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Bright Idea

A beloved beach house in East Matunuck receives a thoughtful renovation

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Dianna Normanton grew up spending summers in a small flat-roofed beach cottage along the Jerusalem waterfront owned by her grandfather. His name was Chauncey Allard and he was an avid fisherman who could be found fishing off the rocks at sun-up and dusk. He bought the house back in 1954 when the area was a small sleepy fishing village with seasonal dwellings on leased land. In the 1990s, the land was made available for each owner to buy and Allard did just that. Soon after, he added an (unfinished) attic, and Normanton’s grandparents resided at the beach full time for the rest of their lives.

Nearly six years ago, Normanton and her grown children inherited the cottage and just like her grandfather, decided to make some modifications. While the location was ideal, the house was a bit cramped and sleeping in the hot attic was as uncomfortable as it sounds. An interior designer, Normanton got to work. “I renovated the entire house,” she says. The attic was finished, adding dormers and stairs. On the main level, she had all inside walls removed to create an entirely new open floor plan. “There were two large long dark bedrooms and one small bathroom, a very small galley kitchen with no real place to eat, and an equally small long living room that barely fit two chairs,” she says with a laugh. What she did keep were the large picture windows facing Point Judith Channel.

Because the footprint is small, Normanton keeps the decor light and bright. The open concept kitchen, dining, and living spaces are all painted bright white. “The walls and ceiling blend together to give the illusion of height and seamless lines,” she explains, offering a designer’s tip. “I brought in color via the rugs, pillows, and accent pieces, with shades of blue and orange and natural wood tones in the woven shades, coffee table, bookcase, dining table, and shells from the beach. A sectional sofa in off-white offers the most seating while keeping the compact space open.”

“The location has always carried the same appeal – it is a blessing to have a place at the beach. There is always a beautiful view!” Inside, Normanton outfitted rooms taking her cue from the seaside while being conscious of avoiding an overt kitsch factor. “It’s about beautiful but comfy furnishings with colors that mimic the sunrises, sunsets, the ocean, sand, sea grass, and natural elements. It is very soothing and peaceful.”