David and Jennifer's Handmade Home

House Tour

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Name: David, Jennifer, and Tupelo Clancy
Location: Jamestown, Rhode Island
Size: approximately 900 square feet
Years lived in: 16 years; owned

Long rays of golden light stretch across the Clancy lawn and fill their small cottage with a warm glow as the sun rises over Narragansett Bay. The natural beauty of this pastoral two-acre property, with its coveted views of the historic Jamestown windmill and the Newport Pell Bridge, is a source of inspiration for the artistry that Jennifer and David pour into their home. Nearly every inch of their restored 1787 colonial has been custom-designed and crafted by the pair, who make a living blowing glass in their post and beam studio located on the grounds.

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When David spotted the miller’s cottage 16 years ago, he knew it was a gem even though it was in serious disrepair. The tiny 18th-century house was falling down and needed a new foundation. It also had a drop ceiling and an attic full of rat carcasses. With a lot of work on their hands and not much money, the Clancys had to learn how to do things themselves and be creative with materials. “It was like a game in the beginning, to see what could be used that wasn’t meant to be used,” David explains.

David and Jennifer reused original wood salvaged in the renovation to make walls, doors, and a unique bathroom vanity, which includes a handblown glass sink lit from below. They turned blueberry bush branches into stairway balusters and corrugated tin into a kitchen ceiling. Handmade tiles became decorative mosaic borders, a colorful kitchen backsplash, and flooring. “We were inspired by the rustic style of the original home,” Jennifer says. “We wanted the space to be warm and comfortable and have natural materials. We both love rock and wood and clay.”

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Unusual details and decor give the Clancy home character and authenticity: arched doorways, inspired by the Newport Bridge and Jennifer’s love of Gothic architecture, frame the entrance to the kitchen and study. 17th century English church pews they found at Brimfield Antique Show are repurposed as dining banquettes; a collection of Pez dispensers fill several handmade custom display cases; metal objects decorate a wall comprised entirely of a patchwork of salvaged wood.

Despite the long hours David and Jennifer spend making handblown tableware, decorative glass and large-scale installations, the couple’s well of creativity seems never-ending. David is currently building a frame for their teepee, and the couple is finishing a wood-framed paper screen — similar to one they made for their bedroom — to divide their dining and living rooms. “I get a lot of joy just moving through things. I finish one project and I can’t wait to start something else,” David explains.

Welcoming their daughter Tupelo into the roughly 900-square foot one-bedroom home four years ago required them to modify some of their designs. Cable railings used to maintain the openness of their second-floor bedroom are temporarily covered with lattice fencing for safety. Until they are eventually able to create an addition, the space is divided into two bedrooms, a laundry room and a play area.

The Clancys' sprawling grounds include a guest cabin with an outdoor shower and deck, a teepee, and numerous gardens, embellished with glass and metal sculptures and bordered by handmade stone walls and wood fences. It’s a magical world of playfulness and whimsy for Tupelo, named after the beautiful trees on the property and the Van Morrison song ‘Tupelo Honey.’ The four-year-old is all smiles when she returns home from pre-school on a lovely September afternoon. She walks along a stone wall that borders the windmill, plays with the family dog Arlo and is overcome with laughter as her parents take turns giving her a push on her swing. “The whole place looked like it was dying,” Jennifer says of the property when they found it, “and now it is full of life.”

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Folk Nouveau.

Inspiration: Old barns, antiques, nature, our childhood, our environment (for example, the pointed arch doorways: I love Gothic architecture, but it was also a good way to bring one of the more prominent shapes of our surroundings, the Newport Bridge, from outside to inside).

Favorite Element: Our “natural materials vs. bold colors” one two punch.

Biggest Challenge: Vacuuming and dust.

What Friends Say: Everyone says how comfortable our house feels to hang out in, and also that there’s something to look at in every direction.

