Born and bred in the Ocean State, Steve Gibree describes the tale of his Narragansett home as a true Rhode Island story. “I had started the court- ing process with another builder. Being a true Rhode Islander though, there was a friend of friend,” he says with a laugh. In fact, it was a local lumber supplier that brought Steve and Steve Lawrence of Narragansett’s Lawrence Builders together.
Before the two had met, Steve, who lived with his family in a log home in a wooded area of Scituate, had found the perfect place for a second home that celebrated outdoor living in Point Judith’s Breakwater Village, a close-knit coastal enclave with private beaches and quaint cottages. Unfortunately, that perfect place came with an imperfect home - one that had seen better days and that ultimately, had to be torn down. The idea of managing a from-scratch building project didn’t intimidate Steve, however, as he served as general contractor for the log home project. He turned to architect Gail Hallock of North Kingstown, who was recommended by a neighbor, to design a home that would inspire him and his four children to embrace outdoor living and enjoy the spoils of living by the sea.
“It’s one of my favorite houses,” gushes Gail, who had designed some houses in Breakwater Village previously. “I call them my gumdrop houses because they’re so cute and small and you can tack a lot of living in there.” The home’s character, she says, is what sets it apart, adding a layer of charm and distinction.
Gables and dormers, including a curved dormer Steve Lawrence crafted, lends a cottage vibe to the home. With its “L” shaped footprint, the home is deceptively larger then what first meets the eye. “We tried to keep [the front] small so it didn’t overwhelm the neighborhood,” explains Gail, who is currently working with Steve Lawrence on other homes in the neighborhood while applying the same philosophy. “It’s really important they don’t ruin their village with things that are out of character... we’re trying to keep all the scale down so the houses are the right size.”
Steve, a father of four, says the “L” shape design allows him to capitalize on the priceless water views. “It’s about family,” he says. “We designed it mostly around the sunset and outdoor living.”
When Steve first approached Gail, he had some specifics in mind. “I was heavily involved,” he concedes. “I definitely wanted an open floor plan and high ceilings because it’s such a small house.”
“Steve was a real hands-on owner and really fun to work with,” says Gail. “He brought some really great ideas.” She says that it is part of her process to meet with clients and sketch out their ideas as they brainstorm together. Then they can work to iron out the details, measuring their wants, their needs and their budget. “It’s really important, the builder-owner-architect team,” Gail says.
Luckily for Steve, the property lays just outside of the major flood zone, which meant building regulations were slightly more lenient than those of other nearby low-lying areas. However, just like any new construction project, there were challenges along the way. “It took a while to go through the planning and the town, but it went through really smooth,” recalls Steve. “I wasn’t asking for a lot; I went with an appropriate-sized house, about 2,100 sq. ft.” Builder Steve Lawrence agrees, taking a zen-like approach. “It just takes time to go through all that stuff but it’s not a challenge if you play by the rules,” he explains.
“It was a great process. The biggest compliment I can give Steve [Lawrence] is we are still friends,” Steve says with a laugh.
The “L” shape divides the house physically but not aesthetically. The design, says Gail, allows for multiple windows in each room and an enclosure-like feel around the deck and expansive patio. The master bedroom and living room enjoy some of the best water views while the kitchen and dining room flow seamlessly together. “The pivot is the kitchen and the stairway, so you have fun walking in,” explains Gail. “When you come in, you have a view over the deck into the water then you go downstairs and still get the view.”
A compass rose at the stair landing adds an elegant touch while paying homage to the home’s waterfront locale. “It’s designed around the outside,” reiterates Steve. To block the wind but not the view, he had glass panels placed around a portion of the patio, while propane-powered Tiki torches direct from Hawaii offer a relaxing vacation-like vibe. “One of the great things, in my opinion, is that there’s a very open house feel. People come all the time... It’s just a great place to be. At any time there could be 20 kids or 20 adults here.”
With his boat moored directly out front, it’s easy to hop on board and fish in area coves or as far offshore as Block Island. If Steve and his children are looking to play closer to home, they go tub- ing or hop on standup paddleboards and glide over the waves. “There’s nothing better than having the kids out on the paddleboard and all I can hear laughing,” he says. For a village Steve says he never even knew existed, he’s fitting right in. “You get here and your blood pressure goes down.”