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Embracing the eclectic in a modern New England cottage

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Nestled a little ways back from a winding road in the woods of Tiverton lies the happy homestead of couple Patrick Jackson and Tricia Talbot, two high school teachers who have made their bucolic two bedroom, 2,000-square foot “modern New England cottage” a home over the past decade. While it was Patrick’s father who built the house with his son’s careful input just over 10 years ago (which afforded the luxury of hand-crafted built-ins and custom design), the couple put their artistic stamp on the domicile by embracing an unapologetic and refreshing approach.

“The idea was to echo the trees in front and let the sun work with the lattice,” says Patrick of the exterior. “We wanted the porch and the foyer to give people ample time to get acclimated but also to give them a chance to flee if they don’t like what they see.”

Before Jackson and Talbot began to decorate their home, they worked with Jackson’s father to design a layout that was less trendy and more thoughtful than most. “The priority, creatively enough, was that I didn’t walk in the house and see any kind of stairs,” he says with a laugh. ”It annoys me personally.” An in-your-face stairway, he explains, is not the apropos introduction to their unique space. A roomy foyer serves as an area where guests can take in the home and its spatial offerings. “[We] wanted to give people options,” he explains. While kitchens serve as the heart of the home in most cases, Jackson concedes they are hard to design in a creative way. Guests, he says, naturally explore the “more interesting” parts of the house – the living areas. Regardless of where friends and family hunker in, the couple wants all to feel comfortable and share an appreciation for its flow.

Years ago, Patrick’s brother serendipitously wandered into the intriguing Van Ward Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine, where owner Chris Caraviello soon asked the accidental art appreciator if he was related to his once-roommate Patrick. The resemblance was uncanny, Caraviello noted, and soon the two were reunited, realizing they both had an analogous affinity for the eclectic. His old pal’s gallery soon became Jackson and Talbot’s favorite place to shop for unique finds. “Chris has supplied us with all our art and helped create a gallery look that can withstand a good party,” Jackson explains, and many can attest. With treasures found throughout the past two decades at Water Street Antiques in Jackson’s Rhode Island hometown of Warren (what Jackson dubs the “John Devine Experience”), both the new and the old pieces combine to fashion what the couple would loosely describe as a “free verse” aesthetic.

“He just has, by far, the most interesting art,” Jackson praises Caraviello. “I would go so far as to say that he’s the best in New England... he’s just found these artists that really appeal to our taste.” One person who has wowed the couple is Erich Cicione of Rhode Island, who designed and built all the tables throughout the home in addition to the spacious deck. “When Erich showed up 10 years ago with two industrial tables, we were a little scared,” Jackson concedes, “but by the time he recommended the live edge furniture, we knew enough to trust him.” Also known as “natural edge,” live edge is a furniture style that most often includes reclaimed, salvaged wood with raw edges intact, offering an unmanufactured, authentic appeal. The couple admits to being pushed to their taste limit with the pieces, then later embracing the original but intriguing risk. “I firmly believe... you need people who challenge your views to what you naturally fall into; you need someone who is persuasive and talented,” Jackson explains. “To have someone who purely appeals to ego would be a disservice to the space,” he says.

Each separate and distinct room has been designed around the art, which includes pieces from Cicione’s gallery, the custom tables and more. “The paint, rugs and furniture were all chosen to serve the art,” he says. “We love the juxtaposition of a contemporary painting with an interesting art deco piece.” There’s not one theme or medium the couple collects, says Jackson, but rather, there’s an appreciation for things that can figuratively stand on their own two feet and make their own statement. Collecting, says Jackson, is a hobby that anyone (whether intentional or not) can do. The distinction, he explains, is whether people choose to collect interesting things that endure, “or crap that falls apart the second you buy it,” he says with a chuckle.

While most pieces they bring home are from a far off place, they do appreciate local talent as well. The teacher is quick to point out the work of Rhode Island’s own C.W. Roelle, a visual artist whose work is perched in Jackson and Talbot’s dining room. The handiwork of artist Victoria McGeoch is evident with a stunning wire sculpture that looks at home on the Jackson/Talbot dining room table. “The goal was to create a gallery experience where people can enjoy art from any point in the house. It gives us and guests the opportunity to slow down and to meditate on some art, whether for a second or an hour.”