Biggest Embarrassment: Trying to clean our original homemade shower stall (that was made with sheet aluminum) with a product that eats away at aluminum. We have a different shower now…

Proudest DIY:
Installing the hardwood flooring ourselves.

Biggest Indulgence: Copper Gutters for sure!

Best Advice: It’s your space, so why not go crazy and really make it YOUR OWN!

Dream Sources: I love the Brimfield Antique Show – If we had unlimited resources I’d definitely be doing some spending there!

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

We used Behr paint from Home Depot and the colors were mixed for us.

ENTRY

  • Coat Closet doors made by David using salvaged wood from the house
  • Tile floor handmade by Jenn

LIVING ROOM

  • Avocado wall paint (same color as my childhood fridge)
  • The Ceiling light is from an antique lighting store in Newport
  • The birch tree (ceramic) floor lamp was made by Altamira, a local lighting company, and the Hospital floor lamp was giving to David by a friend (David painted it orange).
  • The glass monkeys in the barrel David traded for at a craft show many years ago.
  • There are several prints hanging on the walls mostly concert posters
  • The saying behind the woodstove was here when we moved in. David added the stone slab for the mantel.
  • The stones under the wood stove were gathered and laid by David
  • The wood for the stove is stored in a little alcove – the top arched part is a salvaged shaft housing from the windmill behind the house.
  • The flooring for the wood alcove, the border above the flat screen (up by the ceiling) and to the sides of the point arch way leading to the kitchen is handmade tile by me – the inspiration for the leaves was the shape of the cello.
  • The large grey wooden pilings (in the living-room and entryway) are salvaged from an industrial building in Providence. I love the layered paint from all the years of use; it’s like a core sample from the earth showing the history of the object. We also enjoy that same feature in the bathroom floor which we chose not to refinish or paint over; its original and shows 226 yrs. of use.
  • The 8 X 10 on the floor is a Meg Little rug
  • The 5’ tall wooden tiger was an acquisition I made in Australia and carried home on the plane – it was originally made in Thailand

BATHROOM

  • Red wall paint
  • One of the most romantic acquisitions in the bathroom is the tub. David asked me when we were first dating (and hadn’t made plans yet to marry) if there were one thing that I wanted in my dream bathroom what would it be. I said a tub with jets. I never dreamed it would actual end up being my tub someday!
  • The cross on the back of the tub wall is made by Jeff Soderberg and the ceramic objects on the cross are made by Loren Chen. The round mirror was obtained in an antique store in the Catskill Mountains.
  • The shower is a modern example of what our original shower of gathered beach stones was. This version is much easier to clean but still has the natural feel we loved from the first incarnation.
  • The vanity is home made by David using original wooden boards salvaged from the house when we had to replace walls that were rotting out. And the frontice stone is from a rock quarry out in western Rhode Island.
  • David and I made the hand blown glass sink in our glass studio
  • The glass mosaic mirror was a trade David made at a craft show.
  • Two paintings near the doorway by Greg Stone – a wonderful local painter here in Southern New England
  • The small rug in front of the vanity was my first “practice” rug I made at Meg's studio.
  • The medicine cabinet was salvaged from an old house.

