Southern Charm

A romance from Nashville to New England

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Dixie Carroll and Bill Jette met during what proved to be a serendipitous moment when Bill was visiting Nashville, where Dixie was a student. After it was clear their relationship was going the distance (and should no longer be long distance), Bill moved from East Providence to Music City to be with his betrothed while she finished graduate school. The couple made a deal: they would decide where to nest after Dixie completed her master’s degree. “I graduated in December and by March 1, he had me packing a trailer to Rhode Island,” she says, laughing.

The couple house hunted in advance, often staying with good friends in Portsmouth while searching the state for their next address. “I had one criterion,” insists Bill. “I said ‘Please don’t make me move back to East Providence again, for the fourth time.’” Only the couple looked at a charming home tucked on a quiet cul-de-sac in Rumford with an ample surrounding yard that seemed perfectly suited for their needs. “The house is a French Tudor, which is not the most common style around here. That spoke to us immediately in addition to some of the architectural details. The roof lines, the archways inside, and the stucco exterior all came together in a simple, understated, elegant design,” explains Bill. He quickly threw his criterion out the window.

Like many homebuyers, the couple was talking about what changes they could make to the house to make it their own, even before being handed the keys to the joint. Less than a week after moving in, however, their first renovation project made itself known. “Water was pouring into the den during a not so heavy rain. The room had to be gutted,” says Bill. But the couple turned the challenge into an opportunity, retrospectively seeing the silver lining. “We are much better for it. The room was an addition and seemed separate from the rest of the house. We were able to bring a modern, sleek feel to the room while keeping a flow with the rest of the house.”

The couple also remodeled the half bath on the first floor. “It was really old and antiquated, like one day someone took a look at the closet and decided to make it a bath,” laughs Bill. General contractor Steve Heneous and painter Joe Cox helped make their visions reality. Bill and Dixie created a warm welcoming aesthetic with furnishings from Comina in Providence’s Wayland Square and interesting art like framed show posters from Frames of Mind Custom Framing in Seekonk. “There is a distinctively different vibe to southern living from what we see in New England, and we try to bring that to our home through furnishing, art, show posters, and even our little honky tonk bar/venue in the basement,” says Dixie.

The kitchen and upstairs bathroom were both in need of remodeling and the couple even enlisted the help of an architect to explore the possibilities in those spaces. But after the incident with the den, and knowing they definitely wanted to transform the mundane backyard to an outdoor extension of the home with a substantial patio and eye-catching landscaping, the couple pumped the brakes.

“We purchased the house at the peak of the market in 2007. As we all know, values plummeted shortly thereafter so improvements were put on slower track,” they say.

Although the yard is a fairly good size for the city, there was no real usable outdoor space, explains Bill. “So we tore up a large section of the backyard and had a bluestone and paver patio installed to create a living and entertaining area where we spend quite a bit of time during the warmer months,” they explain.

But they have not been able to reap the rewards. Dixie and Bill, when they are not running J. Marcel, their successful shoe and accessory boutique on Providence’s Hope Street, or opening a second location in Barrington (more on that later), they host concerts with live talent belting out tunes. The couple was featured earlier this year on Rhode Island Public Radio, RINPR, for a piece on house concerts being on the rise.

One could easily make the case that whether it’s inside or out, Bill and Dixie have created a home that evokes southern charm. “Our hope is people will feel like they want to stay longer than they had planned,” they say. “The house is set up, intentionally or not, for relatively small groups of people to gather for conversation in the dining room, living room, patio or bar. We’ve had some lively ones and nothing is off limits. If there is a vibe, it’s to chill out with music, conversation, food and drink. Take your shoes off, help yourself or we’ll wait on you, whatever makes you happy.” As the couple says, there’s not a lot TV watching going on, neither when it’s a full house nor when it’s just the two of them.

“The closest thing to a routine we have is coming home after work, getting dinner started – we both enjoy cooking for a number of reasons – and then heading to the living room for cocktail hour. There is no TV in that room. The focus is the music, conversation and the fireplace during the colder months.”
Clearly the couple has found their groove at home, so it is Bill and Dixie’s newest venture has them elated. The two are working toward opening the doors of their second J. Marcel location in Barrington. “We are really excited about the new location on Maple Avenue in Barrington,” says Dixie. “We have missed our friends and customers on the East Bay and can’t wait to see everyone in the spring of 2016.”