Garden Party

A Charlestown home flourishes with a nature-inspired palette


Enter the sun-filled home of Tracy Stilwell and Sue Desillier and it’s apparent that these two share a creative life. Tracy, a textile and mixed media artist, and Sue, a physical therapist, have decorated spaces throughout their ranch-style abode with the kind of joyous riot of pattern and color found in nature. It makes perfect sense, the two are avid gardeners.

Together for 27 years, the couple originally lived in the Oakland Beach section of Warwick when word of a lot near Tracy’s sister’s house became available. “We were primarily trying to get closer to the beaches,” Sue explains. “We snagged the Charlestown lot and purchased a modular home. Going the modular route made things easier to put an open floor plan together for graceful aging in place.”

Graceful, sure, but reserved? Not a chance. Sue describes their collective style as “colorful, eclectic, and artful,” and, from floor to ceiling, print and pigment abound. Bunting layers artwork, a mobile dangles in front of a window, even an intricate pendant lamp casts patterns that rival those from a disco ball. Walls are painted in a range of sherbet hues and serve as neutral backdrops for vibrant artwork and artifacts. Below, area rugs with geometric shapes cover brief sections of gleaming hardwood floors, but most window treatments are kept simple. “Our lack of curtains in the main living area allows us to see the gardens and let in the light,” says Sue.

“We are constantly expanding, refining, adding features that reflect our passions and interests, primarily in the garden,” begins Tracy.

“We have a 50-pound bag of paint chips that gets pulled out when we start a new project. We collect as many colors as possible and start an elimination process until we are ready to go.” Sue notes that this research and development phase can take time, sometimes years, but once completed, they’re always pleased with the results. Case in point: a pair of shutters Sue recently constructed after a decade of discussion. Other endeavors have ranged in scale and include everything from small cement work to adding a patio.

Adhering to a “do you love it?” rule, Tracy and Sue only add those elements that they find visually appealing and interesting. Their take on Rhody Style means thinking independently. “We do what we want with color and materials. We are flexible, we mix things up. Be creative, try things out,” says Sue. “And primarily [we] are filled with and express gratitude often.”


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