Sometimes you just get a feeling that a certain place is where you are supposed to be. Eric and Michelle Turgeon were ambitiously house hunting as they were expecting their third child. When they came across a spacious five bedroom home in a coveted Barrington neighborhood, they knew that despite its outdated décor and some impractical room configurations, it was the one.
“This house spoke to us immediately,” explains Michelle, citing the large surrounding yard, family friendly community and close proximity to the beach.
“But more than that it had great mojo. You could feel that it had been a home filled with love. There was a hockey target practice taped on the basement wall which really warmed my husband’s heart and brought him back to his own childhood. So, we knew we had to act fast and make an offer.” The couple had learned that the seller was a widow who, with her husband, had raised her family there. The two came to understand that selling the home was a very sentimental decision for the woman, and they empathized. “In fact, I had written a letter to the sweet lady that lived here for many years and basically asked to her, ‘pick us.’ I really felt that it was a very emotional decision for both parties. And I wanted her to know that we would love the house and raise our three kids here, [just] as she had.” The Turgeons also told the homeowner to take as much time as she needed, but in truth, Michelle was very pregnant and the couple had already sold their home, so time wasn’t a luxury they had. But as fate always has its way, the homeowner took Michelle’s letter to heart, and the family of four, soon to be five, moved in.
Though they had a lot on their collective plates, Michelle and Eric quickly got to work on aesthetic changes and minor renovations to make the house their own. A landscape architect by training, Michelle had expanded her professional resume since moving from Florida to Rhode Island years ago to include interior design. “So I’m not afraid to take on renovations,” she says.
First the couple painted every room in the home. Literally. “We painted every surface, every wall, every trim and replaced all the doors,” says Michelle. “A lot of paint went a long way.” Next, they decided which immediate renovations were necessary as they both agreed they had to address what made the most sense for their family in the short term, but would wait until they lived in the house for some time before making radical changes.
They started by opening up the dining room to the kitchen to create a cohesive, well-flowing space. “It hadn’t been touched probably since the early ‘80s,” estimates Michelle. “There was an island and we painted it a bright turquoise and with chalkboard paint.” They also enclosed a breezeway, transforming it into a highly pragmatic mudroom. “There are finally places to put stuff with the storage bench and [there’s] lots of hooks. It’s the catch all.”
When it came to the design scheme, Michelle and Eric had to take into account the existing furnishings they’d acquired through the years, spaces that required new pieces and of course, their lifestyle. “We have a six and a half year old, a three and a half year old and a soon to be one and a half year old… and we have pets. The house gets a lot of wear and tear from little people and fur. I think we just surrendered to the fact that you can’t have anything too precious.”
Slipcovers, she says, have been a lifesaver, especially as Michelle was savvy and had them made in durable, outdoor fabrics. Michelle turned to Pernilla Frazier and Line Daem, owners of Kreatelier located on Providence’s East Side, to give new life to an old sofa and chair. Known for whimsical custom home décor services including window treatments, cushions and upholstery, the duo collaborated with Michelle to execute her vision which included fun, playful patterns. “I know when I’m working on someone else’s home, there are boundaries, but you’re essentially pushing someone else out of their comfort zone,” she explains. Though Michelle was confident in her choices, working with fellow co-creators, and bouncing ideas off of them, was a rewarding experience.
“Sometimes you need someone to say if your idea is okay or crazy when you’re hormonal,” she says with a laugh.
Being close to the shoreline clearly has its influence with nautical-inspired décor throughout that stops short of being kitschy. “We have a family love of the water and since we moved by the beach, we wanted the house to reflect a fun coastal vibe,” says Michelle. Part of that vibe includes objets d’art the couple have collected along the way. An example: some time back Michelle had spotted a captivating dining table top and bought it on site. Knowing it was extraordinary, they invested in the piece and turned to the talented O&G studio in neighboring Warren to craft the table’s legs. The couple also found the perfect space for the re-purposed street-signs-turned-art made by local artist Boris Bally.
“I just wanted every room to feel like a family room: very livable and not too precious,” says Michelle. “I like to change up my surroundings. I’m not afraid to put a million holes in the wall... I think people tend to get paralyzed with fear to put holes in the wall, especially after a fresh new paint job, but I think your home is an expression of the stage of life that you’re in. Right now we are heavy in all things that little kids, two dogs, a cat and a fish bring – lots of wear and tear. And we have fun. I like when people come into our house, look up and see a blue ceiling, or the chalkboard paint on our kitchen island, and are like ‘Wow... that’s really cool!”