Though Peter Bramante and his partner Tom had renovated myriad homes throughout Providence over the years, the couple decided it was time to trade the hustle and bustle of urban dwelling for the serenity of country living.
Their home search brought them to a handful of East Bay communities, and though they didn’t set out to find a diamond in the rough, it was an unexpected jewel that made itself known. Before they knew it, Peter and Tom were closing on not only a new home, but a piece of history.
“It just happened that way,” theorizes Peter, “but I think it was karma.” In their case: good karma. In the past the two had helped other older properties realize their full potential. One such abode was their Pearl Street Loft in Providence’s West End neighborhood. A nod to its past as a cast iron metal manufacturer, the couple renovated their space in an industrial-style, contemporary fashion. Though Peter would concede an affinity for contemporary design, he wasn’t quite convinced that he had to abandon the look entirely when pursuing more rustic digs. In other words, the past and present could co-exist well in his vision, and no other place is that evident than in his and Tom’s newly-transformed country cottage, which dates back to 1832.
“The home is the former parsonage to the Amicable Congregation Church in Tiverton,” explains Peter. Located in the legendarily quaint New England village of Tiverton Four Corners, the Amicable Congregational Society was organized in 1746. In 1805, land at Four Corners was given to the society to use as a meetinghouse site. Around 1808 the new church edifice was built there, and in 1832 the church parsonage was completed. The building served as the residence for the pastor of the church until recent history.
Through the decades, modifications were made to the one-and-a-half story vernacular structure, which featured a central entry in a five-bay facade. “In the last six to eight years, they started to give their pastor a housing allowance, then started renting it,” says Peter. But renting the home became somewhat of a chore and the congregation agreed to put the house on the market. Peter and Tom had looked at the house but deemed it a bit out of their price range. The two were set to close on a home in nearby Adamsville but a snag in the closing process hindered those plans. They found their way back to the parsonage and with the blessing of the congregation, they knew this is was where they would soon call home. “At first it wasn’t necessarily where we wanted to be... but the way it happened was kind of kismet in the end,” says Peter happily.
While the structure was solid and the craftsmanship enviably old-world, there were interior updates throughout recent decades that clearly dated the home – and not in a charming way. “Some of the changes were aesthetically not in line with our point of view,” explains Peter. The overall flow of the home was good however, and Peter and Tom knew this would be an ambitious but rewarding endeavor. “We were ready to hit the ground running,” Peter says.
The couple worked with Glenn Buie of McLaughlin & Buie Housewrights based in East Greenwich in the past, so he was the first call the couple made to spearhead the project. Peter and Tom knew immediately they would like to create a master bedroom, do away with a peculiar, ill-fitting room off the hallway, and return the kitchen to its original location. The two oversaw nearly six months of renovations before even occupying the house. Once they did, the digs weren’t so glamorous either. “We were living in one room and had one bathroom,” says Peter, laughing. “That’s the nature of how renovations go.” Though the design and build process were moving swiftly along, there were discoveries along the way – as there seems to be with most historic home renovations.
The couple brought local contractor David Peckham on board. “We really wanted to work local as we were moving into this community,” says Peter. “No need to import anyone.” Together with David, the couple realized not all of the unseen discoveries were unwelcome. They uncovered hidden architectural details in nearly every room that they sought to reuse. The more Peter and Tom got to know David, the soon they realized that all three had a passion for adaptive reuse. Original timbers that were removed to raise the roof of the completely gutted bathroom were repurposed and fashioned into what looks like an original exposed beam in the living area and kitchen. “It aligns the spaces and adds character,” explains Peter. An antique door was removed and later affixed to a sliding barn door rail and old built-ins were used in shelving around the home in various applications. “David appreciated our sense of conserving the materials that were there but making [the home] 21st century living,” says Peter.
One of the most exciting repurposing projects was creating a wood panel feature wall made from previously removed barn board wood. “It was like doing a puzzle – we had the idea for it, then had to go through each panel and made a grid out of the boards,” says Peter. The result, though, is a beautiful focal point.
Today, more than a year and a half after purchasing the home, the couple is enjoying the spoils of their hard work. Peter says his favorite spaces are the kitchen/great room and the dining room. “I love these spaces for their simplicity, flow and design. I really like the way the colors flow – and the amount of natural light. For me, cooking and hosting friends and family for meals or special occasions is rewarding, and I think the comfort and ambiance of these spaces makes everyone feel welcome.”
Next up, the two avid gardeners hope to build a greenhouse from the home’s original windows and eventually, make the barn a guest suite. In the meantime, Peter and Tom are enjoying the “best of both worlds” in their historic country village and making new friends along the way. Peter adds that “all the stars have aligned.”