House Lust: A Little Red Schoolhouse by the Sea in Middletown

This comfortable historic home, owned by the interior decorator to Newport's grand dames, is on the market.

If there’s a real estate equivalent of having your cake and eating it too, it’s this delicious little red schoolhouse by the sea. From the outside, it maintains its legacy as Middletown’s oldest surviving one-room school with a belfry, punchy clapboard paint and separate entrances for girls and boys. But inside, it’s exceedingly airy and comfortable — words children would not have used to describe the Peabody School in the late eighteenth century. Ever sit in one of those desk/chair combos? You get the picture.

Some background: The school was built in 1794 and was converted into a single-family summer home in the 1920s. It underwent another renovation in the 1980s, stepping further from its provenance with a second-floor addition.

Then, along came John Peixinho, a former third-grade teacher and self-taught interior designer who earned his chops the hard way. At age twenty-one, Peixinho’s grandfather bought him an eighteenth-century fixer-upper that, painted in beige and yellow, made his stomach turn. The careful restoration took two years. “When you go into a house like that, you have got to take it back to a time in its history. You have to be mindful and respectful of the history of the house and the evolution that it’s had in its own right,” Peixinho told Rhode Island Monthly in 2008.

His redesign caught the eye of friend and socialite Oatsie Charles, who asked him to redecorate a study in her home. Word spread among the grande dames of Newport, and Peixinho’s client list came to include Nuala Pell, Mary Van Pelt, Topsy Taylor and other prominent lunching ladies. He helped usher their homes into the twenty-first century, albeit subtly; “It’s just appropriate, useful decorating. It’s not Versailles. Most of these houses — and most of these people — are extremely resistant to change,” he told the New York Times.

The Peabody Schoolhouse received the same careful treatment. The designer and antiques dealer purchased the home in 2012 and got to work transforming it into a comfortable space with historical integrity, choosing to work with the house instead of against it. Now, his little red schoolhouse is on the market with Lila Delman Real Estate.

If you’re all for having your cake and eating it too, here’s your House Lust:

For more information on 195 Third Beach Rd., contact Lila Delman Real Estate’s Kate Leonard at tel:401-952-3461 or visit

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