Divine Reinvention

A Bristol couple's new home mixes old with new


When Gerry and Barbara Vachon were looking to downsize from their expansive 4,000 square foot Massachusetts home to a cozier Rhode Island cottage by the sea, they turned to the captivating community of Bristol. Though willing to sacrifice space, they weren’t willing to compromise on function or character. “We were looking for a place with an open concept, but all we found at first were condos,” explains Gerry. “We wanted something kind of new.”

The couple’s hopes and needs merged at Sea Star, a stylish but comfortable home perched on the edge of Narragansett Bay, adjacent to the Bristol Highlands Improvement Association. Just five years old when they bought it, the home had a fresh appeal that enticed the Vachons, especially with its open floor plan and the 44 windows that capitalized on the panoramic views of the glistening bay. “We came in here and fell in love with it,” says Gerry with a smile.

“The home’s builders were very thoughtful and very good,” Barbara chimes in. Single-level living, two spacious bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and a two-car garage make the home ideally situated to their lifestyle. But, like any nesters, the couple was eager to make the adjustments needed so that the home would truly feel like their own. Though already elegantly appointed and in turnkey condition, the couple looked to Glenn Marr of Living Design in Warren to help integrate their existing furnishings and décor with the new surroundings, and to locate complementary antiques that would offer a polished, comprehensive aesthetic.

“We had no intention of re-designing our entire home when we asked Glenn to decorate our master bedroom,” explains Barbara. “While creating that masterpiece, he made suggestions regarding other rooms and we just could not resist.”

Gushing over Glenn’s talents, Barbara met the highly-touted designer in a serendipitous way: he was working on a project next door. By the time he made his way through the Vachon’s Sea Star, he had spent nearly a year there. Though they had bought some new pieces for the home, it was Glenn’s talented eye that was able to tie it all together. “He only got rid of a few chairs and a few lamps – and a few oriental rugs,” says Barbara with a laugh, conceding that the rugs may have been the most difficult items to part ways with. “After considering our lifestyle, he blended our furnishings with a few antique pieces, added interesting moldings and created a soft color scheme that flows and blends from room to room. We are so much more comfortable!”

The master bedroom, the first leg in the home’s reinvention, gave the Vachons a peek into the mind of the designer. “In each room he chose something to be the focal point, and in this room, he chose the rug,” explains Barbara, pointing to the plush carpet underfoot that’s awash in a spray of bold hues, contrasted with subtle shades. “Crushed raffia” is the wall color, a restful green that morphs to khaki as the sunlight changes. The soft tone complements the sky and sweeping water view, which regardless of the luxurious bedding (made by Glenn), will always take center stage. The existing en suite bath, a soft pumpkin color, was modified slightly with the installation of marble countertops and new whimsical light fixtures with frosted glass sculpted to resemble face cloths. The mirrors were framed, and crown and decorative molding were added. “The house didn’t have any molding, so we put it in ourselves,” adds Barbara.

The kitchen too, was a space that was given a fresh look with some added touches – new and extended countertops, tile and light fixtures including pendant lighting over the counter space that allows for bar stools. The extra seating is particularly handy when the Vachon’s grandchildren – there are seven of them – pause their clamming adventures in the bay out back to refuel with a quick sandwich. Off the kitchen is the breakfast room, which the couple admits isn’t the most widely used space in the home but is helpful when family is in town for an extended stay. With a rich coral wall color (called “Savannah”), dark wood furnishings and accent décor including a mounted brass porthole, the room makes for the perfect bar area when the couple entertains.

The kitchen blends seamlessly into the dining room and living room, both of which are made less formal with sisal rugs that define the separate spaces and add a touch of coastal flair. A set of the couple’s chairs from their former home were reinvented with new upholstery, boasting an embroidered “V” design. Artwork by local talents grace the walls and a fireplace lends a cozy feel in spite of the 14-foot cathedral ceilings. Barbara explains that Glenn came with an assistant in tow one day and summoned most of their pieces to one space. Little by little, she explains, after he had fully evaluated their collection, everything found its new home. A large pair of patinaed ducks, for example, are now perched on the corner space at the edge of the master soaking tub. Barbara acknowledges it would have never occurred to her to put them there, but it works. “He just used our stuff differently,” she says.

In the entry, wide-set stripes in alternating muted tones of yellow and white conjure up images of an elegant beach cabana while hand-stamped gold bumblebees add a fanciful touch – all Glenn’s conception. A hand-painted compass rose on the ceiling that allows entrance into the main living space is a nod to the dramatic water views that await.

While the Vachons use most every space in the home, the area they may feel most at home in is the den. Grasscloth wall coverings in the color of the sea add a decidedly natural element while framed photos pepper the built-in bookshelves surrounding the second fireplace. Above the mantle, a television is mounted; it is not hard to imagine the family gathered around enjoying a drink and a good laugh.

Now complete, the Vachons describe their home as beautiful, open, fresh and perhaps most of all, tranquil. “Our association with Glenn and his fabulous staff has developed into a warm and caring friendship,” says Barbara. “We hated to see the project end.”

bristol, the bay, home decorating, narragansett bay, gerry vachon, barbara vachon, sea star, glenn marr, living design, warren


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