When John Damon and John Harrington of The Damon Company were hired for the renovation of a 4,200-square foot home in Newport, R.I., they never expected to wind up doing a complete rebuild on that same house after it ended burning to the ground in December, 2005. Damon and Harrington immediately set about creating new plans – this time focusing on entirely new construction.
While it might have been somewhat disheartening to start fresh, The Damon Company focused on an unseen benefit. “Certain pre-existing constraints from the original renovation could be circumvented in the rebuild,” said Damon, company president. “The overall design had more flexibility with the new construction.”
Photography by Chris Vaccaro
Construction: The Damon Company
Interiors: Walker Interiors
A challenging yet totally satisfying design and build process
Nevertheless, every project poses challenges. One particular challenge came when it was time to install the bathtub in the guest bathroom. Imported from India, the tub weighed 3,400 pounds and was carved from solid stone. During the initial transport, the tub was broken in transit, requiring reorder and a delay in installation. “Usually you would install it before any wall or roofing goes on, but we received it almost four months late,” Harrington said. Due to the sheer size and weight of the tub, they had to reinforce the flooring and incorporate radiant heat into the tub to “almost preheat the stone,” according to Damon.
Another challenging, yet unique, aspect to the rebuild surrounded the “grotto” area – an unusual, basement-level space created in part by the 16-foot waterfront retaining wall. In what could have easily been ignored space, The Damon Company installed a sleekly designed outdoor shower. The floor of the grotto is exposed aggregate concrete flanked by three solid granite steps leading to a small, harbor side lawn.
On the opposite side of the grotto, 10 steps lead up to the street. “The house cantilevers here to create a kind of ceiling so you end up being surrounded by the stone of the house,” Damon says. “You can look out and see the Newport Bridge, but in a semi-private, somewhat secluded environment.”
The detail throughout the house is exceptional, much of it attributed to the owner’s involvement in the project. He sought feedback from the tradesmen – an atypical occurrence in the industry. “The owner did a great deal of homework and was very involved with the design,” said Harrington. “This created a level of personal interest from workers and tradesmen because of the ability they were given to provide input.”
From a kitchen-recycling center that slides to the front hall to a recessed marble toilet paper storage area in the master bath, everything about the interior is custom. High quality artisanship can be seen throughout the house, starting on the first floor with the intricately designed cherry-wood-paneled library/media room, with custom pocket doors.
Also on the first floor is the quarter sawn oak “Sunset Lounge” featuring panoramic views of Newport Harbor. Nine 3’6’’ x 5’ mahogany, double-hung windows wrap around three walls that are approximately 10-to-12 feet from the seawall, providing breathtaking views of a nearby bridge at sunset. “If you happen to be in this lounge at sunset, you will truly appreciate why it is named the ‘Sunset Lounge,’” Damon says.
Now, the interiors come into play
A home with this much detail and custom woodwork is beautiful on its own. However, the owner replica watches had no desire to live in a work of art; he wanted a true home. So he consulted with Bess Walker of Walker Interiors based in Middletown, R.I. Walker joined the project one year into construction and immediately saw the design potential. “Everything was focused on the wood details and overall layout – which was beautiful – but there was no softness or color,” she said. “Everything was neutral and bare bones, but beautiful bare bones.”
Gaining inspiration from one of the owner’s carpets, Walker says the general theme was to make the house interesting, yet inviting and welcoming. “It is a new house but it feels like it has been there for a while. Each area has its own quirkiness,” she said.
Walker added a sense of life and softness by bringing in lush fabrics for the upholstered pieces, bed linens and custom cushions atop the numerous built-in window seats. Additionally, custom window treatments were added, creating yet another layer of softness.
Rich, masculine hues dress the soft seating pieces in the waterfront living room. A window seat in an upstairs hallway is topped with luxurious cushions and pillows and dressed with a vibrant window treatment. In the master bedroom there is a quiet, restful feeling created with warm bed linens and a blue velveteen window seat cushion, all contrasting beautifully with the miles of cream-colored woodwork.
With so many built-in bookcases and window seats, many would have opted to install area rugs in each room. However, Walker was able to take the whole custom concept a step further. She brought in a variety of carpet options, many with intricate tone-on-tone border patterns that were measured and hand-sewn to precisely hug the walls of several rooms. The overall effect is the plush appearance of wall-to-wall carpeting, but with the level of visual interest generally found only with area rugs.
Incorporating some of the swiss replica watches owner’s furniture also added another layer of personality to the house. “Overall, our intent was to change the feeling and transform the house from a beautiful building into a really comfortable home,” Walker said.