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Home on the Wild Side

A busy couple finds a country retreat in Tiverton among stunning views and wildlife

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To say veterinarian Dr. Cathy Lund and her husband, pulmonologist Dr. Peter Karczmar, have demanding, high-pressure careers might be an understatement. It should come as no surprise then that the two, along with their irresistible cats Leroy, Luis and Carlos Danger, treasure the moments they can relax and unwind.

Around 15 years ago, the couple sought a bucolic retreat not far from Rhode Island’s capital city, so they turned to the East Bay. “We adored the Tiverton and Little Compton area and spent a couple years looking around there for a small house that we could escape to,” says Cathy, owner of City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats in Providence. Not much concerned about keeping up with the Joneses, the two were drawn to a teeny shack perched on a spectacular piece of land abutting Tiverton’s nature preserves. What it lacked in curb appeal it made up for in its extraordinary views. The house stood opposite a picturesque cove with the Sakonnet River just beyond. 

The house wasn’t exactly turn-key ready, and it’s a good thing the couple love animals. “The house was pretty decrepit, with no heat, a leaky roof, and orange shag carpeting and gaps between the walls that allowed mice and snakes to come and go as they pleased,” Cathy recalls. “But it worked for us, and we camped out there for years until we were able to save enough to work on the structure and apply for all the various permits that are required to build near the water.”

The permitting process, as it turned out, took even longer than they expected – years, in fact. The couple played the waiting game and took the opportunity to figure out how to build a house that reflected the area while maintaining the original structure’s footprint. “Luckily,” Cathy says, “we have a dear friend, Glen Fontecchio, who was just starting his own architecture practice at the time we were discussing how to design the new structure. Glen and I serve on the Providence Historic District Commission together, so he was very familiar with how Peter and I think about design.” The couple credits Fontecchio for designing a beautiful yet eclectic structure that reflected the serenity of Tiverton’s pastoral presentation. “And even though it is only 1,500 square feet, he managed to give us everything we needed in a compact yet expansive home,” says Cathy.

The charming two-bedroom, two-bathroom home features an unusual space Peter and Cathy call their “dining pavilion.” The building, separate from the main home, is used for entertaining, including intimate dinner parties. “We open all the doors and have a great time!” shares Cathy. Back inside, one shower has what some may consider a flaw but the couple sees as a sentimental homage. “Our colorful inside shower is fun and makes me happy when I see our late, lamented cat’s footprints immortalized in the ceramic clay – our cat Miguel stepped on the slabs.”

Another unique feature the couple adores is a second-floor deck off the master bedroom. The centerpiece of the space is the outdoor shower with stunning views over the cove. But it’s more than just the view that gets guests talking – it’s the très chic conversation piece there. “The shower fixture is from the Plaza Hotel in New York City,” reveals Cathy. “The cool old faucet set was removed and discarded when the hotel had its major condo conversion/renovation and now it has a new life in Tiverton.”

Peter and Cathy share an affinity for design trends from a mix of different time periods. “I think we are allergic in general to anything new,” says Cathy. The couple particularly enjoys scavenging in thrift stores, yard sales and salvage yards and looking for interesting and beautiful objects that speak to them. The pieces they bring home inspire the couple to be comfortable and happy in their surroundings. “Artwork and good visual design can be uplifting, and I think it is incredibly fun to find that right balance that makes you grateful and engaged when you are home,” shares Cathy. “That 1930s stove has cranked out many a yummy blueberry pie.”

Today, Cathy and Peter love every inch of the serene abode. “The whole house is pretty sweet,” and they “particularly love the kitchen, because doesn’t everyone love being in the kitchen?” Cathy jokes. The deck is also a favorite place to hang out as it gives the couple panoramic views, with a front-row seat to watching birds and other wildlife. “And the covered side porch has a Victorian-era swing that is perfect for watching hummingbirds with a cat on your lap,” Cathy adds.

Just as it was when the couple discovered it 15 years ago, Tiverton remains low-key and just their speed. “It’s home to many wonderful artists and interesting personalities,” says Cathy. “It is always fascinating to hear the variety of conversations when you’re out at a local restaurant or bar. The vibe is creative and liberal, and we’ve learned so many cool things from our friends and neighbors. Plus, the water birds, deer, chipmunks and other wild animals just outside our house provide endless entertainment for us and our cats."