Inside an Academic’s Lovely Jamestown Retreat
Art, color, comfort: This place has it all.
“Summer Ladies,” a thirty-six-by-sixty oil painting by Boston-based artist Beth Dacey, greets visitors in the entry of this well-appointed Jamestown cottage. The painting features a scene familiar to just about anyone who grew up in the ’60s or ’70s: Women donning white loafers and smiles congregate on a patio in aluminum webbed lawn chairs. “Summer Ladies,” along with several other paintings that hang in this home, was procured from the Candita Clayton Gallery in Pawtucket, but this particular piece is especially significant to the homeowner.
“That’s the first piece I fell in love with and that motivated us all,” she says. “Because the faces aren’t there, it’s easier for more people to identify. It’s kind of magical in that way.” That image of togetherness — of comfortable, congenial gatherings — is what prompted the owner to purchase this property. The inherent possibilities it offered — a house with a fully legal apartment, a 1,300-square-foot detached boat barn and a downtown location — sang to her.
“Just” a Renovation
After rearing three children and establishing a successful academic career in the Midwest, this self-described “East Coaster” was ready to plant roots in more native soil. “Jamestown’s got a special vibe to it,” she says. “If you want action, you can go to Providence or Newport. If you want inaction and a community and a place to be and to enjoy being, Jamestown is pretty special.” A desire to nurture that community spirit led her to enlist local island talent, designer Patti Watson of Taste and builder Danny Vieira, whom the homeowner designates a “real craftsman.”
So, this was “just a renovation,” right? The homeowner laughs heartily — good naturedly — at the question.
“I thought I was just dormering the second floor and decorating the inside,” she says. “It turned out the roof wasn’t strong enough, so we took the roof off. When we did that, we found that the original walls needed shoring up so we kind of rebuilt the thing.”
The resulting structure is an art-filled showpiece that is both livable and spectacular. Existing steel beams that were required for structural support became a touchpoint; additional beams were added to enhance the overall modern aesthetic.
“I didn’t want it to look like new construction or like a suburban house,” the homeowner says. “I knew that I wanted this place to be authentic to that older community and that authentic community feel that Jamestown is.”
Having worked as a business manager for a design and architecture firm in her twenties, and having had the opportunity to oversee both professional and private renovation projects since, her aesthetic preferences were well established. “I’ve been around the mid-century and modern for a long time,” she says. And, because this home would be her “forever” home, it was important to incorporate family pieces. “My parents, in the 1960s, went to Denmark and brought over some original Danish modern furniture before Danish modern was popular,” she says. Watson procured additional furniture, accents and art to complete the look.
Because the house itself is modestly sized, the owner put value in each design element. “If you’re not going to do as much scale, it’s almost like an art piece.” Some of her favorite smaller details: the light fixtures.
“I’ve really gotten to appreciate the economy of beautiful, smaller spaces,” she says.
Presently, the home is primarily used as a summer residence, which means there is almost always a visitor or two. “I have three children who live in different parts of the globe, but in the summer, they’re all here,” she notes.
Upstairs, three bedrooms provide ample accommodations. When the homeowner is able to make use of the home off-season, one of those upstairs bedrooms doubles as an office. Downstairs, one-third of the home is a separate apartment. When the house is full, or if guests require additional privacy, the apartment becomes especially useful.
The upstairs bedroom and bathroom furnishings mimic the vernacular downstairs: The tone is modern, bright and driven by original art.
In addition to the home itself, the owner has grand plans for the boat barn, which already hosted a wedding last summer. “I call that phase two,” she says. She imagines that the barn could be used for even larger gatherings of various kinds. (Who wouldn’t enjoy an evening with friends and a little acoustic guitar in a restored Jamestown barn?)
Asked about her timeline for the boat barn, the homeowner says, “This is going to be a process of love for a decade. It’s an attractor for our family. It’s a very special place for all of us.”