A Lovingly Restored Mid-Century Home in Rhode Island
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Name: Andrea Castañeda, Chris Amirault and their two kids
Location: Coventry, Rhode Island
Size: 3,400 square feet of living area
Years lived in: 6 years, owned
Built in 1958, this house has only been home for two families in its 60 years. It had been well-maintained, but was in an aging condition when Andrea and Chris bought it; they were intent on restoring it to its former glory. Over six years, they shaped it into the beautiful relic of history it is. They furnished it only with original vintage furniture thanks to long searches, great discoveries, and bargain prices. They hired professionals for big projects, but almost every other home project was DIY. And it’s not just the style that’s remained intact — many of the home’s original appliances still work! A true testament to the resiliency and simplicity of mid-century design.
Andrea shares the story of this house:
“The house was built by a West Warwick Family in 1958. The family contracted with a Rhode Island architect who designed mid-century ranches including several other ranch homes in the neighborhood. As the (fortunate!) second owners, we inherited the original building specifications and paperwork related to the home design. The paperwork – and living in the house – made apparent the designer’s incredible attention to detail.
At the time of its construction, the owners indulged in almost every modern convenience of the era. In 1958, dimmable lights were a rarity and were controlled through oversize panels. To avoid the strain of shouting across 3,400 square feet of living area, the house has an intra-house telephone system. By simply picking up the phone, the adults could call the children to dinner in every bedroom of the house.
The house reflects the whole aesthetic of the time. The kitchen has counter controls and insets for a blender and mixer. We still have all the parts and the owner’s manuals; the mixer works like a charm! While appliances were the place for extravagance, flooring, counters, and cabinets were designed to be hard working, low-cost, and functional. The counters are the original Formica and the cabinets are a simple birch laminate. The interior of the cabinets are made from repurposed plywood advertising signs.
“We were working on a limited budget, which forced us to spread our work over years rather than months. The benefit of the slow pace was the ability to do significant period research.”
Moving in, we had a desire to not take our home or ourselves too seriously. We wanted to keep it a space where people could visit and live comfortably. We were able and committed to restoration rather than renovation. The goal was to bring it back to its original glory, without changing anything huge.
The first order of business was dealing with essential upgrades. Over six years of ownership, we used contractors for big-ticket items like exterior paint, a new roof, and heating, electrical, and plumbing updates. Almost every other home project was strictly DIY. We were working on a limited budget, which forced us to spread our work over years rather than months. The benefit of the slow pace was the ability to do significant period research. We replaced the original asbestos tiles with VCT tiles. We painstakingly sourced replacement lighting and bathroom fixtures. And one room at a time, we repainted almost every surface in the house.
Long-time residents of the neighborhood have shared stories of this house being the local party destination. The house was certainly built for hosting, with a spacious and open layout that flows comfortably into the backyard. The neighbors remember the original owner with affection. She was well known for her dedication to gardening and her willingness to share plant starts throughout the neighborhood. As we worked in the yard each summer, I frequently thought of her and hoped that she would have approved of our efforts.”
Recently, Andrea and Chris left the house in the care of a friend to do some traveling with their two children. And though the house has been a wonderful home for them for the last six years, they’ve decided to put it on the market just last month. It’s time for this house to find its third family.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Mid-century modern
Inspiration: 1950s Better Homes and Gardens magazines; the Case Study House program.
Favorite Element: The thoughtful, detail-oriented house design is our favorite element. Every room has unique features that perform their functions carefully: multiple laundry chutes, intra-house telephones, built-in appliances, his-and-her shoe closets, built-in planters, etc. As a result, the house is no museum piece: we live in it just as 1957 designers and builders imagined. Dogs and children race through the open spaces. Adults cook and children watch television in free-flowing, connected rooms. Guests enjoy a sunken living room open to the dining room and bar. Parents and children have room to spread out and live both collective and private lives under the same roof.
Biggest Challenge: After almost 60 years, almost everything in the house still works. Those Thermador double ovens have cooked a lot of Thanksgiving turkeys! However, when something does fail, it can be difficult to source replacement parts. Whenever feasible, we have repaired and renovated with vintage pieces, but this commitment has tested our patience. We lived with broken bathroom sinks for over four years while searching for a vintage replacement set.
What Friends Say: When children come into our house, they sometimes say, “Your house is so modern!” The fact that even children recognize the look and feel of modernity in a 60-year old house is a testament to the timeliness of the mid-century aesthetic. When adults walk in for the first time, they usually have an outburst before passing over the entrance threshold. “You live like the Brady Bunch/Jetsons/Drapers!”
