This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.
A diamond in the rough—“with emphasis on the ‘rough’!” That’s how This Old House host Kevin O’Connor summed up the 1890s Queen Anne in Narragansett, RI, when he first toured it last spring. Just under a year later, the house has been transformed, with a state-of-the-art 21st-century interior and a pristine, faithfully restored exterior.
New Meets Old
Painting contractor, exterior: Dennis Moffitt Painting; Paint: Sherwin-Williams; New windows: Marvin; Roof: CertainTeed; Vapor barrier: VaproShield; Siding: SBC Cedar; Garage door installation: Garage Headquarters; Garage door: Overhead Door; Garage door opener: LiftMaster; Lawn equipment (not shown): Kubota
The elaborate shingle and trim details on the mudroom/garage addition precisely match the carefully restored historical facade on the original portion of the house. The original seaside cottage, built circa 1890 (left); A new mudroom and laundry room connector (center); The garage addition with a bedroom suite upstairs (right).
A subject of TOH ’s 42nd television season, the renovation addressed decades of neglect, saving what could be saved, replicating the rest—while working under newly formulated Covid-19 restrictions. TOH home builder Jeff Sweenor and his crew meticulously rebuilt the exterior, opened up the cramped interior spaces, and added 800 square feet of new construction.
- Restored original stained-glass windows bring dramatic color and sunlight into the dining area. Gold and brass accents are repeated throughout the interior, here in the chandelier and in the bar area to the right. Dining table and chairs: Boston Interiors; Light fixture: Generation Lighting; Steel beams: West Warwick Welding Nat Rea
- Colorful stone in the chevron backsplash behind the bar picks up the gold accents in the black bar cabinet and the bright tones in the stained-glass windows of the dining nook. Nat Rea
- At the rear is one of the few remaining partition walls in the downstairs portion of the main house; the owners decided to keep the wall mostly empty to display art and family memorabilia. That still left space for a fireplace and large-screen TV. Nat Rea
The result is still a jewel, but it’s more than a piece of history; it’s now a house ready for another century of service, in the modern era, with a full array of amenities for new homeowners Michael and Kassiane Campopiano, and their son, Giulian, 10, and daughter, Lucia, 7.
To open up the floor plan, five small downstairs rooms were combined into two—a family room and a kitchen/dining area—with a skeleton of steel beams buried in the ceiling to provide needed support. Upstairs, partition walls were reframed to create a new bedroom-and-bath layout.
Across a newly built connecting passage is Michael and Kassiane’s bedroom suite. On the first floor of the connector leading to the garage is a mudroom, a half bath, and a laundry area; an adjacent cabana space serves a backyard loaded with new features.
- New windows made in the Queen Anne style and pale finishes throughout bring an airy serenity to the main bedroom, accentuated by the raised ceiling. Gold notes in the chandelier are repeated in the furnishings. New windows: Marvin; Chandelier: Generation Lighting Nat Rea
- A sliding barn door opens to provide access from the main bedroom to the adjoining dressing closet and bath. Nat Rea
- Removing a small attic created overhead space in the son’s bedroom for a loft play or sleepover space. A window placed up high boosts daylight. Bedding: Creative Threads; Artwork: South County Art Association Nat Rea
- Opening up the small attic created space for this hideaway loft in a child’s bedroom, ready for play, study, quiet reading, or a sleepover. Nat Rea
The compact kitchen—“small but mighty, like me!” says 5-foot-tall Kassiane—opens onto a dining area whose hallmark is a bay lined with original stained-glass windows, now painstakingly restored. Saving the original windows throughout the house was a major undertaking.
“Some of them were in really bad shape,” Jeff says. “And they all needed work.” A steam box constructed in the Sweenor Builders shop softened the layers of paint and putty so they could be scraped clean for restoration. For the new portion of the house, custom dual-glazed windows were built to replicate the Queen Anne–style, divided-light originals.
TOH Pro Tip
- The expansive living room was created by removing partition walls and inserting load-carrying steel beams to support the upper-floor spans. The gas fireplace and large TV screen create a focal point for the room. Painting contractor, interior: Happy Trees Painting; Paint: Benjamin Moore; Woodwork: Baird Brothers Fine Hardwoods; Furniture: Boston Interiors; Fireplace surround: Polycor; HVAC: Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems Nat Rea
- The first-floor redesign created long sight lines and clear traffic flow. This view from the front entry into the kitchen, past a storage nook in the living room, illustrates this feeling of space. Nat Rea
- An armchair tucks comfortably into the windowed bay of the living room, space taken from what was part of the original home’s porch. Built-in cabinets flank the gas fireplace. Nat Rea
“To make the original single-pane windows more energy efficient, we added exterior storm windows. That should improve their energy efficiency by as much as 20 to 30 percent.” —Tom Silva, general contractor
Sweenor Builders interior designer Kristen Martone took the lead when it came to establishing the design themes. In the kitchen, Kassiane wanted white cabinetry, so they chose white Shaker-style doors around the kitchen perimeter. “White is also beachy,” says Martone, “and the house is right down the street from the water. So I wanted that coastal feel.”
