There had been no talk of moving in the Nelson family when a house in Providence caught Laura’s eye in the newspaper one Saturday in 2009. Pictures of the sun-drenched kitchen and unusually large backyard jumped off the page. And the charming College Hill colonial, built in 1772, was a mere two blocks from Laura’s childhood home. “It reminded me of the house I grew up in, but re-imagined in a much fresher, more modern way.” Thinking ahead to the urban life they planned to resume in retirement, Laura said to her husband Jim, “When we move to Providence, that’s the house I want to buy.”
The couple had been living in a wonderful Dutch colonial in the suburban community of South Kingstown for 16 years. Situated near the University of Rhode Island and within close proximity to both the woods and beaches and thirty minutes away from Providence, the Nelsons had access to a lot of resources. While they loved the life they had built raising their four children in South Kingstown, Jim, a high school principal, and Laura, who works at a marketing communications and public relations firm, are urban dwellers at heart.
In addition to the five years they lived together in Manhattan before spending a year traveling the world, the couple lived in a Greek revival they gutted and renovated in Providence’s Armory District. When they eventually moved to suburbia to satisfy their need for better schools and more open space, they always knew they would one day find their way back to the city. They just didn’t imagine it would happen so soon.
Laura was planning to visit her parents in Providence the day the newspaper article was published. Unable to resist the urge to see the house, she called the agent and asked if she could take a look even though it was a day before the open house. “I saw it and fell in love with it that day.” The next day, she and Jim went to the open house. They made an offer that night.
“We just loved everything about it. It was impulsive,” Laura concedes, “but we don’t regret a single bit about it. We loved it exactly the way it was…Even though it retains all of the charms of the period, it feels modern at the same time.” After listing all of the things that won him over – the light, the openness of the main floor, the kitchen, the yard, the radiant heat in the master bathroom – Jim simply states, “It’s the perfect house.”
Four-and-a-half years later, Jim and Laura couldn’t be happier with their decision. “There’s nothing in New York that we can’t get here and it’s really just more manageable here,” Jim explains. Their expansive back yard, surrounded by a picket fence, offers them the kind of privacy and open space you don’t often find in an urban setting. Great food, theater, art and cultural events are just footsteps away. It seems that Jim and Laura’s impulse was spot-on; they have landed exactly where they belong.
You can see the full tour and learn more about the Nelson's home and inspiration on Apartment Therapy.
Photos and text by Jacqueline Marque