From Kitsch to Classic

The Bay Magazine ·

The 1990s were magnificent for many reasons, but interior design wasn’t one of them. Floral fabrics, cheesy wallpaper borders (you’re not fooling anyone with that faux library print), wall-to-wall carpeting and hunter green anything – these trends are the Members Only jacket of design faux pas.

For Josh and Amy, dated details were hardly a deterrent when they found a home in Barrington that was just the size they were looking for in just the place they were hoping for. Minutes from serene Hundred Acre Cove, the Colonial style home, built in 1997, offered both privacy and pristine surroundings, not to mention convenience for the family’s work, interests and extracurricular activities. “The first time we saw the house, we knew it was the one because of its location near the water and the beautiful sunsets we get to enjoy every night,” says Amy. “We also love the openness of the front foyer and the main living area on the first floor. In the summer, we can open all the sliding doors and almost feel like we’re outside.” The only caveat? The home was badly in need of a design rehab.

“When they bought it, it was pink,” says interior designer Michelle Parenteau of Michelle Lee Designs. “It was known as ‘the pink house’ on the block.” But, as they say, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Josh and Amy would take care of the exterior soon enough. Michelle, however, had her hands full. Though the kitchen was decidedly outdated, not to mention dysfunctional, Michelle was able to convince her client to put a kitchen redesign on hold – in her experience, kitchens are so instrumental to the home, especially one with children, that redesigns are best approached after other needs have been addressed. “They had some idea of what they wanted, and I worked with them to bring that vision to life,” says Michelle.

While Amy’s style preferences tend toward more traditional looks, Rob gravitates to contemporary designs. “My task was to bring those two styles together in harmony,” explains Michelle. The first order of business was to paint the interior from top to bottom to give it a fresh new look and feel. “In each space, I chose different colors that complement each other,” shares Michelle. For the living room, where the family likes to relax and unwind, a soft yellow-meets-tan hue graces the walls, offering a warm, casual feel. A shade of gray with purple undertones adorns the dining room to set a neutral palate and let the meals take center stage, and in the sitting room, there’s a modern take with sage green walls counterbalanced by an eye-catching plum accent wall. “Overall, the house has a very soft and subtle palate and the kids’ rooms are bold,” she adds.

Bold might be an understatement. The couple’s son knew from the day they bought the home two and a half years ago that he wanted a red bedroom. “And he knew exactly which red he wanted,” says Michelle, adding that the search for the perfect fire engine hue was quite thorough but resulted in a fantastic shade.

“We also added crown molding and new window treatments,” says Michelle about many of the rooms, adding that subtle changes like those can make a world of difference. Accent chairs and décor, she says, are a great way to express personal taste and current trends. Josh and Amy were looking for new furniture for the living room and sought something chic but comfortable, as well as practical. Michelle found an ideal “family friendly” sectional that could handle lots of traffic. A new coffee table accommodated the set, but to incorporate Amy’s love of nature, Michelle sourced an accent chair with a whimsically woodsy pattern featuring trees. “Through accent furniture and pillows, you can
really change it up,” she advises.

In the guest bathroom, Michelle created an understated nautical motif as a nod to the home’s coastal environs with cobalt blue walls, crisp white details and a granite vanity. In contrast to its aesthetic is the master suite bath with its traditional dark cherry vanity and modern, reconfigured bathtub and shower with a neutral color palate. The master bedroom, however, may have been the space that most celebrated last century’s final decade. “It was mauve and had a lot of stenciling,” Michelle says, laughing. She worked with the existing furnishings in the space, adding a complementary, calming gray shade with blue undertones on the walls, new window treatments and new bedding.

Once every other component was complete, it was time to tackle the ill-designed, sorely outdated kitchen. “We really wanted to add a breakfast seating area, so we opened up a wall to the dining room, to add more light too, and so that the kids could have a place to hang out,” says Michelle. An awkward soffit ran the length of the room, the hunter green granite countertops had seen better days and laminate cabinets — it all had to go. “The only thing that stayed was the hardwood floor,” says Michelle. A new, full-service center island with a wet bar, trash compactor and plenty of seating offers a natural place to gather while white and gray Cambria countertops created by East Coast Countertops suggest a chic, distinctly upscale ambiance. Lest the space sway too formal, a funky light fixture from Lighting Design by J & K Electric in Johnston illuminates the space and behind the stove’s hood lies iridescent glass subway tiles, adding a hint of whimsy.  

“With Michelle’s help and vision, we have done a lot of work on the house since we moved in, which has made it feel much more like our own. We are very pleased with how every room turned out, but especially the kitchen,” says Amy. “Since we spend a majority of our time in the kitchen, it’s nice to be able to spend it in a room that is bright and cozy and makes us feel happy.”

Hundred Acre Cove, barrington, barrington ri, Michelle Parenteau, Michelle Lee Designs, home design, interior design, renovation, the bay magazine, andrea e mchugh, grace lentini, lighting design by j & K, east coast countertop