A Fox Point Home, Restored

An East Side homeowner turns a "total wreck" from the 1850s into an architectural jewel


For most people, buying a “total wreck” of an old home would be a daunting prospect - but not for JP Couture. A northern Massachusetts native who came to study at Roger Williams and decided to stay, he purchased the 1850 home in Fox Point 15 years ago, and renovated it extensively before moving in. “It was not livable when I bought it,” he says. “I lived a block away on Transit Street, and I used to walk past this house for years. I always thought I’d like to have it. One day I was driving to work and there was a For Sale sign on it. When I saw it, I fell in love with it even more, despite the fact that it was a wreck. I knew it would be a lot of work.” It’s all in a day’s work for JP, though, who is the owner of Couture Design Associates, a residential design firm that specializes in new homes, as well as preserving and restoring historic ones. 

The home was designed by Thomas Tefft, a well-known Providence architect in the 19th century. “He’s better known for much larger houses on Benefit Street and the old train station that no longer exists downtown,” JP says. Keeping the historic character alive was a top priority in renovating the house. “I wanted to preserve as much as possible,” he says, a challenge when adding modern conveniences like bathrooms and heating systems. “I tried to do that very sensitively and remove very little,” JP continues. The trim work and the fireplace are all original, and he uncovered layers of flooring on top of the original floors, which are now refinished and on display.

Other interesting things in the room: a charcoal over the fireplace attributed to William Merritt Chase, and the finial on the table that was once part of a historic teahouse in Salem, designed by Samuel McIntire. The room is a dining room, but JP uses it to store a lot of his books, too. “I like being surrounded by books,” he says. The most important thing, though, is in the window: his cat, Buddy.