Joanne and Brian's Cottage by the Sea

It’s a perfect summer evening. There’s a mellow breeze and a blanket of soft golden light. The Kings are sitting on their deck with drinks and a cheese tray watching sailboats race in Narragansett Bay. A couple sitting in a parked car takes in the scenery from across the street. It is this view, described by Brian as “stunningly addictive,” that convinced the city girl, Joanne, to leave her beloved Boston and settle in Brian’s hometown of Barrington thirty-five years ago.

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The neighborhood, known as Bay Spring, began as a community of modest summer cottages built on small lots around the turn of the 20th century. Hurricanes in the 30’s, 50’s and 60’s took a toll on the area. The Kings' house, which started out as a rental that was not much to look at, was barely winterized when they moved in. “The curtains still fluttered in the slightest breeze, even with the windows locked shut,” Brian recalls.

Seeing that the neighborhood was on the verge of a comeback, the couple purchased the house in 1984 and got serious about turning it into a home where they could raise a family. “Our little summer cottage had to be made solid enough to remain cozy through New England winters when even the bay froze over,” explains Brian. In addition to making the house structurally sound, they opened up the first floor by eliminating walls and enlarged the second floor. The renovations were completed just in time to welcome their son Nick.

Throughout the years, the house has evolved as the Kings have built their life as a family of three. The addition of a front room with vaulted ceilings and French doors that open to a wraparound deck creates what Joanne aptly describes as “a fluid space that spills out into both the landscape and the seascape.” “I always feel like the outdoors is right there,” Joanne explains, “I never feel enclosed.” The sea air, the ocean breeze and the sound of birds chirping in the trees make the airy room a favorite spot for afternoon naps. Nikko blue hydrangeas — planted as a nod to their son’s childhood nickname and his “bluer than blue” eyes — surround the house along with sea grasses, lavender, poppies, irises and rosa rugosa. A private Zen patio garden, a quiet sanctuary for morning coffee and relaxation, provides a perfect space for annual flowers.

Joanne acts as art director for the house, continually rearranging furniture, adding decorative touches, and displaying the work of local artists and friends. She draws from their abundant gardens to make flower arrangements and fills the kitchen with artful displays of fresh produce from nearby farms and seasonal markets, special touches that add to the feeling that the home is one with its natural surroundings. Randomly placed dimes are present throughout the house as a spiritual reminder of Joanne’s mom, who had an affinity for the tiny silver coins.

The King house is filled with memories. Looking back to when their journey as homeowners began, Joanne recalls sitting in a lawn chair while pregnant, during the ‘84 Olympics, and thinking, “When you arrive, this house will be ready for you.” She remembers the spring days she spent watching Brian and Nick play catch on the lawn — a sure sign that summer was around the corner — and white Christmas nights when holiday lights illuminated the house like a snow globe. “Every season is beautiful,” she says. Hurricanes, Nor’easters and winter blizzards may come their way, but the Kings are in it for the long haul. “We’ve built our life here,” Joanne says, “I can’t imagine ever letting this go. It’s just wonderful.”

You can see more photos of the King's cottage and read about their style and inspiration on Apartment Therapy.

Photos and text by Jacqueline Marque.