A Family Compound in Wakefield

A South County couples renovates neighboring houses, creating a family compound all their own

Providence Monthly Magazine ·

After happily raising their three sons in East Greenwich, Marian Mattison and her husband Marshall Raucci Jr. knew they wanted to move somewhere a little closer to the water, in a relaxing atmosphere. The couple fell for a charming home in Wakefield’s Jerry Brown Farm neighborhood. On the edge of Point Judith Pond, most homes on this private compound enjoy captivating water views in addition to more than 1,100 linear feet of association waterfront. The association dates back to 1946, when a group of families who summered in cottages peppering the property decided to formalize the group. Prior to this, the land belonged to sisters Sarah and Anna Peckham, but the property’s name is derived from original owner Jeremiah Brown, who records show bought the land there in 1794. Today, property owners there cannot only claim an idyllic piece of property, but a stake in South County history as well.

“The number of houses in this association is fixed, so no more houses can be built, which is great because you know what you’re going to get,” explains Marian. Such was the case with their home. It had a perfectly suitable footprint and decent bones, but after living there for some time, the couple knew they would need to make some renovations for comfortable living. “It was a small cottage and to go up to the second floor you’d almost have to go up on your hands and knees,” she says with a laugh. “We had it for about two years and kept it as is, but so many things were just dysfunctional we decided it was time to build up.” The chief concern was that the original foundation of the home simply would not be able to carry the weight of a second, renovated floor. After multiple evaluations, there was one clear conclusion: Marian and Marshall would have to go back to the start.

As one may not expect, the association does permit building on existing footprints, so the couple knew they had a shot when proposing this new build. “We had to go through our association and get all the appropriate approvals, and that was a difficult process, but the idea of building was exciting for us,” says Marian, even though they had never done anything of the sort. When they lived in East Greenwich, the couple had formed a bond with carpenter Brad Randall. The talented tradesman had finished the couple’s basement, rebuilt a pool house and crafted other projects in their home. “So when we got the architectural plans, we said ‘Brad, do you want to build a house?’” tells Marian. Though Brad had never taken on a project of this scope, it hardly intimidated him. He, Marian and Marshall embarked on a 16-month adventure, following architectural plans but also re-evaluating and redesigning spaces that after further thought, needed a different approach. They contracted out what was outside their collective wheelhouse – HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc. – but for the most part, Marshall took on the role of general contractor and Brad was the builder. “We just worked with Brad day in and day out,” says Marian.

It was 2008 and the home was functionally finished just in time for Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start to summer. Brad was just going to tie up a few loose ends in the coming week, but the couple was devastated to learn that Brad and his wife tragically lost their lives in a motorcycle accident that Monday. “We were shattered, just shattered. When we thought about it, Marshall and I didn’t talk to anyone more then we talked to Brad for almost two years,” says Marian. They are reminded of Brad’s vast talent when they look at every nook and cranny throughout their home. “[Brad] just did a beautiful job. His handprint is everywhere. This is his legacy.”

A few short years after their home was completed, the house next door came on the market. With their three sons now adults and some starting families of their own, the couple saw the sound investment it would be to own the neighboring home. Much like their own, the home needed substantial attention. Marshall and Marian once again put on their hard hats, figuratively speaking, and got to work. “We went with a contractor and we kept saying ‘Where’s Brad?’” she says. But they got through it, creating a warm, welcoming entertaining space including an expansive all-wood bar, called The Library, but instead of books there are games like darts and foosball, and a big screen television. “Marshall took charge of that,” laughs Marian. “It’s just a nice place to entertain and be together in the winter to watch the Super Bowl, or in the summer, to have friends over.”

Both houses boast natural light throughout thanks to ample windows. “I wanted lots of windows, that’s what I said to architect. I want the outside to be what you pay attention to,” explains Marian. The windows and layout – which includes an open floor plan with a smart flow – creates the sense of a bigger space than what is actually there. “[The houses] are not grandiose. They’re fun. They’re modest.”

In the main house, the couple chose subtle historic colors by Benjamin Moore, while the guest home showcases warm Restoration Hardware pastels. “No big vibrant, colors. We wanted shades that are soft in tone,” Marian says.

The family’s lifestyle equally blends seamlessly with the natural wonders of Jerry Brown Farm. “The boys love to fish and love to surf,” says Marian. “They’re always in the water, even on Christmas Day.” This time of year, the boys’ dogs are running around, family and friends cool themselves in the pond and laughter resonates from all around.

wakefield, family, home, renovation, south county, ri, rhode island, rhody style