When Steve and Pia Riccitelli bought a small house built in the 1920s in Narragansett, they did so as an investment. Though the couple spent some summer days there, the home was primarily used as a rental, including for the couple’s niece when she was a student at the University of Rhode Island. Eventually the Riccitellis, who resided in the northern part of the Ocean State, came to realize that they wanted to spend more time at the home, not far from Narragansett’s famed sea wall. They had a young son, Luca, and they wanted to make the home a place to welcome family and friends. During the process of it all, they also welcomed daughter Sofia. So along with a new home came a new little one, showing that in both cases, good things come in small packages.
The Riccitellis initially researched renovating the existing home extensively, but in the end, realized it was much more cost effective to demolish the humble bungalow and start anew. “If you have never done it before it can be a little intimidating – and everyone has an opinion,” Steve says with a laugh. “We knew we needed an architect, and we saw Steve Lawrence’s sign popping up on houses we liked.”
Lawrence, founder of Narragansett-based Lawrence Builders, knew the best course of action would be to build within the initial footprint of the home. “They had to really stay to where the original house was, and they wanted to save some yard for the kids,” he says. “And it’s a good fit in the neighborhood.”
Steve and Pia created a wish list that included a warm, welcoming home with an open floor plan, full basement, bedrooms on the second floor and the office and laundry room on the first floor. Perhaps most importantly the couple wanted a spacious kitchen that could accomodate multiple appetites. The two each hail from large Italian families, and as often is the case, food is the heart and soul of the culture. “We found that people really gather in the kitchen, so a large kitchen on the main floor was essential,” explains Steve.
The couple turned to architect Gail Hallock of North Kingstown to create a contemporary home that would complement its coastal environs. Together, the Riccitellis and Hallock designed a home with builder Lawrence that would equally accommodate their two growing children and serve as a comfortable space to entertain. And, as anyone with a house near the sea will tell you, hosting guests happens whether you like it or not. Fortunately for the Riccitellis, entertaining is a way of life.
“We didn’t want too large a house either,” points out Steve. “We saw the mistakes a lot of people have made when they want these humongous houses, then when the kids are out of the house, they have to downsize and I didn’t want to go through that.”
The spacious open floor plan invites an intrinsic flow throughout the house, while it’s “l-shaped” design, created in part to accommodate the existing footprint and allow for a built-in private yard, lends a modern aesthetic to the traditional New England cedar shingle exterior. Inside, Pia channeled her inner interior designer by choosing paint colors reflective of the home’s coastal surroundings. “She spearheaded the whole effort,” Steve says with pride. At the time, Pia was on maternity leave with little Sofia, but she was able to create a no fuss atmosphere that was simple and elegant yet practical and personal. “It’s tastefully done but not over the top,” Steve describes.
The couple enlisted the talents of Arlene Aguilera at Kitchen Direct in Wakefield to design the kitchen, as that room plays a title role in the home. For the remainder of the home, Pia made the design decisions, garnering the advice of Lawrence and Hallock along the way.
In an unexpected twist, the Riccitellis ended up having the entire process – from demolition to the home’s completion – chronicled on television. With suggestion from Lawrence, the couple filmed a short, one minute amateur video to submit to the DIY’s Network’s program, Raising House. “It’s not something I would normally do,” concedes Steve. “Initially we said ‘no,’ and then we said ‘okay, let’s just send in the video. It’ll make Steve and Melissa happy.” The Riccitellis didn’t think they even had a shot to be chosen for the program, so they went about their daily business until they got the call they least expected. Steve calls the entire process “interesting” with a laugh, but says in hindsight, they are delighted they have the experience forever captured on film. “It’s a documentary for our kids to have of their home being built. It’ll be good for them to see their parents and themselves when they were young. It’s a good piece of family history. It worked out well for us.”
For Lawrence, the experience of having the building process captured and recorded from beginning to end was also unique. The exposure was undoubtedly beneficial and the program showcased the talent of local vendors and craftspeople, from the carpenters to electricians, plumbers and more. “It was good for everybody,” he says.
Since the exhilarating airing of their episode on Raising House this past November, the Riccitellis have easily fallen in love with their surrounding community. “We’ve made friends now. Plus my son is four; he plays soccer, goes swimming. It’s a great area for adults, teens, little kids – there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.”