One might recommend that when it comes to life’s milestones, take one at a time. James and Janelle Gray, however, say, “bring it on.”
James had come across an expansive, wooded lot in Tiverton in the winter of 2010 that was simply too good to pass up, so he purchased it. “I knew we’d build a house there, but I wasn’t in a rush,” he explains.
He and Janelle had been together a few years but it was before they were engaged, so the two took their time, perusing home design plans. “I started looking online at a lot of house plans. I probably looked at 8,000 to 9,000 plans,” he says. “There was always something. We didn’t like something: the outside look, the floor plan.”
It was James’s mother, a real estate agent, who had attended an open house in Bristol and thought the design was one he and Janelle would like. The two liked the home’s smart layout and pleasing exterior so much they researched the builder and learned it was Bob Andreozzi of Barrington. Andreozzi met with the couple and also showed them a similar home he built for his daughter Karen. Taking their favorite features from both, Bob sketched out some designs for the couple who took the thumbnail to architect Robert Morin. A spacious kitchen, comfortable family room, luxury master bath and his and her walk-in closets topped the couple’s wish list. Right around this time, something else came along that had to do with wishes: an engagement.
“So while we were planning the wedding, we were planning the house,” Janelle says with a laugh. But she focuses on the positive that came along with managing the demanding experiences at one time. “I think if we had planned the wedding or the house at separate times, it would have driven us crazy. We only had time to create and finish tasks. The more time you have for something, the more you change things and debate,” she explains. “We went with instinct and what we agreed on and thankfully, it worked out. But the key was to divide and conquer. James was the general contractor on the house and I was general manager on the wedding. Keeping each other aware of all that we were deciding but calling the shots!”
Soon the couple broke ground and it was full speed ahead. Self-described as “really detail oriented,” (or as Janelle describes, “OCD”), James took on the role of general contractor, hiring Jamie Williams of The Carpenter Connection as the lead builder and Bob Murgo of Portsmouth as project manager. James did so while upholding his full time job, which demanded ten-hour days at times. “It was a lot on me… I’d do it again, but it was tough doing it,” he concedes. Working with and paying sub-contractors had to unfold before or after his regular day (or the occasional lunch break) and his weekends were more or less over before they even began. “So on Fridays came payday and we were all stretched out,” says Janelle. “It was so busy going to Home Depot every weekend!”
As the walls were being raised and the floors being laid, Janelle began to explore design options throughout the home where she had full reign – and quite a challenge – as she was tasked with merging she and her fiancé’s distinctive tastes. “James and I are very different, so making sure we were both happy was important to us. We both made some sacrifices to make sure we loved everything we purchased and had a finished home that represented both of us. We wanted our friends and family to come through our home and say ‘oh yes, I see James and Janelle here.’”
The vibe the home radiates? “Western-girl-meets-New-Yorker-who-lives-in-Newport,” says Janelle with a laugh. Somehow, her love of leather and his nod to all things nautical meld into one united, unique aesthetic.
The kitchen flows seamlessly into the living room intentionally as the couple noticed when living together that guests always migrate to the kitchen. White custom cabinetry and an oversized island offer a chic, cottage-meets-contemporary vibe. It may the most neutral space in the home as Janelle has a passion for eye-catching hues. “We’re completely different, I like color,” she says. But even in the kitchen, her dash of whimsy and James’s need for order coexist beautifully. “The kitchen, it makes me feel like ‘home’ between the gold wings and the gold mirror and floral chandelier. I feel like it was my room from childhood. It’s like ‘adulthood meets fairy enchanted forest!’ to me anyway.”
Janelle began sourcing furnishings and décor well before the home was completed, stashing newly-found treasures in the basement until they were placed in their proper spaces. “Restoration Hardware is my ultimate home shopping store. They have beautiful, well-crafted products – if it’s in the budget that week.” But she always has her eyes peeled for an amazing bargain or eclectic conversation starter. “HomeGoods is my daily go-to. I’m there at least three times a week. I am a Maxxinista at heart. There is something to say about grabbing that one find that no one else can get, or buying those pieces that look so random in the store, but perfectly complete your experience at home. I’m always trying to improve the look and feel of a room or theme. I never do anything half way; you have to fully commit.” And fully committed is what the couple became just about a month after the home was completed.
James and Janelle exchanged vows in Newport in October 2012, just one more merging of the couple’s tastes and lives.