HOME TOUR: Newport

Empty nesters forgo downsizing to enjoy a luxe life in an 1855 Victorian

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When Linda and Rick Sticca were ready to retire, thoughts led to moving away to someplace warm all year long to play tennis and golf. Both are originally from New York but spent most of their adult lives in Rhode Island where they raised their family of three now-grown children in a five-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot suburban home in East Greenwich. After much consideration and some self-reflection, they realized they are happiest in the Ocean State, near family and friends, and that retirement didn’t need to mean becoming secluded. Newport checked all the boxes and so the house hunt began on Aquidneck Island.

With thoughts set on downsizing, the search began with small, oceanfront listings. Last summer, son Brandon came home from Miami for an extended visit and became heavily involved in the house-hunting process. After viewing multiple cottages in Newport and Middletown which were close to the water but away from everything else, Brandon suggested his parents reconsider their parameters and lobbied for a property right in the thick of the action in the City by the Sea. Linda immediately shot down the idea of moving into another large home, especially one built in 1855, until she saw the stately house.

The home was fully gutted and renovated in 2015. What initially caught the Sticcas’ eye was the open floor plan throughout the first floor. The foyer, dining room, and kitchen are essentially one large open room, separated only by a grand curved staircase in the foyer. On the other side of a wall in the dining room, the previous owners had an in-law suite made up of a small living room, even smaller bedroom, and a full bathroom. Brandon immediately knew the current configuration would not work for his parents and suggested combining the bedroom and living room space to make one large “cocktail lounge” and turning the full bath into a stylish powder room.

With a plan underway, the Sticcas were ready to call in the experts and turned to Lee Chartier of Inside Style, a design firm based in Wakefield and known for elegant interiors. Among other changes, Chartier prescribed a Parisian feel for the spaces earmarked to convert into the lounge. “They wanted to use the space as a relaxing place to sit, reflect, read, and have cocktails,” says Chartier. “The space has an elegant feel but at the same time is very comfortable and welcoming.”

“When we originally purchased the home, the 2015 renovation looked too new,” says Brandon. “When we renovated, we wanted to make sure our choices were made carefully and with respect to the history of the home.” Doors from nearby Aardvark Antiques were pulled from the Astor’s Beechwood Mansion and inspired elements of “old Newport” back into the home. “The elegant and intricate design of the doors and hardware screamed ‘Gilded Age Newport’ and forced us to carefully select other design elements in the lounge room and kitchen / dining room. Where we couldn’t purchase antique pieces, we had to be very selective when buying new to avoid clashing.”

Taking her design cue from the coveted doors, Brandon shares that Chartier was at the helm. “Lee was a color genius and made all the final decisions. We knew we wanted to keep it light, neutral, clean, timeless,” Brandon explains of the residence – the James L. Hazard House – and a past winner of the prestigious Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission’s Rhody Award. “The antique French style allowed us to pull from the history of the home, while keeping the ‘light’ feeling alive.”

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