Renovated Newport firehouse is calm, cool, and collected
On the top floor lies a serene master bedroom, inspired by the sea.
THEY’VE LIVED IN a converted chicken coop in Lincoln and a riverfront home built to resemble a lighthouse (complete with 360-degree view) in Tiverton, Rhode Island, so it’s not surprising that Kelly and Clint Clemens undertook the renovation of a dilapidated firehouse built in 1887 as their next residence. The former Redwood Hose Station 8, located on a tiny one-way street by the waterfront in Newport, Rhode Island, needed painstaking attention (it had to be dismantled and reassembled, brick by brick), but the result is an innovative transformation of a historic municipal building into a modern, well-functioning home.
Initially, the couple had plans to purchase a church. “There are so many cool places to live in Newport,” says Kelly. But the verdict was that even expert finesse could not coax adequate light into the rooms. Not the case with the firehouse, thanks to Boston architect David Hacin, president of Hacin + Associates. The 3,700-square-foot residence is now blessed with expansive windows and skylights and becomes lighter, airier, and more contemporary as it ascends. At the pinnacle is the serene third-floor master suite, which Hacin added by slightly raising the roofline.
Unlike the floors below, designed for social gatherings – the first, or “club,” floor is home to the television, pool table, and Clint’s office; the second floor holds the kitchen, dining room, and family room – the top floor is the couple’s private oasis. Clint, a commercial photographer, and Kelly, who enjoys painting in watercolor and competitive ballroom dancing, can retreat to this clean, contemporary space and hear nary a sound from the floors below, even when their grown sons, who visit often, are engaged in a full-on pool tournament.
A staircase suspended under a skylight leads to the suite, which is open from one end to the other. On one wall are accordion doors that connect the suite’s sitting area to a private deck with water views. Adjacent to the sitting area is a custom bed; a slate-encased bathtub, positioned under its own skylight, is just beyond the bed. While the tub can be partitioned off with sliding louvered doors for privacy, it’s usually in full view. The rest of the bathroom and the dressing area lie just beyond the tub.
Hacin likes to blur the lines between bed and bath, and Kelly adores the setup. “It’s a real spa for me up there,” she says. “Most nights, especially in winter, I watch half a movie from the bathtub, the other half from bed. It’s pretty decadent.”
The television, mounted on the wall directly in front of the bed, can be hidden by drapery – another design element that Hacin favors because it’s so versatile. In fact, the gray gaberdine curtain slides along a recessed track that spans the TV wall and the adjacent one. When the curtain is closed all the way, the room is completely private and impervious to light. When it’s open, the Clemenses have a view into the home’s glass-roofed atrium, which sends light streaming into the suite.
Fixtures and furnishings with a maritime theme anchor the bedroom. The built-in mahogany headboard and integrated night stands take cues from Clint’s antique Chris-Craft boat. Over the bed hangs one of Clint’s photographs, a gorgeous panorama of the couple’s favorite beach, Goosewing in Little Compton, with its rocky landscape and dramatic sky. The soft, natural blues and grays of beach stones inform the calm, restrained palette for the room’s decor.
Adding to the overall tone of calm: the sound of Newport’s distant foghorns and the intermittent peal of a nearby church bell.