Text and styling by Charlotte Safavi
When empty nesters Liz and Andy Montelli decided to build a summer cottage on their existing waterfront lot in Newport, Rhode Island, they went with a local design team. “We wanted an architect who really understood the rich history of Newport and respected its architectural style,” says Liz. She hired Paul Weber Architecture, whose owner and principal not only works and lives in Newport but has been frequenting the area since childhood.
The resulting summer cottage was completed in 2016 in a classic shingle style. “We situated the home to take full advantage of the waterfront views, giving it an open main floor plan, lots of glass windows and French doors, and also a large terrace,” says Paul, adding, “The house also has a covered front porch for engaging neighbors and pedestrians.”
From the welcoming entry porch to the mahogany Dutch front door, this newly built cottage promises to be an instant classic. In the foyer, the crisp white v-groove walls are a nod to nautical elements, and the reclaimed wood floorboards hearken to days gone by. “The floors are reclaimed heart pine from a 125-year-old mill in Boston, Massachusetts,” says Paul. “For the walls, we went with a 1-by-8-inch v-groove finish, which we painted white for a beachy feel.”
The home’s main open floor plan includes kitchen, dining, and living areas, which connect to the water-facing exterior deck via French doors. All the spaces also have painted white coffered ceiling details, as well as plenty of paned windows bringing in natural light. To create visual separation between the dining and living areas, Paul designed a low-profile built-in sideboard featuring open-and-closed storage and a walnut countertop for serving food if needed. “We also used walnut for the island’s base and corbels,” says Liz of the open kitchen, which has white double-inset paneled cabinetry and black soapstone peripheral counters. “We like the warmth it adds and also the contrast with all the painted wood finishes.”
Though the Montellis furnished the cottage themselves, Paul assisted on furniture layout and placement. Pieces including the trestle-based coffee table in the living area as well as the dining table, which features a reclaimed chestnut wood top set upon an iron base repurposed from an old industrial lathe, were custom-made by Connecticut-based furniture maker Seana Bill. The home’s staircase, set in a tower, is another custom design by Paul and has a wonderful historic cottage feel. Lined with decorative cutout white balusters and wood handrails, the stairs lead up to the bedrooms, most of which have water views.
Paul designed built-in dressers in the master walk-in closet to keep the bedroom an open and airy retreat. “Our lifestyle here is casual,” Liz says. “We wanted the furnishings to be comfortable, with nautical accents and some antique pieces to add character.” The green-painted chest in the foyer is one such antique, as is a model yacht displayed in the living area, which was purchased for Andy’s birthday one year.
“The house is everything we hoped it would be,” says Liz. “It’s a beautiful place that is comfortable for the two of us yet has plenty of room for our kids and grandkids. We can walk to the beaches from here and even to downtown Newport. It’s the perfect spot.”