When your home is within walking distance of an idyllic stretch of Rhode Island beach just outside Newport, you can expect a flurry of visitors all summer. That’s exactly the case for a Middletown, Rhode Island couple who wanted their home to be a comfortable and welcoming summertime gathering place for friends and family.

“When summer comes, the house is pretty much booked every week and weekend from our friends from childhood, high school, college, and our family coming through from all over,” the homeowner says. 

That’s why, when they redesigned the house, they did it with an eye toward entertaining. Both the upstairs and downstairs have full kitchens and living areas, so the homeowners created their home’s lower level with guests in mind. 

Working with designer Justine Sterling of Massachusetts-based Justine Sterling Design and the Rhode Island-based contractor Innovative Design Concepts, the couple reimagined their home by eliminating unneeded storage areas, maximizing ocean views, and creating bright, open spaces for people to comfortably gather, whether it’s playing games in the kitchen or having dinner in the more formal dining room.

“Whatever it may be, we can all get together now,” the homeowner says. “The space has been maximized in a way that it hadn’t before.” 

A beachy welcome

The home’s welcoming, beachy vibes start immediately in the front entryway, thanks to details like a textured hemp wallcovering in ombre hues of soft, sandy browns, a jute runner, and an organic-looing chandelier woven from strands of ecru-toned wooden beads. Pops of color and coastal Rhode Island flair come thanks to prints of aerial photos of two local beaches—Gooseberry and Second—by photographer Gray Malin.

“You’re looking at the beaches that you can go visit while you’re here,” the homeowner says. “They come in and feel like they’re in an ocean house.”

Sterling says she wanted to “create continuity between all the spaces from the minute that you walk in the front door,” and that’s evident even in transitional spaces like the stair hallway, where a surfboard and a nearly floor-to-ceiling photo of bright, rippling, cerulean water by photographer Wendy Concannon make a seaside statement.

A “come hang out” kitchen

Sterling did “a lot of space planning” when redesigning the house, and that’s especially evident in the kitchen, which the team took down to the studs to open up and maximize the space. Now, everything about the bright and beachy kitchen says, “come hang out,” from the white island surrounded by rattan and woven white counter stools, to the “beautiful, fully kitted out bar” tucked into one corner and painted a soft, greenish blue grey using Benjamin Moore’s Wedgewood Grey. 

An open closet with stacks of bright orange-and-white-striped towels on wooden shelves adds a fun pop of color and invites lazy afternoons by the pool or on the beach, while an oversized sliding door between the kitchen and the stairway quiets kitchen sounds for other guests, whether it’s late-night card games or early-morning coffee brewing.

An easy, breezy living space

Layered textures and easy, welcoming warmth make the combined sitting and dining areas a place where guests love to unwind, relax, and connect in front of the fire or around the table.

The sitting area’s deep-cushioned, raffia-colored sofa is flanked by two blue swivel chairs and topped with beige and light orange throw pillows. The oversized, organically shaped coffee table’s polished top is made of fossilized clams, while side tables and a sideboard with white caning add even more translucent texture and visual interest to the room. More lively layers come courtesy of the contemporary, pale verdigris rug; textured sand-colored wallpaper; dark brown rope mirror; and woven roman shades.  

“Texture and layering always make a space feel alive,” Sterling says. 

Texture and jolts of color enliven the dining area, too. While the tabletop’s finish is natural, its apron and legs are painted a poppy light teal, and instead of just one kind of dining chair, there are two: white, fabric-draped chairs that sit at either end of the table and rattan and white-weave chairs that echo the kitchen’s counter stools.

The end result is an easygoing and comfortable seaside home that’s always ready to welcome family and friends, without the old-fashioned stodginess that predominates in a lot of traditional New England coastal décor. 

“I wanted something that reflected more of my personality, which is just a little bit more relaxed but chic, and bright and modern,” the homeowner says. 

For more information, visit justinesterling.com