Home Tour: Newport

When a summer house became a primary residence, the attic got a second look

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Newport’s Cliff Walk is a popular spot for romantics, nature lovers, and thrill seekers and it’s where Elise and Gregg Thomas got engaged. “Right on the cliffs!” says Elise, with palpable glee. Married 25 years, the crags that buffer the Atlantic always held a special place in their hearts, so when a house came on the market not far from the place known for taking giant leaps, the couple jumped. “We’ve always loved the area. It is a very sentimental and special place for us.”

The quintessential New England Cape Cod-style home is nestled in blue hydrangeas, boasts water views from a rooftop deck, and is a short walk to a deeded beach around the corner from Castle Hill. While perfect in so many ways, the Thomases have enlisted help over the eight years since taking ownership from Newport-based designer Solange Richards of Solange Marie Design, LLC. “I met with them right after the closing, and Elise and I immediately hit it off. I’ve been working with them ever since!” says Richards. “We started with a full renovation of the boys’ bathroom, then a facelift of the first-floor half bath, then added an outdoor shower.”

Most recently, COVID prompted an attic renovation that resulted in creating two new spaces. “This is their summer home, but COVID brought them here full time. Gregg needed a space to work that wasn’t the kitchen table. There was an attic space above the first-floor primary bedroom – we just had to figure out how to access it from below,” says Richards, who credits Herk Works Architecture and Merk Structural Consulting with helping make it work, while Mike Biestek, owner of Remodeling Right in Portsmouth, managed the renovation. “The joke is that Elise’s sitting area, a part of the attic we didn’t anticipate being able to use due to structural constraints, is actually larger than the office!” 

Throughout the home, decor is a mix of clean and simple lines, which Richards defines as a fresh take on the traditional New England beach cottage. “Less clutter and more calm. You can select a few pieces you truly love and let them stand out. I think it’s obvious you’re by the beach when you step inside this house – not because you’re overwhelmed with kitschy beach decor, but more the overall tone of the home. Comfortable furniture, coastal colors and textures, and a general sense of calm. Of course, we throw in a few collected stones, shells, and sea glass,” notes Richards with a smile.

“It’s a comfortable space for family. They come here to relax and be together. As soon as you walk through the door, you feel like you’re on vacation.” 

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