Centuries-old homes in Colonial-era seaport towns have their undeniable charms, but they also have their quirks: wide-plank wood flooring that’s become gently uneven over hundreds of years, narrow doorways that virtually promise any large furniture is coming in through a window or in pieces (or both), and slightly uneven spaces begging to be repurposed. Candice and Victor Sandman knew this when they moved into their circa 1790 Historic Hill home in Newport seven years ago, and thought they successfully turned what the previous owners used as an office into a second-floor laundry room.
Simply styled with a rug from Target and a nine-cube IKEA shelf system that functioned as spaces for washed and folded clothing for the couple and their two young children, the small room worked fine – until it didn’t. Unassigned cubes silently acquired beach towels, cleaning supplies, and other miscellaneous items without a place, mounds of dirty clothing would pile up quickly, and the lack of storage space waned on the homeowners. “The room where everything goes to die,” laughs Candice. “I had this dream: what if everything went away, and I had this peaceful space?”
What do you do when you live in an 18th century captain’s home and are committed to retaining its architectural integrity… but you need a laundry room to meet modern-day needs?
Candice reached out to Althea Tower, founder of Riveted Woodworking & Design based in Bristol, to rethink the space. “I was drawn to the fact that it was a female carpenter who was kind of kicking butt,” says Candice. “She had named her company Riveted, after Rosie the Riveter, and I thought, ‘I love everything about this woman and I’ve never met her.’”
Tower came back with two designs for a highly functioning laundry room with ample storage space. “She hit it out of the park from the beginning,” says Candice.
Tower, who custom builds every project, says the Sandman laundry room forced her to get creative. “Older homes like to throw us fun curveballs all the time, and Candice’s for sure was a whole new set of challenges,” she explains. While all homes settle and slope over time, this one has had more than 230 years to do so. Tower typically builds a lot of the components for a project in her Bristol workshop, but she spent more time on site for the laundry room. “This was on the second floor of an older home with a narrow staircase, so some things we had to build in pieces and assemble like a puzzle once we got there.”
“During install, we knew it would be complicated,” says Victor. “They had to account for the crazy floors and windows in this really old house.”
Tower laughs at some of the home improvement time-lapse videos online. “With a lot of the Instagram DIY stuff out there, it seems to be this, ‘Boom! It’s done,’ and that’s not the case, especially if you have an older historic home,” she says.
Using a laser in Tower’s workshop for cutting custom designs, Candice, a RISD grad, was able to tap into her creative side. “Together, we designed a pattern for her to laser cut into the radiator cover, which completely blends with the style of the rest of the house,” says Candice.
The result? A beautiful space with storage “beyond my wildest dreams,” says Candice, that provides “a calmness and appreciation for organization” in an otherwise utilitarian space. “I’m super proud of how it came together,” adds Tower.
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