Bobby Souza and Liz Kelley were happy living the newlywed life in Providence. For four years they rented an apartment but as time went on and thoughts turned to starting a family, the pair decided to embark on the search for a house. Both found themselves drawn to East Greenwich, a town known for its stellar public school system, vibrant downtown, and mix of historic and pastoral spaces. This was the winter of 2018 and the couple was feeling discouraged by a lack of listings until a small house caught their attention. What sealed the deal was a 1,000-square-foot outbuilding that would make an ideal studio for Kelley, a working illustrator, muralist, and interior designer.
The house, a modest ranch built in 1956, sits on three acres and in addition to the studio, boasts a two-horse barn. “It’s small but we don't mind that – it's so cozy. It has a fireplace and a wood burning stove in the basement,” says Kelley. “The prior owner was a boat-builder – hence the studio.”
Kelley notes that they are slowly renovating, with plans to open up the first floor and build a carport. Design-wise, both the home and studio share the sensibilities found in Kelley’s work, a growing portfolio that includes a mural in nearby KNEAD Doughnuts on Main Street. Her colors are muted and chic, many landing someplace in the fawn colorway. “I keep the palette calm and tend to lean more towards gray, cream, and black as a base for any part of our home, and add color through textiles: green drapes in [son] Luke's room, bedding in our room, blues speckled throughout.”
In describing her aesthetic, Kelley uses words like relaxed and modern. “I like to mix old and new – and have a weird obsession with chairs and can't have enough of them! I use velvet pillows pretty much year-round because they make me happy.” Artfully placed objects and furniture layout reveal that Kelley is a recovering West Elm visual manager who likens decorating to storytelling.
Favorite things in the home are pieces that the couple has constructed or refreshed themselves. “The raw poplar floating desk in the living room was built by my husband and his father; it fills dead space and works as a catchall.” Another prized project is refurbished kitchen cabinetry; however their son’s bed, built by Bobby in the woodshop part of the studio, “takes the cake!” says Kelley.
“I think that it's important to show who you are through art, furniture, or anything you have in your home. Trends come and go, but finding timeless pieces that are good quality will go a long way.”
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