As longtime fans of the popular home improvement television program This Old House, as well as the historic village of Westport Point, Rob and Peggy Lamoureaux were inspired to build a new home there that offered modern conveniences within a classic aesthetic. “A top goal was to have a new house that would look like it was here for 100 years,” explains Rob Lamoureaux, an engineer.
The couple’s title search traced back to a handwritten deed dated 1865. The property had apparently been owned by the town doctor, who sold back the land to the town for $50 so that a one-room schoolhouse could be built. After 65 years of serving the town’s children, Rob hypothesizes, it was probably carted off to “become someone’s woodworking shop.”
The couple worked closely with architect Dan Gifford of Coastal Architecture based in Marion, Massachusetts, and builder Ian Tripp of Tripp Custom Builders right in Westport, using photographs to best communicate their design ideas. “We walked [through] our Westport Point neighborhood and took an off-season trip to Nantucket, which gave us a large design vocabulary of photos,” says Rob. Then they’d show Gifford and Tripp, saying “more like this and less like that” quite a bit along the way.
The first challenge was obtaining the various permits needed in advance of digging the foundation. The process “is longer than you could ever anticipate,” concedes Rob. “The solution is patience and to do something productive. We bought items from architectural salvage stores and on Craigslist from Rhode Island to New Hampshire.”
Gifford, the architect, was asked to stay inside a 1500-square-foot guidance; Rob and Peggy felt that a smaller budget for the footprint would free up more dollars for upgraded materials and finishes. Gifford made several design suggestions to make the most of every inch. Knee walls throughout the second floor created cozy bedroom ceilings and allowed enough room for closets, a laundry space, and small windows for natural light to pour in. On the first floor, taller than average front windows seemingly elongate the home.
Tripp moved the project along by keeping the couple focused on each design decision ahead. He also gave Rob and Peggy homework, tasking them with visiting his suppliers to make purposeful, proactive design and finishing choices. “We would report back with the roof shingle color or the bathroom tile floor choice,” says Rob. Their tasks also kept them grounded. “There was no need to discuss my repurposed slate roof tile as a mudroom floor idea when we really needed to pick out windows,” explains Rob.
The formula kept the project progressing at a steady pace and everyone on the same page. An artist, Peggy was particularly cognizant of color choices and decided to keep things simple. “We limited color to the two bathrooms and the front door,” she says, “but there are a lot of choices within the color white.” Today, she especially appreciates the south-facing open floor plan which draws heat from a combination of the sun and the wood stove. “It is inviting, bright, and filled with music,” she describes, “a cheerful space for cooking and drawing.” For Rob, the layout is equally rewarding but in an entirely different way. “Our east-facing bedroom wakes us with the sunrise, while other small windows let in the pre-sunrise sounds of birds and the evening sounds of peepers and bullfrogs.”
Keeping the schoolhouse that stood there so long ago in mind, the couple paid homage to the past by incorporating new schoolhouse-inspired pendant lights in the kitchen as well as a vintage chalkboard. And one very special item “rings” true to the land’s past: the couple serendipitously acquired the original school bell used to call the children in for their lessons.
All in all, building their home from the ground up was a memorable experience for Rob and Peggy.
“It was a rewarding, creative outlet,” says Rob. “Since we plan on being here a long time, we won’t be going through it again.”