Child's Play

When Jennifer and Steve Benjamin were moving back to Southern New England from a career opportunity that has sent the Rhode Island natives to Florida just three years ago, their …

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When Jennifer and Steve Benjamin were moving back to Southern New England from a career opportunity that has sent the Rhode Island natives to Florida just three years ago, their priorities were like that of any young family: find a home in a reputable school district that offered ample space and a functional layout for their then-newborn daughter and four-year-old son. After an exhaustive search, the couple had fallen for a newly built home in North Kingstown’s Fletcher Meadows neighborhood. “We knew we wanted to be in Southern Rhode Island, and we knew we wanted to live by the ocean,” says Jennifer, who was sold on the property after the open house only to learn the home was quickly placed under contract. There was a glimmer of hope when the contract fell through but it was immediately spoken for. Just when the two least expected it, the home became available. “We’d been looking at it for a year and a half,” Jennifer says. “I had already decorated it in my head.”

The family nestled in quickly, taking advantage of the fact that they were right on picturesque Allen Harbor and Quonset Bike Path. The neighborhood of 33 custom built homes is, to their delight, populated by a majority of fellow young families. The house quickly felt like home, and when it came to creating the interior design scheme, Jennifer’s creative energy let loose, perhaps most in the children’s rooms. “[Lola and Nicholas] each have their own room, and we have a Jack and Jill bath with their own sink,” Jennifer explains, adding that such an amenity would have been a dream growing up. 

Lola, now four, is ever the girly girl, so only a pink room would do. But Jennifer, with an unabashed passion for decorating, is no stranger to the quest for the perfect shade. Glints of Pink was the ideal hue, a tone seemingly similar to pure white but with ever so slight pink subtleties depending on the light in the room. Six whimsical paintings of birds grace the wall, a bargain find from Pottery Barn Kids. The colors in the petite paintings compliment the cheerful quilted bedding, boasting percale appliqués of oversized blooms in varying shades of Lilly Pulitzer-type tones. Jennifer says that she enjoyed the spoils of being pregnant at the same time as some of her closest friends, so steals and deals and irresistible finds were snatched up in the pleasures of impending motherhood, with the knowledge that such treasures would find a special place if not in her own home, then in another.

Far from cookie-cutter design, Jennifer peppered the room with an eclectic mix of punchy décor and one-of-a-kind finds. “Shabby chic” is the best way to describe it she says, mixed with sentimental treasures and inventive design solutions. When she put up a rod and curtain ring clips for drapery, and considered her daughter’s love for dressing up (“She loves to wear fairy wings,” Jennifer says with a laugh), she got an idea. Like a fashion-forward backyard clothing line, Jennifer clipped some of Lola’s most legendary outfits (amassed in her short four years) for a unique and frilly window treatment. “Oh, there’s her Easter dress, what she wore home from the hospital, a jean skirt that says ‘I’m 2!’ that she wore on her second birthday,” explains Jennifer. “They’re my favorite pieces.” And fortunately, the shades of the clothing harmonize with the color scheme, complete with apropos ribbons and bows. She knows the creative curtains suit her little budding fashionista for now, but will likely have a whole new look as little Lola grows.

An eye-catching design element is what looks to be a vintage play kitchen, but turns out to be an authentic oven from the 1930s (that Steve completely stripped of its working parts so it is perfectly safe for play). Another age-old piece is a picture of a baby that hung in Jennifer’s grandmother’s childhood room. More modern elements include a plush, comfy kids chair in light pink with white Swiss dots and white piping – with Lola embroidered on it.

Seven-and-a-half year old Nicholas (“And that half is very important to him,” Jennifer stresses with exaggeration) had a very simple request: make his room blue. And so they did, painting the walls a serene shade resembling the sky with coordinating bedding and décor.“He’s very much a boy,” says Jennifer. “The baby and toddler things have come down.” But his most beloved toys are still easily accessible. One of his favorite spaces in the room is a bench at the window where Nicholas enjoys using the binoculars to spot the deer, wild turkeys and other critters that roam the family’s sprawling lawn, neighborhood, and surrounding flora and fauna. “My little scholar,” Jennifer says with a sigh.

Though his room is definitely his domain, a first floor playroom is where big brother Nicholas and little Lola spend much of their time. “They do all kind of things in there,” says Jennifer, including computer games, Legos, arts and crafts and making music. Jennifer and Steve collaborated on reinventing what was built as an in-law suite into a creative space for the children. “I come up with the stuff but my husband is very artistic – he’s good,” she says, and she’s not kidding. Whimsical clouds appear to float across a light blue sky on the wall, while an oversized house-shaped space made from chalkboard paint allows the kids to channel their inner Picassos. Ever so conveniently, the first floor room is near the kitchen – a.k.a. command central, which makes for keeping an eye on the creative kiddos a breeze. For this family of four in Fletcher Meadows, there’s no other place they’d like to be.