Name: Lark Roderigues and Patrick Aguiar
Location: Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Size: 1,500 sq/ft
Years lived in: 2 (rented), 30 (owned)
Who else lives here: Moxie Brown the dachshund/chihuahua and Lola the Siamese cat
One Christmas a few years ago, a gaggle of brothers and sisters pulled up to the 1750 farmhouse where they grew up. Warmly greeted by current owners Lark Roderigues and Patrick Aguiar, the family took a look around and shared their memories of pulling water up from the well and building a pen for the pigs, which Lark now uses as her pottery studio. Though a major renovation made the house airier and brighter than its original colonial era layout, the two-story, side-gabled home retains an old-fashioned ambiance, and personal, artistic touches blossom everywhere.
In spring, clematis creeps across the porch, dangling fluffy blossoms from delicate tendrils, while winter sees Canadian geese wandering through the snow dusted cornfield on the other side of a crumbling stone wall. Wide windows frame it all, inviting the rural New England scenery to merge with the botanical inspired interior.
Wire flowers dangle from the twisted arms of metal chandeliers. Vines unfurl across hand painted murals. Daffodils rise from Lark's own clay vases, accentuating the forget-me-nots and apple blossoms that bloom from their smooth glazed bodies.
Lark wasn't always able to display so much of her own artwork. For 26 years, she lived in the small upstairs apartment and rented out the one downstairs. When she and Patrick were married in 2002, he asked "Don't you want a washing machine? Don't you want a dishwasher? Don't you want a shower?" And renovations began.
Over the next two years, they transformed the house from a cramped two-unit duplex, to a spacious, sun-filled home that's perfect for birthday parties, baby showers, and frequent family gatherings.
My/Our style: Eclectic, but also I try to create an atmosphere that's familiar to me, inspired by my relatives. It leans toward the old fashioned. A reflection of what I grew up with. A reverence for the past.
Inspiration: Things that I relate to from my past. It was important for me to have a hutch like my grandmother and my mother had. Gardening and nature. My mom. She's artistically inclined and loves antiques. My dad. He would do a sketch and put it on the wall instead of going out and buying something.
Favorite Element: That it changes, and it has grown up with me. It evolves with me. My grandfather built my mother's house, and it always seemed like a part of the family. My mom never wanted to move, and I have that same thing, you commit to it and you make it part of your family. I think of it as my family's club house. I love that I can be preparing food, or I can be doing anything and we're all in the same area. It makes it really fun to have people over. Also the flow from the porch to the patio, that's used a lot for parties. I like to have the porch as a room that just happens to be outside, we eat out there all summer.
Biggest Challenge: I love that it's an old house, but with the old house comes a lot of wear. When we renovated we put in new Marvin windows for efficiency, to make it more comfortable. This house was never a fancy farmhouse. The people were poor, so it didn't have much in terms of frills or comfort. It was a simple farm for people who worked hard. So my biggest challenge was making it more comfortable.
What Friends Say: A lot of people are surprised at how much the house has changed. They're surprised it's so open.
Biggest Embarrassment: The squirrels in the attic. Critters deciding they like the house also. It has a stone basement. They used to make moonshine there.
Proudest DIY: That I was able to keep the adjacent corn field from being developed. Sometimes the best change is not letting change happen in front of you, to keep it like it was.
Biggest Indulgence: Buying the corn field. One time I was at the health club and everyone was talking about their biggest splurge, one person had bought some Prada shoes, another had bought a Mazda Miata, the other had taken a big trip. I said "an eight-acre corn field."
Best Advice: Don't pay rent unless you have to. Buy something, even a little dump like I did.
Green Elements/Initiatives: Used a lot of what was already here. Used things from what other people had given me. When I took down the wall, I saved the doors and used them for closet doors. The studio was an old garage that we renovated to include a lot of salvaged doors and windows found on Craig's List. Used red cedar shingles, which are more durable than white cedar so you don't have to replace them as often. We took out the hot water heater and put in a smaller heater that would keep the water heated at a lower temperature. Added thermostats that automatically turn down. We have power strips on all the outlets so when we're not around, we can just flip the switch - our electricity bill went way down. Installed energy efficient Marvin windows. I didn't want to change the old windows, because I loved the way they looked, the glass was wavy and it was really pretty, but I couldn't justify keeping them because of how much cold air they let into the house. That was somewhere where I really had to pick function over form.
Appliances: The pellet stove has been a good addition for us. It is really efficient. The pellets are made by saw dust that are waste products from wood. It's good for people who would like to use something other than oil or gas, but it does require a little bit of maintenance, so you need to have somebody who doesn't mind tinkering with mechanical things. You can set it with a thermostat, which you can't do with a wood stove.
Fixtures: I got the antique bathroom sink at LooLoo Design.
Hardware: We took all the old hardware that was in the original house off the doors, and just re-used them in different places.
Furniture: I buy a lot of my furniture at Alfred's Consignment in Barrington, Rhode Island. Usually if I need something I go there to see what they have. I've gotten several of my couches from him. I used to go to his store with my mom when I was a kid. The wooden kitchen table was from an old butcher's shop in New Bedford. I got it at the New Bedford Antique Exchange, which I heard just closed - one of my very favorite places isn't there anymore.
Accessories: Almost all the accessories are hand me downs from my family or things that my family and friends make. Also, my pottery.
Lighting: The light fixtures in the sun room were from the city hall in New Bedford, I also found them at the New Bedford Antique Exchange. The chandelier in the bathroom was something I found in the trash, and I added the flowers on to it. My friend Julie and I bought a bunch of them at an antique close out sale, we tried selling them at a yard sale but couldn't get rid of them, so they ended up going on there.
Tiles and Stone: I made the tiles around the fireplace. I love the stonework outside. Most stone walls in New England are made of stones that farmers moved to the boundaries because they were in the way when they were farming, so when I was working in the garden, I moved the stones that i came across, and that's how the stone wall along my driveway got there. The stone that we used to make the patio was found on the property. A friend of Patrick's came with a back hoe and moved them over there.
Beds: The bedroom set in the guest room was mine when I was a child.
Artwork: When I was living in the smaller space upstairs, I would see my pottery in other people's homes, but I didn't have room for it. So when we renovated, we added shelves above the windows so I could display my pottery in my own home. I love that I can see it now and I have a place for it. My mom gave me the painting above the fireplace. I have several paintings by Steven Kenny. I love his work.
Flooring: We took out a bathroom that was in the middle of the house, so there was a big hole in the floor. We decided to take up all the flooring from the main part of the house and use it in a new bathroom. Then we used salvaged wood for the new part of the main house.
(Thanks, Lark and Patrick!)
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(Images: Celeste Sunderland. Originally published 2010-05-27)