Ask most folks in the Middlebridge neighborhood of South Kingstown how they came to nest in the tightly knit community on the banks of the Narrow River, and there’s usually a sentimental story they’ll be more than delighted to share. Mark and Rose Gillooly each have treasured childhood memories of spending summers in the picturesque locale. After swapping stories when they first met, the two soon learned they shared the same beach as children.
With a mutual affection for Middlebridge, it’s no wonder it is the place the couple chose to start a new chapter of their lives. “[This area] has brought so much joy,” Rose says.
“I grew up on the river. I used to do the dishes and look out the window from my parents house. I always said, ‘If that house ever comes for sale, I’d like to buy it’,” Mark says about the riverfront digs that he calls home today. “I always imagined the potential.”
When the original home came on the market just over 10 years ago, Mark and Rose acted quickly. It was the opportunity to finally realize the potential Mark saw in the land, so the couple didn’t exactly get attached to the tiny cottage. “Let me put it this way: we bought the house and never walked inside it,” laughs Mark. Rose concurs, “It was like, just knock it down.”
The location was just as ideal as the timing. “We decided it was time to empty nest,” says Rose. The couple lived in Barrington for 20 years, but the place the two summered their entire married life with their daughter came calling. They turned to architect Laura Krekorian of nearby Wakefield to design a warm and welcoming home that made smart use of limited space and capitalized on the tranquil water views.
“We knew it was a small lot,” explains Rose. “We wanted to maximize a small space. It’s a narrow footprint, and that’s one of the reasons we hired an architect.” In fact, it took a small village to fashion a home that brought Mark and Rose’s wants and needs to life. Builder GW Construction of Charlestown, Ernie George of Coastal Engineering in Wakefield, Michael Tetit from Grid Electric in East Providence, landscape architect John C. Carter and Company of Narragansett and carpenter Bruce Powell from A.B. Powell Woodworks of Pawcatuck, Connecticut were just some of the key players that made the house by the river an equally functional and fabulous abode. “It’s our second home, so we thought a lot about the things we wanted that we didn’t have the first time around,” notes Rose.
Downsizing from a traditional Colonial, Mark and Rose looked to the pros to help merge traditional rooms into modern, cohesive, multi-functional spaces. The kitchen/dining room hybrid that carpenter Bruce Powell helped interconnect with exquisite wood detailing includes a sunlit area ideally suited to fit the dining table that seats 10 to 12. An oversized, movable island makes a natural gathering place and comes in especially handy when the couple entertains. “This is a custom kitchen,” says Mark. “We went to a kitchen cabinet place and when we looked at the design, there was a bunch of fillers, but we needed space, and knowing this was going to be a living/dining kitchen area, we wanted a more formal look; I think to a degree we accomplished it.”
When it came to the aesthetic, Rose was in the driver’s seat. “We wanted to bring outside colors in,” she says, pointing to the honey yellow walls and candlelight-toned cabinetry. “I wanted something bright and cheerful.”
The kitchen flows into the living room, where a wall of tall windows allows for an uninterrupted panorama of the Narrow River. “We tried to make it somewhat of a formal look while trying to blend in with nature,” explains Mark. A custom sisal rug traces the perimeter of the room, including the rounded wall where a plush settee the color of beach dunes welcomes guests to sit and unwind. “It’s very calming,” observes Rose, taking in the entirety of the room. “Function” is a theme throughout the home, exemplified in myriad spaces including in the living room’s wet bar nestled into an out-of- the-way wall. “We created a wet bar scenario, but you can see it blends from one room into the other room without clashing,” says Mark, referring to the kitchen. “We do a lot of entertaining. I use this area quite a bit and it works out well because I can mix drinks and still be part of the conversation.”
Entertaining is made simple when so many close friends – some they’ve had for decades, live nearby. “We have about 10 couples we get together with on a regular basis. It’s just nice,” says Rose. “And a lot of their parents summered and then retired in this area, so now the pattern repeats itself.”
Vessels of colorful sea glass are found on the way to the second floor and throughout the house, each piece plucked from the shoreline by Rose who describes herself as an avid collector. “I love it. I pick each piece by hand,” she says. Both admirers of antiques, pieces can be found throughout the home, including the guest bedroom where a piece Rose bought the first year of the marriage stands. It’s the room favored by their daughter who now lives in Chicago but adores the Middlebridge home. “She loves it here,” says Mark, and Rose has a feeling why. “The water brings her back,” she explains, “to the memories that she’s had on the beach with the extended family.” It’s a sentiment that can be said for everyone who calls this extraordinary place home.