The island’s contrasting espresso-hued cabinets have gilded molding on the inset door and drawer fronts, which is echoed in the gilding on the range hood. Martone says, “I pulled the gold out of the stained-glass windows to create kind of an old-world feel.” The gold theme continues in the veining on the quartz countertops and the brass light fixtures. Throughout, the color palette is light and neutral, which is reflected in the choice of pale engineered white oak flooring laid in a herringbone pattern on the first floor. “It’s not a big space,” says Martone, “so I didn’t want it to be heavy.”
- Removing several partition walls created space for an open-plan kitchen/dining area. The kitchen island serves as a center for food prep and casual eating and drinking. Gold light fixtures echo gold accents in the black finish on the kitchen island cabinets. Nat Rea
- The new open-plan layout of the kitchen/dining area offers long sight lines and a feeling of spaciousness and conviviality. At rear is the pro-style range and vent hood. Nat Rea
- What was an attached outhouse some 130 years ago is now a convenient and practical storage pantry, hidden behind tall cabinet doors. Nat Rea
- “Small but mighty” is how homeowner Kassiane Campopiano describes her new kitchen. At right is a pro-style range. At the rear, a window over the sink looks out onto the backyard. Nat Rea
- Modern appliances blend effortlessly with the white Shaker-style cabinetry in the new kitchen. At rear is the door to the pantry, which was once an outhouse attached to the historic home. Kitchen appliance installation: Accurate Appliance Installations Nat Rea
Smart controls are installed throughout the house, integrated by a Wi-Fi brain that lives in an equipment rack in the crawl space, along with an amplifier that’s connected to a dozen speakers around the house and in the backyard, including two “invisible” speakers buried in the living room ceiling. Each of the five touch panels is equipped with a microphone, a motion sensor, a camera, and a touch-screen display.
From any touch panel, Michael and Kassiane can view the security cameras and the doorbell cameras, and communicate with people at the door or with the other panels. One-touch will activate a custom “scene” that sets lighting, audio, and the thermostat. “It’s my favorite part of the house,” says Michael of the system, which also operates with voice control. “And it’s simple—my kids use it as much as I do.”
With energy efficiency as a priority, walls were insulated with 3 inches of high-density spray foam. An advanced hybrid HVAC system that combines a gas furnace with an electric heat pump will supply both heating and cooling. With a seasonal energy-efficiency rating (SEER) of 25, the modulating unit’s efficiency is “something we haven’t seen before in residential equipment,” says TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey (SEER 13 is typical in most of the country).
Controls for the system are “like a laptop on the wall,” he adds. “You can enter the fuel and electric costs, and the system’s smart enough to know when it makes more sense to use the gas furnace or the heat pump.” The control system can send error messages to the maintenance company in case of any malfunction, and the equipment communicates with service technicians’ tablet computers using Bluetooth technology. “It will tell you everything that is going on inside it without putting any gauges on it,” says Richard. “That’s really the future.”
- A freestanding soaker nestles under the sloping roof in the main bath, making the most of the room’s square footage. Nat Rea
- The main bath’s shower—its door not yet installed—is equipped with a rainhead, body sprays, a handheld shower, and steam. Three styles of marble tile add interest to the walls and floor. Shower drains: QuickDrain; Bath Tile: TileBar; Water heaters (not shown): Navien Nat Rea
- A double vanity topped with marble in the main bath holds partially recessed vessel sinks. Gold faucets and brass accents warm up the mostly white space. Main bath fans: Panasonic; Faucets: Kohler; Bath countertops: Vetrazzo by Polycor Nat Rea
The challenge was finding places to put the equipment and ductwork. The furnace ended up in the crawl space, and the crew “did a spectacular job of developing the ductwork through the old building, where there really wasn’t any space,” says Richard. “They were absolute magicians.”
Like the heating system, the main suite’s shower has state-of-the-art touch-pad controls. Users can set the lighting and sound as well as customize the shower experience. But there was a water-heating challenge: Besides the large tub, the shower is equipped with multiple body sprays, handheld sprays, and a rainfall head.
Taken together, says Richard, all that adds up to a “dump load” that could amount to a hundred gallons of hot water in a 20-minute period. The innovative solution: an array of three high-efficiency tankless water heaters, also in the crawl space, connected by a manifold system and wired together in a daisy chain with a smart controller that decides how many heaters to activate in response to demand.
