Minimalism and Nostalgia in a Colonial Home in Newport

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Old and new come together in the living room of this Colonial Newport, RI home, where an Ikea lounge, Pottery Barn couch, water hyacinth pouf, and hand-me-down chairs and tables all play nicely together. Homeowner Caroline Goddard purchased the knotted orange wool pillow during a trip to Iceland; the blush one next to it is from West Elm. She sewed many of the pillows on the couch herself.

″The stormy ocean is my favorite ocean,″ explains Caroline Goddard, a photographer who lives in Newport, Rhode
Island′s historic Point neighborhood, a storied area packed with block upon block of well preserved 18th-century homes. As a result, the walls here are painted in varying shades of muted grayish-white, which the homeowner spent considerable time selecting. That palate refers back to her favorite gray days, and serves as a backdrop for the considered artwork and furnishings that populate the house.

On the windows, bright white antique linens hang as drapery. ″I′m a textile junkie,” says Caroline, who contributes to this site. “It′s a huge part of my blood. My family has been in Rhode Island forever, and many of my ancestors worked in mills. It continues to be something that I′m drawn to, whether I want to be or not. It′s a habit.″

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A spiral staircase leads up to the third floor attic, which is used for guests.

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Photo by Antoine Py.

Those swaths of fabric – from thrift shops or passed down from her grandmother – remind her of being in Greece. A pillow recalls a trip to Iceland. Certain artwork reminds her of France. Travel informs the space at large, but so does heritage, heirlooms, and family. There’s a memory in every object.

The house itself once belonged to Caroline′s grandmother; today it′s split into two apartments, with Caroline taking the top floor and attic above, which she uses for guests. Everywhere there′s a sense of history. The the house itself was built in the early 1700s – possibly earlier – and has all the irregular charm that older houses do. Exposed beams and wide plank floors show off the house′s age, and carefully selected objets do their job to decorate the space with intention. Hanging on the walls are paintings – many of them seascapes by Caroline′s great-grandfather, William Holland Drury.

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The puddingstone rock was found by Caroline’s grandmother near the house where she grew up in Middletown, Rhode Island.

The interior décor is a work in process, because in a house this old, there′s no need to rush things. “I lived here for four years with green and yellow pineapple wallpaper before I finally decided on how to paint the bedroom,″ says the now-minimalist, who eventually chose Benjamin Moore‘s Intense White for the top walls and subtly different Chantilly White for bottom walls of her bedroom. “I tried so many colors!″ she admits, before calling in help from a friend.

You might also like: The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

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The work area is spare but functional.

″I′m good at mixing things,″ declares Caroline, who paired an antique chair with Mid-century Modern upholstery, antique linens, and felt baskets from Home Goods in the bedroom. In the living room, an Ikea lounge plays nicely with an artisan pillow from Iceland alongside various natural curiosities.

″This antler is a window prop!″ she laughs, pointing to a gift from a free-spirited uncle, with whom she got in the habit of trading found-object treasures. The window likely wouldn′t stay open without it, but it also has the effect of adding an artful touch. Somehow, the mashup manages to be eclectic, bohemian, historically appropriate, creative, and contemporary all at once, without ever approaching anything close to kitschy.

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A paper lantern, antique shams, and bright white bedding create a minimal and peaceful aesthetic in the bedroom. Subtle two-tone paint mimics a stormy sky and ocean.

But the décor wasn′t always quite to spare. ″I definitely tried to make a mad grab for stuff when my grandmother died,″ says Caroline, who found herself with more serving ware, linens, and other home wares than she could store in the small space. Upon her return home from an internship at the Musée Picasso in Paris last fall, she decided it was time to pare down. ″I did the Konmari method, and realized I didn′t need it all.″

The kitchen especially benefited from the exorcism. Here, a careful selection of chosen baskets, pitchers, and ceramics are on display, and get used regularly. Threadbare but beautiful vintage linens hang tenuously over the windows. ″They′re definitely not perfect, but I love them,″ says Caroline. This new found sense of purpose, fit, and function imbues her with an easiness that’s hard to miss. ″I love this kitchen,″ she says, surveying it with a satisfied sigh.

You might also like: 30 Ways to Get Organized, Even if You’re Not OCD

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Exposed beams and wide-plank pine floors add rusticity to the bedroom. Function and form are equals where it comes to furnishings.

Paring down also had the effect of making the things she did keep all the more special, she says of her grandmother′s heirlooms. ″I kept the practical stuff that′s useful. Both my grandmothers were inspirational to me terms of living with intention.″ Now, Caroline is distinctly resolved to live artfully, and has the space to do it. ″It′s nice to use what you have for as long as you can.″ That may be New England pragmatism speaking, but it’s an aesthetic and an approach that like-minded people across the globe can relate to.

You might also like: Sparking Joy: 4 Surprising Life Lessons Learned from Getting Seriously Organized 

All photos by Caroline Goddard, except where noted. 

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Caroline’s companion, Wrangler, keeps watch over the house from his perch on the bed.

Minimal Colonial Home Newport RI house tour

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Patina is part of the décor of the house, which dates to the early 1700s.

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Antique linens – many inherited from her grandmother – line almost all of the windows throughout the home.

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The Picasso print (“Not an original!” notes Caroline) was a gift from a friend when the photographer moved to Paris to work at the Picasso Museum. The chair was inherited from a relative and reupholstered.

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Who says antiques can’t be casual chic? The ironing trend may be over, but quality never goes out of style. Shabby-chic hemstitched linens dress Caroline’s bed, FTW.

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Caroline admits to significantly paring down the kitchen’s supplies, from linens to baskets. After a serious Konmari-style overhaul, only favorites remain on display and in use.

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Dish towels are stored above the fridge, where they look pretty while not in use.

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Practicality is the ultimate winner here, where the laundry is hung to dry in the kitchen.

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The simple third floor shows off the house’s rafters. Multiple trunks have been up there for decades – no one can figure out how to get them down the stairs without disassembling them.

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The bicycle is a practical item with a sculptural quality. The pen-and-ink drawing was a gift from a gallery owner for whom Caroline once worked.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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