It’s hard to believe that Amy and Rob MacMillan’s utterly charming home, set back behind a stone wall along Newport’s scenic ten-mile drive, started out as a building with a completely utilitarian purpose. The house was originally a greenhouse for Bonniecrest mansion, and the grounds were used as farmland for the sprawling 1914 estate built on the shores of Brenton Cove. Converted into a home in the 1950’s, this repurposed space has many unique characteristics that are equally as charming as they are challenging.
There's nothing cookie-cutter about a converted greenhouse; changes often require custom designs and clever craftsmanship. With a love for the quirkiness of their non-conventional home and an eye for interesting design, Amy, a freelance color consultant for residential and commercial spaces, and Rob, a sailmaker who owns two sail lofts and races sailboats professionally, have kept the building’s original purpose in mind as they’ve updated their home throughout the years.
The first thing you notice as you enter the house is a long, light-filled hall with French doors on either end. A day bed looks right at home in this corridor that feels like a sun porch worthy of afternoon tea with a friend. Blue and white Flor tiles, pieced together as a runner, add a pop of color and a graphic element that draws the eye forward and accentuates the unusual shape of the room.
The kitchen, which retains the original a-frame roofline and floor-to-ceiling windows, is the most obvious reminder of the home’s origins. Custom-designed cabinets mirror a wall of glass, which floods the room with natural light, a precious resource during New England’s long winters. A copper-capped windowsill provides a perfect place for potted plants to thrive year-round. A table made from old bowling alley flooring is one of many examples of the MacMillans' love of repurposing materials. Open storage throughout the room, including a space for shoes underneath the banquette seating, makes the most of the room’s sharp angles.
The house is filled with an eclectic mix of new and old, consignment shop pieces, hand-me-downs from family, and trash-to-treasure finds. The comfortable kid-friendly environment is filled with personal photographs, artwork, and plenty of space for Tatum and Mo to play. A hand-painted growth chart – with names, dates and ages of family and friends – and a chalk paint corner between the playroom and kitchen are a testament to this home’s easy, laid-back vibe. “I don’t mind drawing on the walls... from the tallest of friends to newborn babies, we tend to measure most everyone who comes around," Amy explains. “Living in a quirky house with so much character and history is really special,” she says. “It’s fun to see it evolve and grow with us throughout the years.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern Country with a little traditional thrown in. In other words, eclectic
Inspiration: English country, Swedish design, and Urban style.
Favorite Element: The greenhouse windows on the east and west sides of the home.
Biggest Challenge: The home is a converted greenhouse, so everything has to be custom made or creatively crafted.
What Friends Say: Great home for entertaining. Fun decor.
Biggest Embarrassment: The exterior paint job.
Proudest DIY: The outdoor shower.
Biggest Indulgence: The post and beam pergola.
Best Advice: Beg, Borrow and Steal. Well, don't REALLY steal, but rummage around at your mom and dad's or see what's been hiding in the attic at your grandpa's house. Somehow we have managed to furnish our house with pieces that were from consignment shops, mom's basement or given as gifts. Get creative; throw different styles together; use linens you may have at home to make cafe curtains. Most of all, hang art that you love.
Dream Sources: Honestly, I don’t really have any. However, in the fabric department, anything from Designer’s Guild would make me smile. I am slightly obsessed with unique chairs. A vintage chair or old sofa reupholstered in a great fabric is it for me.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
- Hall: Benjamin Moore China Blue
- Hall Bath: Benjamin Moore: Tapestry Beige
Farmers Bench, cranberry crate and shelf: All antiques from Mom
Side table : Pier One Imports
Mirror, lamps and hanging light : Home Depot
Art : Original, gift
- Sofa: Robin Bruce
- Chairs: Gift
- Red Chest and red side board: Chris Wiley
- Art : original by various artists.
- Rug: Flor Carpet Tile
- Art work: originals by various artists
- Surf photos: Megan Sepe
- Mirror, made from an old window: made by home owner
- Custom lower cabinetry: Cody Harple/ Ding Shack
- Paint Benjamin Moore/ custom Benjamin Moore color by James Lentz
- Metal table: gift/restaurant supply store
- Dining table: Old bowling alley flooring purchased from Mark Jager Antiques, 25 Mill St, Newport
- Bench cushions: Sunbrella fabric from the Quantum Sail Loft
- Pillows: made by Mom, fabric from Jo Ann Fabric
- Benjamin Moore paint: color unknown
- Chair: Robin Bruce
- Chairs: gifted
- Shower curtain: Marimeko/Crate and Barrell
- mirror: Bed Bath and Beyond
- Benjamin Moore Paint: color unknown
- Sofa: Pottery Barn
- Side board and glass cabinet: antiques from Bristol, RI
- End tables, small: wainscoting made into a table, from parents' first apartment
- Rattan table: Pier One Imports
- White lamps, Mom’s old Wedgewood lamps
- Carpet: Flor Carpet Tile
- Plants: all from the Farmers Daughter, Narragansett, RI
- Curtains: Sunbrella, made at the Quantum Sail Loft
Thanks, Amy & Rob!
(Images: Jacqueline Marque)
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