KITCHEN

  • Orange wall paint which looks more red at night
  • The built-in larder/pantry came with the house – lucky us!
  • The Australian Cypress Floor boards (also in the Living Room) were a real find for us at Lumber Liquidator’s. We got a great deal. According to the manager, no one wanted those boards due to all the coloration and knots in the wood, but it was exactly what we wanted!
  • The backsplash to the kitchen sink was made by David with the help of a wonderful ceramics artist we know Brenda Wrigley. This is also another example where inspiration plays a part as David had been really moved by a particular Gaudi building and felt it would be a perfect jumping off point for his mosaic.
  • The kitchen table was made by Eastern Butcher Block (as well as the chairs) using a template that we fashioned for them – it’s the perfect shape to fit in that space and I was especially happy we included the “cut out” area on the sides, making it easier to sit down, once I was pregnant with Tupelo!
  • The benches to go with the table were a score from Brimfield. They are 17th century church pews from Bristol in the UK that we cut in half to make the correct size. The bench pads were made by me (at the Rug studio of Meg Little, for whom I have been working for 14 years) and feature the star pattern from Magic Hat Beer which we love – there’s also a collection of Magic Hat Bottle Caps above the range.
  • The light fixture above the table is a replica of deer antlers made in resin that David found in a Fishing and Hunting goods magazine.
  • Stainless shelving from a kitchen supply store in Providence – filled with hand blown glass made by us.
  • Cherry cabinets made by Dartmouth Lumber with Aluminum pulls from Ikea.
  • The ceiling is tin roofing material – usually used out west for outdoor applications – David thought it would look great indoors – Great idea on his part!
  • The spice cabinet was made by the friend of a friend in Colorado – it’s good to have connections!

STUDY/MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM

  • Yellow wall paint
  • Our first try on the yellow walls was a disaster – they looked like the same color as caution tape – a little bit of acid yellow goes a LONG way!
  • Desk was made by Eastern Butcher Block using a template we made for them.
  • EBB also made the stair treads
  • The staircase was constructed by David and my Dad
  • The railing going up the stairs is made out of ancient blueberry limbs.
  • The shelves for the desk and the bookcase were made by David
  • The wooden horse head in the window was given to us by a friend
  • The antique Lamp on the desk belonged to David’s Mother (another one of these is in the guest cabin)
  • The mixed salvaged wood wall was made by David using mostly wood salvaged from our house during the renovation. There are two hidden closets in the wall as well.
  • The futon featuring Monkeys on the cloth is from Ben’s Furniture in Newport (as well as the yellow oversized chair and the mauve couch)
  • The Hoosier which we use to house our phone and stereo equipment is was acquired by David ages ago.
  • The Pez collection David started a long time ago and has been added to by Tupelo and I as well. David made their cases himself.
  • The floorboards are original but have been refinished.

BEDROOM

  • Putty colored wall paint
  • The wall paint is an unusual color -it can look beige, tan, grey, celadon, celery, or sage depending on the time of day or the weather outside.
  • Meg Little rug in front of Tupelo’s bed
  • Bed platform made by David
  • Linen chest and side tables from unfinished furniture store – finished by us
  • The large window was from Humphreys – the wonderful view from our back yard makes a great headboard!
  • The built in drawers were made by builder Steve Vance (who lives in Massachusetts).
  • Wool Runners on either side of the bed and on the linen chest were made by me at the rug studio.

CABIN, AKA "THE LOVE SHACK"

  • The Cabin, aka the Love Shack, we got from a Mill Wright that built it as a bunk house while he was renovating the windmill. David with the help of friends and family put in windows, shingled the sides, added a proper roof, built the deck off the back, and built the outdoor shower.
  • The fire pit was built into the corner of a preexisting stone wall and seemed like the perfect place to hang out and take in the view. Tupelo loves roasting marshmallows over the fire there. It’s a nice little get away and when we entertain back there its almost like we’re visiting a home away from home too, even though its just in the back yard. Many of our guests have said that they’ve had the best night’s sleep in a long time sleeping in the shack.
  • The cedar for the outdoor shower came from a great local company called Liberty Cedar.
  • Some of the outdoor furniture came from Brimfield.
  • The large white Adirondack chairs were built by David using a friends chair as a template.
  • The plantings around the cabin we have been working on and adding to over the past several years – the raised shade bed being the most recent which also has some of our glass pieces coming out of the dirt as well.

TEEPEE

  • The Teepee is plains style and we got the canvas from the Wandering Bull shop in New Hampshire and the poles from David’s brother’s property in Vermont.
  • The teepee is used as a little get away space. David built a platform for it to go up on next year so we will be able to sleep above the dew line.
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Thanks, David, Jennifer & Tupelo!

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(Image credits: Jacqueline Marque)

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