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.
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.”
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.”
Text and Photos by Jacqueline Marque.
You can see the full Apartment Therapy house tour and read more about the Clancy's property here.