Home on the Ranch

A Newport couple downsized to a just-right empty nest


Like many empty-nesters, Lori and Jack Crimmins looked around the home where they joyfully raised their children and concluded they simply didn’t need all that extra space anymore. No strangers to renovations large and small, the couple embarked on a house hunt, which led them to Newport.

The City by the Sea is well known for its grand mansions, historic clapboard homes and century-old abodes, but the Crimminses found themselves drawn to one of the least prevalent home designs found in this charming coastal enclave: a ranch.

“We had never done a ranch and it was really exciting to find something that suited our place and time right now,” explains Lori. While the 1950s home may have fit the couple’s “place and time,” it didn’t do so in the fashion it had been left by the previous owners. Though in fine condition, the living spaces lacked a sensible flow, the bedrooms were especially small and the kitchen woefully outdated. “We knew we could never do the square footage as-is,” says Lori. Outside, the property was also sorely underutilized. Yet, none of these less-than-perfect factors could convince the couple to look elsewhere and they closed on the home at the end of 2013. By the following spring’s thaw, plans for a partial second floor addition were in place and the downstairs demo was in full swing. Now complete, the new section of the home features three spacious bedrooms and a full bathroom. Despite the newly added square footage, the plan intentionally kept the home’s ranch style in place. “We didn’t go over the garage as we didn’t want it to look like a colonial,” explains Lori. Jack acted as general contractor while JPS Construction and Design in Middletown did the heavy lifting.

On the main level, which was the complete original home, the couple took stock of what their needs may be long term and how they could modify the bedrooms and living spaces to accommodate those musts. “We did the typical master suite conversion thing everyone seems to be doing,” says Lori. To accomplish this, the couple worked alongside their architect, Daniel Architects, Inc. from Wayland, MA, who they had done numerous renovations with in their former home in Massachusetts. The trio agreed accomplishing a master suite would require sacrificing a bedroom to create a generous space accompanied by an equally compelling master closet and master bath. The remaining bedroom was transformed into a study/den. In the main living spaces, the walls that once compartmentalized the kitchen, living room and dining room were eliminated to create a warm, open space where the designated cooking, dining and gathering areas flow together with seamless ease. “We completely re-did the kitchen starting with custom cabinetry,” explains Lori, adding that the pieces were finished in a gray hue. “It’s simple, in terms of a bank of cabinets, because we have a great pantry for storage.” The color palette in the kitchen revolves around the gray cabinets crafted by Heartwood Cabinetmakers of Holliston, MA which lends a cottage feel but stops short of more literal, cottage style interpretations.

Though by and large a straightforward project, like any renovation, unforeseen challenges arose from time to time. Hands down the most unexpected, and perhaps a first for contractors, the Crimminses learned half of their house was located in a flood zone. Soon a team of engineers from Waterman Engineering Company in East Providence came to the house to study its peculiar predicament. The team confirmed the house was on a slight pitch and they developed a strategy to functionally raise half of the back yard and patio. The landscape design was planned by Thomas Wilhelm of Boston while the landscaping was completed by Grasshopper Lawn & Landscape in Newport. All in all, it was an expense the couple didn’t foresee, but a correction they believe will pay dividends long term (including eliminating the need for flood insurance).

When it came to creating the aesthetic for the home, Lori embraced the opportunity to decorate the new and refreshed spaces all the while keeping in mind there was no need to reinvent the wheel. “I tried to reuse as much stuff as I had from my old house because we literally went down half in size,” she says. “Of course, the style was different than what I was used to… and with it being a 1950s ranch, we wanted to pay homage to that style with some modern mid-century furnishings.” Lori also wanted the décor and design to make sense with the home’s surrounding environs – a coastal area. “Being in a beach community, we also wanted to keep it easy and clean.”

The result is a sensible blend of styles that merges contemporary living with whimsical style. “I read a lot of shelter magazines but don’t watch the HGTV shows so much – we don’t have cable. I know the trend is gray and beige and combinations of the two, and I used those colors as a base,” she says, adding Parvo’s Paint in Middletown helped with the specific shades. Swaths of color, including green (Jack’s favorite), are found throughout the carefully chosen home accessories like the sustainable throw pillows by Oliveira Textiles based in Bristol and green glass buoys. Lori sources from a variety of local shops including Cottage & Garden and Seashells in Bloom in Newport, Epilogues in Bristol, West Marine in Middletown, Colonial Mills in Pawtucket, Cory Farms in Portsmouth, Onochoko and Donna Neville Custom Framing in Warren and Re Antiques in North Kingstown.

“Rancho Relaxo,” the couple affectionately call their abode, is now complete, and Lori says she simply loves everything about it, including her Newport community and exceptional neighbors. Explains Lori, “We love to relax at night. During the colder months in the living room with the wood stove burning and then in the warmer months move to the patio with a fire pit burning at night.”