Biggest Embarrassment: After buying the house, we pulled up 2,000 square feet of original wall-to-wall carpet and discovered a poured gypsum subfloor. Other home improvements became a priority, so we bought 10 gallons of Lowe’s cement paint, rolled it on, and have lived on the subfloor with area rugs ever since. We don’t even notice it anymore and most people just think it is concrete.
Proudest DIY: The house sits on almost a half-acre that was overgrown when we bought it. Every summer for six years, we cleared out ugly shrubs, fallen fences, diseased trees. In the newly-opened space, we’ve doubled the size of our grass yard and added perennial, rock, vegetable, and herb gardens.
Biggest Indulgence: We have accumulated most of our furniture by combing through vintage stores, auctions, yard sales, and the occasional dumpster. However, the one item we knew we’d never find by happenstance is a vintage Castiglioni Arco lamp. Though an indulgence, this lamp is more art than furniture and we enjoy it every day.
Best Advice: After you move into a new space, live in it for a year before making major changes. Let life teach you what do with space. It might surprise you.
Dream Sources: We try to buy only original vintage furniture and housewares. Most of our furniture comes from yard sales, thrift stores, craigslist, and eBay. Long searches, great discoveries, and bargain prices are part of the pleasure of designing a mid-century home on a shoestring budget. For New England readers looking to pick up signature pieces, we recommend the periodic Danish modern auction hosted by Regal Auction Services in Franklin, New Hampshire.
Foyer paint — Behr Butter Rum
Grundig 8080 Record console
Danish modern lamp — maker unknown
Vintage mosaic art — maker unknown
Carpet — IKEA
FORMAL LIVING ROOM
Main paint — Valspar Faint Maple
Accent wall — Valspar Caramelized Onion
Vintage Danish modern sofa — maker unknown
Vintage Adrian Pearsall Jacks coffee and end table
Vintage Danish teak dining room table — maker unknown
Vintage silk boomerang curtains — maker unknown
Vintage Hull swan planter
Vintage teak table lamp — maker unknown
Vintage pole lamp — maker unknown
Danish modern wall art — maker unknown
Vintage Castiglioni Arco lamp — Design within Reach
Vintage Noguchi table — Design within Reach
Vintage Danish modern couch — maker unknown
Vintage enamel bowl sets — Cathrineholm
Vintage ceramic lamp — maker unknown
Pillows — Homemade using Maharam Eames dot fabric
Wool area rug — maker unknown
FORMAL DINING ROOM
Paint — Behr Agave
Hans Wegner AT-312 Dining room table
Dining room chairs, sideboard, and hutch — Temple Stuart
Vintage mirrored shadowbox shelf — maker unknown
Vintage cocktail collection
KITCHEN + KITCHEN DINING ROOM
Paint, green accent — Behr Agave
Fritz Hansen extra-large super elliptical extension table — Design Within Reach
Louis Poulsen PH-5 pendant lamp — Design Within Reach
VCT flooring tiles in seafoam green and cream — Azrock VCT tiles
Vintage sectional sofa reupholstered in Maharam fabric — maker unknown
Vintage boomerang table — Lane
Vintage rosewood media center — Bang and Olufsen
Vintage Cado (Cadovius) teak modular wall shelves
Danish teak table lamp — maker unknown
Glass and chrome rolling bar cart — maker unknown
Stockholm Blad curtains — IKEA
Sherwin Williams paint — Canoe
Heywood Wakefied Plaza Bedroom set
Powder-coated steel plant stand — Lowes
Mavis Curtains — Crate and Barrel
Mexican cowgirl beaded curtain — maker unknown
Main paint, Sherwin Williams — Canvas Tan
Accent wall paint, Sherwin Williams — Curio Gray
Vintage privacy screen segments — maker unknown
Paint — Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan
Karastan commercial carpet tiles — Karastan
UPSTAIRS BEDROOM 1
Paint —Valspar Waterscape
Heywood Wakefield dresser
Nightstands — maker unknown
Heywood Wakefield dogbone twin bed
Pillows — Target
Lamps — IKEA
Vintage Cathrineholm enamel bowls
UPSTAIRS BEDROOM 2
Paint — Valspar, Riviera Dunn
Danish modern bedroom set — maker unknown
Vintage table lamps — maker unknown
Vintage Cherner bar stoo — Cherner
Vintage table lamp — maker unknown
Curtains — IKEA
UPSTAIRS BEDROOM 3
Paint — Sherwin Williams, Mindful Grey
Heywood Wakefield bedroom set
Curtains — IKEA
Saudi area rugs — maker unknown
Stockholm Blad curtains — IKEA
Vintage lamp with fiberglass shade — maker unknown
Body paint — Sherwin Williams Riverway
Trim paint — Sherwin Williams, Creme
Front door paint — Sherwin Williams Trinket
Neutra house numbers — Design within Reach
Thanks, Andrea and Chris!
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