When Betsy Grenier and Dr. Jane Linden of Providence’s East Side began their search for a comfortable weekend escape not far from their city base, the two set their sights on the village of Westport. Peppered with homes small and large, nestled in among neighbors or decidedly remote, the couple found many of the homes in their budget shared a commonality: most were built in the 1930s or ‘40s and retained good bones but were in need of attention.
The couple saw the potential in a delightful but dated four bedroom, shingled gambrel home situated on the southern portion of scenic Horseneck Road. Its enviable locale is not far from Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, which offers extensive trail systems boasting ocean and pond views from multiple vantage points, and the wide sandy beaches for which Westport is best known.
“The location is really spectacular. You can see the river on one side and out to the ocean on the other, and it’s in a meadow but set off the road… It just had a lot of the problems that a house that doesn’t have someone living there full time encounters,” explains Betsy. “It really didn’t have any HVAC, it needed a roof and needed insulation. Yes, cosmetically it was dated, but a lot of other stuff had to be done. We had to put in a full heating and cooling system, got rid of mold, replaced and repaired the skylights… The bulk of the renovation was non-glamorous.” But the less then pretty parts of restoring the home weren’t enough to intimidate the semi hands-on couple.
They turned to the talent of local craftsmen for the heavy lifting. Dartmouth-based contractor Shawn Brisson was at the helm while Jeff Foster oversaw the electric and Manny Pedreira renovated the bathrooms. The most dramatic bathroom transformation was the master bath which took a cue from the era of blue eyeshadow and big shoulder pads. “The previous owner had a monstrous, luxurious, but dated black marble bathroom complete with a jacuzzi,” says Betsy laughing. “I suspect when she put it in, it was quite sumptuous. In 1985.” The bathroom was so large in fact, Manny was able to create a fully reimagined, redesigned bathroom and add an exercise room.
Contractors aside, Betsy and Jane weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. With two daughters, Lucie and Robin, as well as three dogs (Oliver, Bee and Raisin), the couple sought to create a warm, welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere where sandy feet and paws wouldn’t raise eyebrows (or blood pressure). “Our budget was limited,” concedes Betsy. Early on, the couple decided a complete kitchen renovation from the ground up wasn’t a financial option, so instead, they embraced the home’s origins. “We did a bunch of research and purists would say we missed the mark, but we did what we thought would fit for a ‘30s [or] ‘40s house, so it’s a nod to that period,” says Betsy. The couple’s first stop was Atomic Appliance in Providence for some modern appliances which are balanced out with vintage finds. An authentic Tappan range from the 1950s was a score on Craigslist as was the genuine farmhouse sink. (The stove, admits Betsy, has its cooking quirks like slower or longer than usual cooking times and temperatures.) Betsy also sourced genuine “super yellow retro Formica” countertops. “It’s groovy and casual,” describes Betsy.
All of the window seats were recovered to fashion relaxing spaces throughout. The couple turned to Artee Fabrics in Pawtucket to oversee the reupholstering which Betsy said was both budget-friendly and insightful. The staff at Artee was able to recommend fabrics that could withstand the wear and tear of dogs, children and multiple houseguests.
The couple also added eye-catching, colorful floor treatments. “We stenciled some floors; there were some hardwoods that had previously been painted,” says Betsy.
“We stenciled the master bedroom floor and the bathroom floor… My father was a housepainter, so I learned how to paint a long time ago.” The bursts of color are a perfect juxtaposition to the zen-hued walls, painted a crisp, clean, neutral shade to inspire a serene vibe.
“The rest of the house is largely white, which is intentional. It’s very soothing, with a splash of color here and there.” What Betsy and Jane did not paint inside was covered by professionals Brian Marszalek of East Providence and Les Gidley of Dartmouth.
The peaceful surroundings of the couple’s two acres offers both privacy and potential. Betsy is an experienced gardener but there is also a lot of land to tend which is why they’ve contracted Richard Sisson from Little Compton to take care of the outdoors. Theywould like to eventually add an outdoor shower, but all in due time.
Most of all, the couple is enjoying the pleasures of a beach house and the creature comforts – and company – that comes with it all.
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