Proven city dwellers, Michael and Jen Gazdacko adore their home on the West Side of Providence. In the urban Armory district, the couple manages a working farm complete with herbs, veggies, laying chickens and an apiary. But beyond gathering ingredients from their Barking Dog Farm for well-considered meals, the couple yearned for a quick getaway, a bucolic place where they could unplug both mentally and physically.
“I think we envisioned more of a beach home,” says Michael, who says the couple focused their second home hunt in Westport. One needn’t guess why. Settled in 1670, Westport is aptly named for its idyllic location: it’s the westernmost port in Massachusetts. Nearly 25% of the town is water (ponds and rivers are found throughout while the southern end of Westport borders Buzzards Bay). But Michael and Jen made an unexpected discovery during their home hunt. “We looked at everything on the market and this met all of our needs… in an interesting way,” explains Michael. The rustic log cabin-inspired retreat was built in 1979 and today, measures nearly 2,300 square feet, the result of an addition completed in the 1980s which added three more bedrooms and an additional bathroom. The grounds were equally compelling – the home is surrounded by 1.4 lush acres. It was everything their three-family Providence home wasn’t. “It’s on a really nice, quiet private lane; a u-shaped crushed shell driveway, a stone wall, all set back from the road,” he describes.
“If we weren’t going to have water, we wanted privacy, which it has,” explains Michael enthusiastically. While the renovation added substantial space, some of the design elements could best be described as “period specific.” The home, he says, was begging to be updated. The blue carpet had to go. And that was just the start. “There was a lot of linoleum,” Michael says with a laugh. Not afraid of a challenge, he enlisted some friends and the weekend warriors got to work ripping the outdated flooring up piece by piece. The old carpeting was rolled up and tossed while the new wall-to-wall hardwoods provided the varied spaces some much needed continuity and offered a polished, refreshing change.
Although part of the home had been painted in more recent times, it appeared to be selective, and the overall interior remained dark and dull. A fresh coat of paint was applied throughout, which better showcased the home’s open and airy atmosphere, none more so than in the living room where cathedral ceilings set the tone. “Jen has a really good eye for colors and things like that,” says Michael. “I think we painted every surface.” The result was a warm, welcoming and brighter palate. Other unexpected details also make an impression.
Jennifer set her eyes on an existing, oversized, built-in bookcase and had the vision to modernize it by painting the back of the case to contrast the shelving. The result is a refreshing, current vibe that adds sophistication to the room. “I had to tackle it – that was a weekend on its own,” says Michael, laughing.
Both the kitchen and the bathroom were updated with new cabinets and counters to make the aesthetic timelier, says Michael. “We touched just about every surface of the house last winter,” he says. The key, he reveals, was to get the flooring and painting completed first so that they could stay in the home while simultaneously working on it. “When I get into a project I just keep going,” he adds. While nearly everything was brought up to date, the home stops short of what could be considered contemporary in style. “It’s definitely not modern – nothing feels that way,” Michael says. Though there is plenty to catch the eye, the floor to ceiling fireplace takes center stage, comprising local fieldstones gathered decades ago around and near the home. It serves as the focal point while paying homage to the home’s pastoral surroundings and doesn’t have to be lit to exude warmth. “We usually stay in, cook, hang out in front of the fire and play games,” says Jen.
The dining room table, which Michael made with the help of a friend, is built from reclaimed lumber. It keeps in line with the rustic, cabin-meets-cottage style house, adding both interest and texture. “We thought that’d be a nice farm table touch,” explains Michael.
Two separate decks each take in the serene woodlands, a view so captivating it’s hard to image beloved Horseneck Beach is just ten miles away. “Our dogs and cat love it out there, too,” adds Jen. “We do still keep chickens and have gardens in
Providence but [we] don’t have anything like that planned in Westport – yet.”
Michael and Jen tackled the first round of landscaping this past year, removing overgrown shrubs and rhododendrons. “We dug those out and its now ready for fresh plantings,” says Michael, who plans on adding more sea grass and hydrangeas come spring.
Though most consider second homes so close to the sea to be summer escapes, Michael and Jen purposely approached the rustic Westport retreat as a year-round getaway that’s just close enough to be a nearby oasis after a long day of work in the capital city and just far enough to feel completely removed from the concrete jungle. “You can have a glass of wine and you hear nothing or you hear just the water in the distance or animals. The stars are as bright as anything. It really is beautiful,” describes Michael. “I love how relaxing it is to be in Westport,” adds Jen. “Even though it’s just 45 minutes away from Providence, it feels like a different world. I think our friends and family feel the same way – it’s an easy place to stay.”
This past summer, the couple didn’t spend quite as much time there as they had hoped, but as winter is around the corner, there is ample opportunity to get away and unwind in front of the fire.