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A Whimsical Retreat

One family creates an in-state vacation retreat in Little Compton.

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Rhode Island is an extraordinarily diverse state. Within its 48 miles north to south, and the 37 miles east to west, you can find yourself in the heart of a bustling city, on some of the most striking coastline in New England, or surrounded by the peaceful, bucolic confines of small, charming country towns.

Nearly 20 years ago, a busy Providence-based couple decided they were in need of a serene weekend retreat to escape their demanding careers and the hustle and bustle of city life. They also wanted to find a place where their three children could run, play and use their imaginations in a decidedly relaxed, purposely imperfect environment.

An old home bordering Little Compton’s Quicksand Pond and a short walk to the sweeping shores of Goosewing Beach was the idyllic locale. It was surrounded by 20 scenic acres, only the house wasn’t in the best shape. “We bought it and leveled it down to the footprint,” says the homeowner. After a significant renovation project, the family spent summers, weekends, holidays and more in the categorically unfussy home.

“It’s an extraordinarily special place,” she says. “It’s out in the middle of no place; no one can see it or even drive by it.” Its remote setting at the end of a dirt road was just the right balance to the busy, increasingly harried lifestyle the family enjoyed on the East Side. It’s so remote, the homeowner says with a laugh, that before Google Maps, on more than one occasion, delivery folks would call after doing a route and simply say they could not find the address despite multiple attempts.

“We wanted a place we could escape to, but could easily get back and forth from Providence,” she explains. They also wanted a place they could “simply sweep the sand out of” that was “nothing fancy.” Little Compton, however, is often associated with all things fancy. Sprawling estates, waterfront views, rolling green lawns and manicured gardens are not uncommon on this tiny peninsula, only the vibe is private, not pompous. Many of the town’s most desirable homes are tucked quietly behind trees and shrubs (and sometimes, gates). Nightlife is seemingly non-existent while chain stores restaurants are noticeably absent – and that’s exactly the way residents seem to like it. So it came as no surprise when this homeowner’s daughter chose the family property to tie the knot in 2014.

As what happens when a milestone event is literally about to unfold in your backyard, the homeowners wanted to make a few updates around the home and property. They turned to Pernilla Frazier, co-owner of Kreatelier on Providence’s Hope Street (her business partner is Line Daems) who specializes in window treatments and interior accents. “Her whimsical style speaks to this house,” says the homeowner. “I said ‘whatever you want to do.’ She really got how we are – nothing fussy or pretentious. Her style speaks for itself.”

The two had met when Pernilla and Line just launched Kreatelier eight years ago and Pernilla brought fresh pieces, soft goods and striking, sometimes unexpected fabrics to the homeowner. “We gradually worked our way through all the rooms and then a new frenzy before the wedding last year,” says Pernilla, who was also familiar with the aesthetic in the homeowner’s Providence dwelling.

“Their East Side home is a traditional Victorian with more confined rooms, whereas the Little Compton house has an open flow, no privacy issues and a very relaxed feel,” says Pernilla. “It is still a very classically elegant home, not modern per se, and some of the decor is traditional. The big difference is the irreverent mix of colors and design that we have added.”

And that didn’t mean sourcing all new pieces, Pernilla explains. The designer reupholstered old, dated chairs with colorful and quirky fabrics. Bold, easy to maintain pillows are spread around the house which lends a refreshing, summertime feel without the ubiquitous nautical elements found throughout many coastal homes in the Ocean State.

“What has also made the collaboration so unique is the work on [the homeowner’s] vast quilt collection,” says Pernilla. “Over the past eight years I have restored, revamped, patched, modernized and altered a huge number of vintage quilts, adding to the welcoming feel in every bedroom.”

In some cases, like this one, say Pernilla, less can be more. With striking views from seemingly every window, Pernilla knows when to let Mother Nature take center stage. “[That’s] the main reason that we have very few window treatments,” she says with a laugh.

The flurry of pre-nuptial activity wasn’t limited to just the indoors either. The family of five cleared a swathe of land on the property to accommodate the reception tent. The wedding, which took place in June of last year, was everything they hoped it would be and more.
But it really isn’t a surprise. The homeowners have been welcoming family and friends at the dreamlike property for years, and love every minute of informal entertaining. Pulling up an extra table and chairs to accommodate guests who perhaps added a few more friends to the mix is still a welcome surprise.

Pernilla best describes the ambiance at the homeowner’s Little Compton compound as “easy living.” She says, “The house looks like an old home, but is has all the conveniences of a modern home with mud rooms, ample storage and a well-planned flow.”