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A New Chapter in Narragansett (PHOTOS)

Flip through a slideshow of an upside down home plan that maximizes seaside scenery

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John and Gina Uricchio of Connecticut were no strangers to the spoils of Narragansett. They had a second home in the seaside town but always kept their eyes open for a property a little closer to the water. When land close to beloved Scarborough Beach came on the market, the two knew it wouldn’t last long. “We were looking for something closer to the ocean, a big open space,” explains Gina. “We ended up finding this lot, mulled it over and we decided we’d go forward with it.”

Though the idea of building a home from scratch was intimidating, the couple was confident North Kingstown-based architect Gail Hallock and builder Steve Lawrence would create a house that celebrated coastal living, casual entertaining and the art of unwinding. “We are family-oriented so we knew we wanted a big open floor plan, lots of space, lots of windows and natural light, and nooks everywhere where people could go off on their own but not be completely isolated,” explains Gina.

Steve proposed an “upside down” design scheme to maximize the views. “They’re not waterfront, they are water-view, so we put the kitchen, living and dining rooms on the top floor, looking right out over the beach,” he explains. He also knew multiple-level outdoor decks would capitalize on the picturesque locale, which abuts scenic wetlands as well. The decks offer private micro spaces where John, Gina, the kids and guests can enjoy individual pursuits but all still be under one roof. “There’s one off the top of the third floor and one on the second floor off a bedroom. I wanted place you can read a book or do yoga, but someone could be upstairs having a drink,” Gina says. On cooler nights, the Uricchios, their family and guests encircle the fire pit directly off the bottom floor.

The couple brought varying ideas to both Steve and Gail. The two professionals took the couple’s wants and needs into account along with things they hadn’t thought of and also proposed effective design solutions. Steve and John had actually spoken about home design ideas even before he and Gina had purchased property, so the process flowed quickly and seamlessly. “My husband and I had a great rapport with them,” says Gina.

The views and the home’s costal environs also inspired the colors and design scheme throughout. “I definitely knew I was going to do palettes of grays, creams and whites and of course, bring in the blues; all the beach colors.” With three distinct levels and multiple rooms, Gina turned to Ellen McKenna Design of Jamestown to consult with color and design decisions. Ellen, both an interior and architectural designer with nearly two decades experience, looks to blend beauty, comfort and purpose. “I worked with Gina on the lighting design and fixture choices for her home,” Ellen says. “One element of my design was to finish the great room ceiling with whitewashed wood. We didn’t want to ruin the wood with recessed lights so I had to be very creative to get enough layers of light in the large space. We also have a large feature chandelier over the dining table in the center of the room, which gives the space warmth and a central focal point.”

“I just wanted anybody who came in to feel they were at home; just able to sit down and not feel any pretentiousness at all. That idea comes through the paint, color scheme and fabrics,” explains Gina. “I wanted to create a very homey, secure place where you feel you don’t have to go anywhere. “One piece Gina and John were absolutely committed to highlighting was an unconventional, usually mundane piece in the kitchen. “Ellen and I worked on piecing together the fixtures, the tile, but the highlight was the Viking blue fridge – it was first piece my husband and I saw and we decided we were going to anchor everything from there.” They looked to Arlene Aguilera at Kitchen Direct in Wakefield to design the kitchen around the whimsical piece.

The couple also wanted the natural stone fireplace in the living room to be a focal point, rivaled of course by the water views. Overall, Gina calls Ellen “instrumental” when it came to what was achievable in each space and bringing their personal taste out. “It all ties together nicely,” adds Gina. “What I did was I always had a folder with tear sheets from Coastal Living and different home magazines and catalogs and through that, we built our story, we built our dream home, pulling in a lot of elements,” explains Gina. “Even though plans change and you move stuff, it’s good to have an idea of how it all began.”

Though the two have similar taste, John and Gina have differing interests. “I’m into yoga. John is into TVs and we find a happy place between us,” she says. “The house Steve built for us is so custom.”

The Uricchios succeeded in making the home a warm, welcoming space. It’s not uncommon for friends and neighbors to drop in at the home to say hello, to have a drink before or after dinner or to just spend time together. Gina credits the surrounding town’s naturally easy-going vibe with part of the overall ambiance. “We love beach life Narragansett living – laid back community is so welcoming, great people in the neighborhood. The beach always invites laid back entertaining.”

Though it thrives as a summer home, the Uricchios have been enjoying the spoils of the quieter months here lately. Gina says as much as they love hosting family and friends during the glorious summer months, this time of year, the two can hunker in, put their hosting duties aside and go to their favorite local restaurants. “Being here is very grounding and relaxing,” adds Gina. “We absolutely adore it.”