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Yankee Modern

A couple honed new skills as they transformed a turn-of-the-century house in Jamestown

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After Michelle and Pieter Snoeren bought a home in Jamestown, the two met with an architect to make some changes, then headed off to visit Pieter’s family in Europe. They walked around his father’s home in the south of France, surrounded by rolling green and serenaded by local roosters. The visit made an impression on Pieter and would dramatically change the couple’s course.

“We got home from the trip and my husband was like, ‘I think I want that,’” says Michelle. As a real estate agent, Michelle is privy to properties about to hit the market. Michelle spotted a charming house surrounded by three acres nearby, and curiosity got the best of them.

“I told the showing agent we were just going to go walk the land, but as soon as we stepped into the backyard, my husband had a smile on his face I’ve never seen,” tells Michelle. There were supposed to be showings later in the day, but Michelle called the agent right away and told her to cancel them. They were going to buy the house, even without ever walking in the front door. (They would also sell the home they had just purchased).

The new property was formerly part of the Carr Homestead, owned by Nicholas Carr, son of Caleb Carr, who was governor of Rhode Island in 1695. A member of the Carr family was one of the original 100-plus buyers of Conanicut Island in 1657, and the family was allotted 285 acres – hence the Snoeren’s home is perched on “Carr Lane.”

The three-bedroom home was built in 1900 in the “colonial cottage” style, and soon after the Snoerens bought it in early 2017, they started talking about renovations that would better suit their needs. A wood stove sat in the center of the home, and though practical, its location prevented the open layout the couple wanted to have on the first floor.

With the help of architect Mary Meagher, renovations began in August of last year. The first floor was taken down to the studs; all that remained was the original footprint, some flooring, the staircase, and an exterior load-bearing beam. By chance, a thoroughly outfitted barn was built on the property in the 1990s, so Michelle and Pieter moved in. “There were a couple of hairy nights in February when it was really windy and cold,” says Michelle with a laugh. “We started staying here so we could keep track of who is doing what – I was the general contractor.”

Soon the electrical, plumbing, and roof were removed, and new heating and air conditioning were installed. Michelle had the front door moved to the side of the house to make a lasting first impression. “Carr Lane is a cut-through on the island and I wanted more privacy and a more grand entrance,” she explains. The newly located door offers a bright, inviting, and sun-filled welcome.

Michelle says the renovation experience was beyond rewarding and she walked away with more than an extraordinary home – she also gained a whole new skill set. “We investigated every single purchase we made,” she says, including unique fixtures and design solutions even the contractors had never seen. Having renovated a few kitchens in homes before, the couple likes the innovation and smart design of IKEA kitchens. They installed IKEA cabinet boxes, but the custom-looking doors were purchased from a company in Seattle, Washington. “We bought everything online,” says Michelle. “We were just very conscious of not paying retail for anything.”

Michelle wanted the feel of the master bedroom to take its cue from one of their favorite pastimes: traveling. “I never traveled anywhere until I met Pieter, and we love traveling, so I wanted the bedroom to feel like a nice hotel, like something in Paris
or Europe – comfy and cozy so you don’t want to get out of bed,” she says. In other parts of the home, antiques are mixed with contemporary pieces for a look the couple describes as “Yankee modern.”

With the renovations complete, Michelle and Pieter now awake to the sounds of horses from the neighboring farm milling about in the meadow. They’re over the moon about where they live, but Michelle’s newfound talent for renovation has made a particularly lasting impression. Says Michelle, “I can’t wait to do it again!”