Before they even knew each other, Elizabeth and Dave Norton had much in common. Both Rhode Island natives raised in Barrington, the two shared a love of the ocean. “We both grew up on the docks of Barrington Yacht Club,” explains Elizabeth. It only made sense then, that after the two met and married, they settled in the City-by-the-Sea.
Newport was the perfect fit for the Nortons, and it’s where, in 2010, they launched Lemon & Line, a nautically-inspired bracelet line for men and women. The rope bracelets, made with marine grade materials, has grown to include an impressive selection of styles and colors. In 2014, the Nortons opened Lemon & Line’s flagship shop on Newport’s famed Thames Street and today, the brand has expanded to include accessories like key fobs, belts, caps and totes.
But after they had their daughter Elle, Elizabeth and Dave decided to look for a home with more room and space to landscape located in a quieter town. The couple discovered a unique situation in Portsmouth’s Common Fence Point, a cozy coastal enclave perched on the northernmost tip of Aquidneck Island in the middle of Mount Hope Bay. The home, built in the 1940s, had been considerably renovated, but still left some room for improvement. “[The previous owners] basically gutted the entire thing and added a substantial addition... they had a great eye for architecture and they were able to preserve some of the original features like the fireplace,” explains Elizabeth. Unfinished details and a kitchen that demanded a complete overhaul gave them pause, however. Still, Elizabeth was all in. Dave needed more convincing.
“I instantly fell in love with it. I think Dave was a little more reluctant... He was a little overwhelmed,” she says. But the couple has spotted diamonds in the rough before. In fact, when they first visited what would become their Newport home, it was Elizabeth who was the hesitant one. But together they made the house a loving – and beautiful – home. “We call it ‘Nortonizing’ it,” Elizabeth says, laughing, conceding that the tongue-in-cheek description means basically making the most of every space. The Common Fence Point house’s enviable water view, and Elizabeth’s persistence, helped convince Dave this was “the one.” “I loved the bones of it,” Elizabeth says.
Soon, the couple was hard at work on the summer-cottage-turned-permanent-home. “I think one of the challenges that we faced was that there were a number of unfinished nooks and crannies around the house. The previous owners were fans of using oversized armoires to fill these spaces. Dave and I prefer a little more of a purposeful and streamlined look, so we turned to custom woodworking. Years of maintaining a ‘73 Pearson sailboat has really honed Dave’s skills as a woodworker,” says Elizabeth.
The couple rolled up their sleeves and, project by project, transformed one space at a time. But they also knew when to let the pros do the heavy lifting. The Nortons turned to JPS Construction and Design of Middletown to give the dated kitchen an entire new look and feel. The team added new cabinetry and installed a glass tile backsplash, both of which aesthetically complement dual built-ins in the kitchen as well.
“We built a dining space in the kitchen with custom benches and a maple table,” continues Elizabeth. “We also created a recessed desk area in the kitchen. I call it the control center of our home. It’s where we keep our family’s calendar of activities, mail and Elle’s most recent works of art.” This past fall, the Nortons decided it was time to address the seriously deficient mudroom. “When we moved in, there was already an entryway at the back door with a tiled floor, but it lacked storage. So Dave and I built a custom bench and installed shiplap on the wall with cleats to hang jackets,” says Elizabeth. The style and function of the space-saving solution became one of Elizabeth’s favorites, as has the room itself. “I think I’d shiplap my entire house if I could, but for now it’s only in the mudroom.” Avid sailors, the space is ideal for all the gear, clothing and footwear traipsing in and out of the house this time of year, but the mudroom truly proved its worth early on. “To be honest, I don’t know how we lived without a mudroom. It certainly came in handy this past winter when we all came in covered in snow and could just hang everything to dry,” says Elizabeth.
The home improvements extended to the outside as well. The Nortons created a patio and devised a landscape plan for the property. “Besides interior design, I really enjoy landscape design and gardening. I absolutely love getting my hands dirty,” says Elizabeth. “I’ve learned everything I know about decorating and gardening from my mom, Linda. She has shared her passion for beautiful spaces with me and I can’t thank her enough. Even though she still gets on me if I hang a picture too high!”
The Nortons took a cue from their coastal surroundings when it came to the color palette and general aesthetic throughout the house. “I’m into clean lines, minimal clutter – tough with a three year old!” says Elizabeth. In fact, it’s Elle’s room that takes a bold departure from the otherwise muted tones as the three year old is surrounded by vibrant coral-hue walls.
Despite all the beauty within, this time of year the view of the glistening Sakonnet River takes center stage, which is why the trio spends much time on the wrap-around farmer’s porch taking it all in.