NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A once-deteriorating very old and very shabby house at 80 Narragansett Avenue has new looks, making it the envy of the block.
The 134-year-old home is not only refurbished inside and out, but it now has features its owners a century ago could never have even dreamed of.
There’s a steam shower, different-colored ambient lighting inside, iPad-like digital control systems for intercoms, temperature settings, window shades going up and down and other technology-driven conveniences.
“I love it. I love it. I love the house,” said owner Michael Campopiano. He and his wife, Kassiane, put their design skills to the test in restoring this single-family house, which has lasted longer than any person who would remember its original construction.
“With what we had to work with, there isn’t one thing I would change about the house,” Campopiano said.
Left abandoned and long neglected, the exterior of this once-modest house in Narragansett — a town where properties are hot under almost any circumstance — was rotting nearly everywhere the eye looked.
Blue-painted wood siding drooped and brittle black roof shingles were torn off in various places, exposing even older wood underneath. Shattered clear glass windows lined up alongside yellow and blue intact stained-colored glass windows.
Through them, a look inside revealed what seemed like a frenzied tornado smashed up walls and ceilings, pulled up floors, and tore into the house with an apparent disregard for what was a home to so many over more than a century.
Some beams even showed charred edges from a fire long ago that somehow didn’t burn down the entire house. This property simply invited a wrecking ball to relieve it from its misery.
However, town regulations didn’t allow wrecking.
Eventually Campopiano came along to find the right incentives from South County builder Jeff Sweenor, who represented the television series “This Old House.” While COVID-19 brought some obstacles to both men, they say the nearly-finished project meets the vision for making this old place inviting once more.
The project became a centerpiece 12-episode feature for the remodeling series of “This Old House.” Under the careful reconstruction of Sweenor, owner of Sweenor Builders, Inc., the house was taken apart almost board-by-board.
“It came out better than I thought it would,” said Sweenor, a regular for overseeing local “This Old House” projects in the area.
Some of the special challenges, he noted, included unique construction for windows, intricate painting in different colors and painstaking repair and refurbishment of ornamental detail.
Sweenor added, “You could have rebuilt that house for a lot less money than refurbishing it.” Both he and Campopiano said over a million dollars was invested in the renovation, but both declined to name the exact figure.
Campopiano, pointing to the expenses people face when preserving old structures, said when the project started that “you’re trying to preserve a piece of history and you’re spending almost double what you would normally.”
As with any house of period architecture — and in this instance governed by town historic area regulations — specific details had to be followed when restoring it, Sweenor said.
“For instance, we thought could replace windows with replica, but found out we had to rehab the originals. That was a very labor-intensive process,” he said, noting that each replica window costs about $1,200, while the craftsman ran about $2,500 apiece.
Kristen Connell, spokeswoman for the Narragansett Historic District Commission, said in a previous interview about the property that the project combines a meticulous exterior restoration with a new addition that adheres to the NHDC’s guidelines by complementing and not overwhelming the original structure.
“The town is fortunate that a sympathetic buyer came along while the house could still be saved,” she said. “As the saying goes, ‘this house has good bones,’ and we look forward to its completed restoration.”
COVID-19 brought its own complications to the project as well. Among them included delays in filming by “This Old House” crew and actors who participated in recording different parts of Sweenor’s work. The builder has done a number of South County projects for the television series.
Campopiano, a lawyer and real estate developer, said the pandemic affected the filming schedule.
“For ‘This Old House,’ it had to do some things out of sequence to accommodate the filming,” Sweenor said, agreeing.
Thanks to “This Old House” and Sweenor choosing the project, Campopiano got the benefit of some high-end products and designs for his new home. He sold his Cranston house and moved his family to Narragansett earlier this year.
“The benefit is that they find you people who will discount their products,” he said.
He explained, for instance, that medium-quality doors on the house were replaced at the same cost with solid wood doors. He has a nice steam shower and a home with all kinds of programmable features, from lighting and temperature settings to intercoms and security.
“We have digital key pads that look like little iPads for controlling almost everything, and we went with higher-end fixtures because we were getting a better price on them,” Campopiano added.
But he has one special part he likes the most. “My favorite part is the cabana, outdoor pizza oven and grill station, and small pool,” he said.