Newport Condo with Abstract Style

An abstract artist updates her space into a sophisticated home of her own


After building a successful career in the financial services industry, about eight years ago, Susan Hunter Petree treated herself to a trip to Santa Fe, and on a lark signed up for a three-hour painting class. Having never swooshed pigments before, Petree still recounts that transformative day with enthusiasm when she experienced something that simply lit her from within. “I went back to New York, quit my job, and put my apartment on the market,” she explains. “That is how I ended up in Newport, since I couldn’t afford to be an artist in NYC and friends suggested moving here,” says Petree, who was already familiar with Rhode Island, having spent some time visiting over the years.

Initially, Petree made her home in a traditional house with a studio on the top floor but craved more space to paint. “Taller ceilings!” says Petree, who happened upon a condo with cathedral ceilings. “I put a bid on it the day after I first saw it.” The condo did have some dated features, like yellow sinks and tubs, which were popular in the 1980s, and according to their new owner, needed to go. Petree made some structural changes – even more than she had anticipated – like putting in a new kitchen and tearing down the living room wall.

When it came time to decorate, Petree enlisted the help of Inside Style in South Kingstown, and Lee Chartier helped reimagine the space. “When I first met Susan and saw her wonderful paintings, I knew that they needed to be front and center in her home. So we chose furnishings and lighting that would support her work and complement it. The simple lines of mid-century modern period pieces were perfect with her abstract style,” says Chartier. Petree adds, “Lee helped me to find a little more modern style than what I had before.”

One of the things that attracted Petree to the condo was the natural light and throughout most of the home, she installed plantation shutters that offer privacy while still letting in lots of sun. She also prefers a neutral color story: “I have a lot of things my family and I have collected over the years so my style is really one of neutral calm to showcase my things. In addition, I am always rotating paintings in and out as I finish them and before they sell, so it’s important that the decorating style doesn’t fight with the colorful paintings,” she explains. “I like pops of color here and there but not a lot.”

Looking around, Petree smiles and says, “I love how this place turned out. Sophisticated yet very comfortable and homey. Great for entertaining if we ever get back to that!”


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