They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. When Mark and Kris Wilcox walked into the grand foyer of a majestic waterfront house in Bristol, they knew no other home could compare. As Kris puts it, “When we walked into the entryway, we thought, ‘Wow! This is home.’”
The couple had been living in Prague when both of their daughters chose to attend colleges in the US. The family had vacationed in Rhode Island through the years, spending considerable time in Jamestown and Narragansett, but Bristol had never been on their radar. When Kris and Mark started to plan how to be close to their children, the house hunt was on.
Having lived for nearly 15 years in Bermuda, Kris and Mark were accustomed to coastal living. As they drove out to Poppasquash Point one day during their search, they knew they were onto something special. A bucolic, palpably private peninsula that makes up the westernmost promontory of Bristol, Poppasquash Point was once exclusively farmland. Today, most homes there offer ample acreage and panoramic views of Bristol Harbor. For the Wilcox family, Poppasquash made a mark, and the grand 8,000 square foot Robert A.M. Stern-style home even more so. Stern, a well-recognized, influential architect (sometimes called a “starchitect”), is known for a diverse portfolio ranging from Manhattan monstrosities to Hamptons hamlets. But there are distinguishable hallmarks of Stern’s work, including local context and attention to proportions. For the Wilcox family, the custom-built home felt warm and welcoming fromthe moment they walked in the door. “It’s such an impressive entryway with a lovely staircase,” says Kris. “I wanted something that was open and light. It’s all situated in such a lovely way.”
Built just ten years ago, the home features an open floor plan, state-of-the-art kitchen, five bedrooms, five full baths and two half baths, all on three rolling green acres. Though ample space abounds, carefully considered design and the seemingly countless windows offering boundless natural light lend an undeniable coastal charm. “My husband, he must be a water sign,” Kris speculates. “He basically needs to see the water.”
Kris says she feels spoiled that they didn’t need to make a single change to the home, though they did decide to enhance the master suite by adding a cozy fireplace. “The previous owners basically finished the house and spent a lot of time thinking about the details,” explains Kris. These details include crown molding, beautifully shaped windows framing jaw-dropping views, “and the kitchen has two islands – not many have two islands,” Kris adds.
The couple’s existing furniture fit seamlessly into the house, but there were rooms that still needed top to bottom attention. The Wilcoxes tasked Robert Amendolara Associates of nearby Riverside with furnishing and accessorizing the home – with a strict deadline. “We decided to have a fourth of July/25th wedding anniversary party. It was a pretty hefty task to have it furnished and done by the party,” concedes Kris.
Though she would describe her preferred aesthetic as modern and contemporary, Kris learned during appointments with Robert that when it comes to interior design, it’s hard to gravitate to just one style. “I thought I wanted ‘big overstuffed everything,’ and cozy, but as I was walking around the showrooms, I would say, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful!’ and Robert would say, ‘That’s not what you described to me,’” she says, adding that Robert kindly learned how to “go with the flow.”
“I also learned that I change my mind a lot,” she says, laughing. “The way I described my aesthetic and the way it turned out are two different things.” Robert successfully had everything in its place by the July celebration – from wall color and décor accents to furniture and accessories. “I don’t know how to describe it. There’s a lot of blue in the house… very soothing.” Having spent so many years abroad, the open floor plan has proven great for entertaining and the bedrooms are often occupied with visiting guests. The dual-themed party was a smashing success and the Wilcoxes got to experience their first Bristol Fourth of July celebration in a fashion they’ll never forget.
Today, having just completed their first year in the home, the Wilcox family continues to enjoy each and every space while discovering new moments to treasure. “We spend the majority of our time in the sitting room off the eat-in kitchen… it’s the heart of our house,” says Kris. But her favorite space is the screened-in sunroom. “It’s a truly cozy room with amazing views and a great place to gather and talk and sip cocktails in the summer evenings.” A perfect Bristol sunset always delights, and the sailboat races are one of their most enjoyed views. This summer, the couple hopes the little apple orchard on the property yields some delicious fruit.
For Mark, being so close to the water has allowed him to indulge in some of his favorite activities: kite boarding and windsurfing. Kris says he can launch right off their neighbor’s dock and, within minutes, enjoy the spoils of Bristol Harbor and Mount Hope Bay’s favorable winds.
It seems the move was a great one for this well-traveled family. “The girls love it here too,” Kris adds. It’s no wonder. Kris credits Bristol’s charm and openhearted community with making the family feel so welcome. “The people are so nice and genuine.”