to the outdoors, while a cozy bay window seat offers the opportunity to enjoy the scenery with a cool beverage or a good book in hand. A second window bench in the family room provides a view of Block Island, while a banquette in the kitchen fits neatly into a breakfast nook where the family gathers for casual meals or to play board games.
A dramatic columned entry, with transom windows, leads from the living room into a spacious 20×14 kitchen. The nine-foot island features an English chestnut counter, with a wine and beverage cooler at each end. Light marble counters and white-stained birch cabinets continue the seaside theme. The stainless steel double-stove has six cook tops. A wet bar provides another spot for mixing summer cocktails and making memories for a new generation.
“All my family still have homes here,” Katherine said, “so this is definitely like coming home for me.”