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Building Up New Memories on Potters Pond

As a family expanded, so did their East Matunuck beach cottage

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Twelve years ago, a Warwick couple decided a small beach cottage would be the perfect escape for their family during the summer months. More than 50 years old, the cottage they purchased on Potter Pond in East Matunuck was everything a typical summertime pied-a-terre should be: no frills, full of salty air and complete with a dock and little boat. And all within walking distance to the beach. But after some time, the charming quirks started to become irksome flaws, and the family had also had some growing pains – literally. “It was perfect for our family at the time, but [our] family started to grow in leaps and bounds,” says the homeowner. “Plus, nothing had been done to it and it was starting to fall apart.” The four children in the family started families of their own, and suddenly, grandma and grandpa’s beach house wasn’t big enough for even the most basic camp-style overnight.

By 2010, the couple decided to build an entirely new home on the property, one where they, their children and their six grandchildren could relax and spend time together. But there were challenges. First, any new construction on the water is subject to a host of rules, regulations and time-consuming permits and permissions. As anyone who has built in coastal zone management classifications can tell you, patience, determination and organization are particularly handy when undertaking such a project. Second, the homeowners only had .09 acres of land to work with – and they were required to stay within the cottage’s original footprint. So instead of building out, they built up.

Having never renovated or built a home, they enlisted the help of local residential architect Laura Krekorian. With more than two decades’ experience designing homes in southern Rhode Island and specializing in well-designed beach cottages, Laura was the obvious choice for the homeowner’s needs and challenging circumstances.

“The property is in such a special location, it really needed a specially designed house,” says Laura. “The biggest challenge on the house was the site constraints. We had a pretty small house footprint to work within because of the lot size and the proximity to Potter Pond, and the [homeowners] have a very large family they need to accommodate on a regular summer day.”  

But where some see challenges, others see solutions. “The property is in a flood zone subject to wave action, so it had to be built up on piers, a whole story above grade. “Connecting the living space to the yard is tough with this setup, and keeping the house from looking too tall proportionally is another,” explains Laura. “With the house lifted up so high, I had to work hard to bring down the scale through the shape and proportion of the body of the house and roofline, materials selection, and adding roof overhang – and details like the shingled flared skirt along the first floor and exposed rafter tails along the roof.” She also designed a large deck on the first floor open to the living area for outdoor gatherings, connected to the yard with an outdoor stair. Adding stones to the supportive piers also added a more natural aesthetic. “My ultimate goal is always to create a house with simple lines and natural materials that fits in its surroundings: that looks like it belongs there, that feels good to be in and that fulfills the client’s wish list.”

“She had a lot of great ideas to match our great ideas,” says the homeowner. Laura crafted a design that granted all their wishes – and then some. The architect fashioned a two-story coastal enclave, executed by builder Nate Holloway, that’s raised 13 feet above ground with a contemporary kitchen, open flow, two bedrooms and a custom built “bunk room” that’s perfect for the grandchildren to pile in after sun-soaked days with the sand between their toes. The room isn’t considered a bedroom as there is no door and could easily be considered multi-functional. “If you had a door, it would be considered a bedroom, but we did want as much sleeping space as possible,” says the homeowner. “Plus, the bunkroom provides plenty of storage.” Laura and the homeowners both also wanted to fill the home with natural light and plenty of windows to take advantage of the coveted views.

When it came to décor, the homeowner admits that while she had an affinity toward certain colors, the idea of choosing differing but coordinating hues for each space was a bit overwhelming. She turned to Monique Sabatino of Balanced Interiors based in nearby Narragansett for guidance. Though a comprehensive interior design company, Sabatino specifically worked with the homeowner on wall color and window treatments.“I had a good idea what I wanted: beachy, soft and light gray, whites and blues. We did it together,” says the homeowner.

“The house is small but doesn’t feel small,” Monique says. The layout is efficient and there are views of the pond from every room. It’s cozy enough for two, yet can expand to accommodate a large family of guests. She adds, “Designing in details like the timber truss above the upper deck, large double hung windows, exposed rafter tails, the flared shingle skirt, stainless steel railings that you see right through, even the stone piers and arches, give the house its character and help make it that special destination that if you’re lucky, you get invited to enjoy.”

Though it took about a year to build, the experience, and most of all the result, was well worth it, say the homeowners. Today, they are enjoying an entirely new home with an entirely new outlook – all while creating new memories.