Design & Décor, Living with Style, The Newport Diary

Normandie, A Storybook Home

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Curb appeal counts for a lot in real estate. If one were to choose their favorite homes in Newport based on this criteria, Normandie would inarguably be among the top five. Look at our feature image! Who couldn’t/wouldn’t fall in love with this charming, picturesque introduction to a scrumptious waterfront property? Located on venerable Ocean Drive its 4.4 acres have, no surprise, a breathtaking view of Newport’s craggy coast.

Designed in 1914 by the esteemed New York architectural firm, Delano and Aldrich, the details are many for this very livable, vernacular European-inspired country house with its whitewashed brick walls and terra cotta colored tile roofs. As Mr. Delano stated, “(this house) was designed to grow from the rocks on which it stands and by which it is surrounded.” Perhaps this was just the panacea for the rags-to-riches divorcee, Lucy Wortham Janes, who commissioned the house. With a checkered lifetime of poor health and unstable relationships, Ms. Janes would certainly have taken solace in this site for its peaceful seclusion and much coveted three private swimming coves.

To enter the grounds, one drives through the captivating gatehouse, dominated by a large round-arch passage. The flagstone driveway extends through this entrance pavilion to the motor court fronting the main house.

This wide, low-slung, high-cross-gable-roof main building has end-gable pavilions that project out on the ocean side and help establish a coziness to the generous terraces.

Three large gabled dormers with half-timbering are symmetrically arranged above the façade while asymmetrically arranged casement windows dominate the façade’s walls. The architectural statement is completed with five tall brick chimneys with terra-cotta pots.

With almost 8,200 sq. ft., Normandie has a large and welcoming living space that dominates the center of the plan. Seven bedrooms, and 7 full baths with tiled floors, a multitude of fireplaces, curved wooden-arched formal dining room ceiling

and beechwood paneled interior walls complete the main house; attached two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments are located along the east wing.

“Pretty as a a postcard” can be taken literally (especially when this fanciful angle discloses the house itself, which actually cannot be seen from the street). Obviously, it is not a stretch to say that Normandie is iconic. Many (this author included) have fallen under the spell of its wistful, almost fairy tale architecture.

And at dawn or dusk, this wind swept summer house takes on a dreaminess from afar. The listing agent, Paul Leys, co-owner of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty makes the point that “in all my years of selling houses and estates with prices ‘north of 10 million dollars,’ I have never had a listing that generated this amount of interest and activity. In the short time of only two months, I had at least 25 showings!” (and these prospects were fully vetted with financial references). Selling price: $12.5 million.

Normandie’s sale caps off a residential buying spree unprecedented in Newport history; in just a five month period, seven homes sold over app. $10 million, with the highest sale coming in at $30 million. We neighbors are speechless. If you have further interest, two of those homes, Clarendon Court and Bois D’Oré, have been blog subjects in the past.

All photos courtesy of Michael Osean Photography (unless otherwise noted).

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Normandie, A Storybook Home

  1. Bettie, I’m so fascinated by your article. I’ve driven by the “gatehouse” on Ocean Drive hundreds of times and always wondered what the house looked like behind the brick fence. Although, I seen it from the water, I’ve never seen the front facade. Thank you for the name (which I didn’t know,) the history and the beautiful pictures. I love learning new historical facts about my special summer hometown, Newport!

    1. I have always loved this property, which at one time had a charming low-slung black sign, reading Normandie in gold lettering, on the front lawn. While the outside appearance of the gatehouse suggests that the property has somewhat declined over the years, I am hopeful that the new owner(s), with a renovation currently underway, will spruce up the house and gardens to their picture postcard appearance, and perhaps resurrect the lovely house name sign in the front yard.

      Thank you, Bettie, for taking us through the gatehouse!

  2. What a treat to finally have Normandie unveiled to us ! As beautiful as the architecture is my fancy truly rested on the private swimming coves !! Thank you, Bettie, for your always exquisite photos and narrative….Private Newport never fails to bring rest, reflection and relaxation to my internet-weary eyes.

  3. OHOHOH I love this so much!!! Have Norman ancestry which may partly explain – but I do love it so – and your taste in choosing it is both prescient and impeccable, as always!

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