Don and Eileen Schanck loved raising their two sons in the village of Scituate, but the couple always knew that when the birds flew the coop, they would retire in South County. The family had long spent summer getaways in the charming coastal enclave of Bonnet Shores, a generational locale for Eileen. South County’s laid back vibe, friendly neighbors and convenience to shops, markets and points of interest made a lasting impression.
“We just really, really love the beaches of South County and said long ago it was the kind of place we’d like to plan to live for retirement,” says Eileen. “We looked around and found this home and it was just the perfect location.” At nearly 2,800 square feet, the single family Colonial style home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms sits tranquilly on a quiet dead end street overlooking Pettaquamscutt Cove. The cove is bordered by more than 300 acres of salt marsh and surrounding forest habitat that make up the Pettaquamscutt Cove National Wildlife Refuge (which was renamed the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in 1999). The preserve lures casual birdwatchers and waterfowl enthusiasts alike as great egrets, herons, several species of plovers and other shorebirds can be spotted there, as well as the largest American black duck population in Rhode Island. “We felt the setting was quiet, pastoral looking, but I’m at the store in two minutes,” Eileen says. “I used to have to travel 20 minutes!”
Though in the ideal location, the home, built in 1981, was undeniably dated. “We wanted to open it up to brighten it up,” explains Eileen. One room, which was likely built as a library, was seemingly hidden from view yet boasted three oversized windows which fills the space with natural light. Though the kitchen was considered sizable and offered a generous dining space, it was cumbersome. “It felt segmented,” describes Eileen.
The couple turned to DiStefano Brothers Construction, a family owned and operated builder who has worked throughout Rhode Island and surrounding communities for the past decade. The Wakefield based design-build firm specializes in kitchen and bath remodels, so the Schancks knew they were in the right place. “They are wonderful to work with,” says Eileen. “They worked closely with us to see what we wanted to do and they came up with solutions.”
To create an open floor plan, a living room wall was removed. It immediately merged with the underutilized library to create a larger, cohesive space awash in natural light. To maximize the cohesive feel of those rooms, the eat-in kitchen was opened up to flow seamlessly into the living room. “There was an exposed support beam hanging, so they buried that, which gave it a much more open look,” explains Eileen. To accomplish that Herculean task, the DiStefano team had to remove the visible structural beam in the middle of the kitchen and replace it with a steel beam that had to be inserted through an opening in the side of the house and later recessed into the ceiling above.
“[The] couple envisioned a brighter, more classic kitchen with more storage and a bar/buffet area,” explains Kristen Longo, Design Engineer at DiStefano Brothers Construction. “They also wanted to have more of an open space making the living, dining and kitchen area all one.”
The Schancks also wanted to relocate the first floor bathroom as its placement was less than ideal. Instead of going down a long road of detailed construction plans that would force the creation of a whole new space – quite a pricey endeavor – DiStefano Brothers proposed an unexpected solution: reinvent the space by allowing natural light to pour in and add an eye-catching barn door in a slate blue hue that adds visual interest as well as practical function. “The barn door was included to provide the lavette with more interior space, then the bold color was added to make it a feature piece,” says Marisa Navakaujus, Client Advocate at DiStefano Brothers Construction.
In the living room, Marisa says built-ins were added in optimal locations which now provide a place for Eileen to enjoy family photographs and meaningful accessories. “We also added recessed lights in the living room to provide her with better light. That was not part of the original plan,” Marisa says. To marry the spaces, the couple chose new hardwood floors throughout.
Upstairs, DiStefano Brothers tackled an equally dated and dysfunctional master bathroom. “It just didn’t work,” explains Eileen. “The master bathroom’s sloped ceiling did not allow enough head space for Don to shower, creating a unique design challenge. By reconfiguring the bathroom and existing closet space, we were able to create both a larger shower area with ceiling height and a walk-in closet,” explains Kristin.
While it might be challenging to choose a favorite space in all of the home, what with the improved balcony over the two-car garage overlooking the preserve, the master suite with its new, contemporary-meets-classic bathroom and the entirely reimagined first floor, but Don and Eileen seem to agree the living room, where the fireplace was fitted with a new custom mantle and an unobtrusive flat-screen television above, feels most like home. “That’s where we spend the majority of our time,” says Don. Adds Eileen, “This is a dream for us.”