- The main entryway has been restored to pristine condition, including the front door with its original stained-glass window (but with a new electronic lockset). The existing porch posts were restored, but new brackets had to be re-created using an old bracket for a pattern. Exterior doors: Upstate Door; Smart lock: Yale Nat Rea
- The entryway to the mudroom and passageway connecting the existing house to the garage addition. Exterior details of the new construction, such as the turned porch posts and brackets, were required to reproduce the historic appearance of the original house. Trim and clapboards: Tru-Pine by Claymark Nat Rea
Replicating the exuberant exterior details was a labor of love for the team. The crumbling front porch was nearly a complete write-off; only the turned columns could be saved. The crew had to pour new foundation footings and piers (facing them with brick from the old chimney), then rebuild the porch using treated wood. With help from TOH ’s Tom Silva, the team re-created the original half wall’s staggered shingle pattern using a straightedge and a spacer block.
The existing gable ends were works of art: a layered siding pattern consisting of clapboards, sawtooth shingles, scalloped fish-scale shingles, clapboard-and-shingle sunbursts, and built-up eyebrows with sawtooth shingles. All that intricacy had to be replicated on the addition’s gable end. So the distinctive barge rafters, profiled with dadoes, drilled circles, and applied rosette medallions, were reproduced full-size, then hung from the edges of the garage’s gable roof.
“We matched every detail,” says Jeff. “Pretty much everything is what it looked like a hundred years ago.”
Because the home is in the Narragansett Historic District, all the meticulous reproduction was strictly required on the street-facing exterior. But the commission was more lenient about the grounds, especially in the backyard. So there, the Campopianos went to town: The array of amenities on the expansive stone patio grew to include an outdoor kitchen with a gas fireplace and a wood-fired pizza oven, plus a plunge pool. A cabana area inside the house has a built-in pass-through for staging refreshments.
In the end, Kevin says, the Narragansett project represents a satisfying compromise between modernization and preservation: “It’s the perfect way to do it, in my opinion. The historical salvaged part is the public-facing touchstone for the community—the neighbors and the town. So you treat it differently from the private part, which you only share with family and friends. After all, the way we live today is different from the way we lived 50 years ago, and it’s certainly different from the way we lived over 100 years ago.”
For the Campopianos, it will become part of their own family’s heritage, says Michael, who, together with Kassiane, plans to put the house in a trust for their descendants: “We hope it will be a gathering place for many future generations.”
- Cooking, eating, and cooling-off zones make up the outdoor living area. Landscape contractor: Frank Walsh Landscape Company; Landscape installation: Sterling Lawn & Landscape Design; Hardscape contractor: Damian Ciccarelli Home Improvements; Outdoor Furniture: Seaside Casual; Pavers: Polycor; Roofing: CertainTeed Nat Rea
- Protected by a tall privacy fence and by arborvitae shrubs that will grow in to create a hedge, the hearth provides a visual focal point for the outdoor kitchen and dining area. An eight-person dining table leaves plenty of patio space for family and guests to mingle. Masonry contractor: Sandoval Masonry Nat Rea
- The concrete plunge pool was precast in New Hampshire, trucked in, and craned into place. Its heater can raise the water temperature by 10°F an hour; app control means you can turn it on from a phone on the way home from work. Plunge pool: Soake Pools Nat Rea
- A long view into the back patio from the side-street entry. At right, the back door into the kitchen and the pantry have been restored with period details. Nat Rea
- The outdoor kitchen, gas fireplace, and wood-fired pizza oven, built with steel framing and magnesium oxide cement board, were trucked to the site in pieces from Ohio, assembled, then faced with natural limestone. Pizza oven: Round Grove Products Nat Rea
- A four-color paint treatment accentuates the carpentry crew’s careful craftsmanship. The red doors reference the color of the decorative rosettes in the gable ends’ exterior trim. Doors: Upstate Door; Shingle Siding: SBC Cedar Nat Rea
Freshly paved with Indiana sandstone, the Campopianos’ backyard has become an extension of the house, ready to serve as a gathering place. In the full outdoor kitchen, a gas-fired range, a grill, a burner, and a fireplace are piped into the home’s propane tank. The assembly is topped off by a wood-fired pizza oven. A cabana window provides easy pass-through access from the house. At the other end of the yard is a plunge pool that is heated to be able to serve year-round, and has a retractable, insulated safety cover.
TOH Pro Tip
“If you pave a whole outdoor area with hardscape, it makes a small space feel bigger because it’s more usable. It fills in very quickly once you start adding furniture.” —Jenn Nawada, landscape contractor
The expanded house now holds four bedrooms, two full baths, and two half baths, in 3,390 square feet of living space. In the original portion of the house, a large kitchen/dining area and a spacious living room replaced the cramped Victorian-era five-room layout. Part of the original porch was enclosed to allow an expansion of the living room.
A new mudroom connector with a half bath and a laundry room leads to the garage addition, which has a cabana kitchen and half bath in the back. Upstairs, bedrooms over the original portion of the house were reconfigured, with loft space added in what was the original attic.
A second-story passageway connects to the new main bedroom, with its own bath and dressing closet.