and dormers. He also gave it scale: At 9,700 square feet, Le Chalet rivaled the
“cottages” of the wealthy, social summer colonists of late 19th-century Newport.
One family, the Gilberts, owned the house for more than 100 years, but by
the time Sawyer and Harris saw it in 2009, its best days were long past. There
was water damage in the basement, rot in the foyer’s floorboards, a chopped-up floor plan from years of renting a room here or there to local college students, laminate bathroom vanities, and kitchen cabinets that weren’t even
bolted to the wall. “It was definitely a diamond in the rough when we first saw
it,” says Harris, an executive at a technology company, “and that appealed to
both of us. We were excited about the potential to bring its legacy back.” The
couple assembled a design team led by architect John Grosvenor and Boston
interior designer Duncan Hughes. Behan Bros. Inc. of neighboring Middletown, Rhode Island, became the project’s renovation contractor.
“The concept was to restore the house so it felt like an original Richard
Morris Hunt house, but adapt it for a modern, environmentally conscious
lifestyle,” says Grosvenor, principal at Northeast Collaborative Architects in
behind original pocket doors, the front parlor (facing page) is given new life as a
library. The custom leather chaise longue has cast aluminum turned legs. In renovating
the exterior (above), architect John Grosvenor added parade decks to the second and
third floors, a detail found in the 1870 Richard Morris Hunt drawings but, he believes,
never built. The 19th-century front doors, now painted vibrant red (right), open to a
foyer where vintage accessories accent a curved side table.