Featured Property: Wind n Sea
If a bit of California exists on the East Coast, it is surely Block Island, according to Ingrid Giusti. She’s the owner of Wind n Sea, a completely charming Block Island Victorian tucked away on a hillside that just half a mile from town, and overlooks Old Harbor, the Spring House and Sachem Pond in the distance.
Giusti, a Californian transplant who moved east in the 1980s, found the house during a weekend road trip. Actually, she says, she and her then-spouse found Block Island first, and kept coming back. Then, on one particular weekend, she happened upon the house that would become so much a part of the life of her family and friends.
“We were driving around the island one day,” she remembers, “and there was this house. And we just said, yes, this would be the perfect place for us.”
She isn’t sure what the tipping point was exactly that led to the decision to buy the old Victorian. Maybe it was the wrap-around porch and the gingerbread trim. Or perhaps it was the winding path down to the private little beach. It could have been those iconic Block Island bluffs, so like the coastline of her beloved first home, California.
Giusti purchased the house in 1983 and began fixing it up. From the beginning, the new owner knew the place had enormous potential, and she set about to prove it. At Wind n Sea she created a handmade life for her kids, extended family and friends. The interior reflects the joys found in everyday adventures. Color is one mode of that expression; the house is a lovely riot of colors tied to the shoreline and the sea. There is also intricate tile work, expertly completed by the artistic Giusti herself. The Victorian woodwork is painted whimsical hues of pastels that tie in with selected vintage wallpapers. Some windows were added to bring in the view, but the heart of the house, as Giusti herself says, is that front porch overlooking the sea. That space was not changed a whit.
There are certain qualities that Giusti believes make Block Island a special place. She points to the lovely small town way of life, the focus on family, the importance of knowing the neighbors. If you visit Wind n Sea, notice the light switches and mirrors intricately adorned with shells and other bits found on Block Island’s shores by her children, relatives or friends. It’s the sort of craft-ey project she and her children did together.
Her children spent most summers on the island, going to the beach during the day, returning home late. The kids would roll down the hill on the back lawn while the adults relaxed after dinner on the porch and watched the sunset. From the porch, the family could see the last ferry leave with a boatload of day-trippers and the Spring House cupola lights come on. In the far distance, it was possible to see the lights of the Newport Bridge as darkness fell.
When her children were small, the owner recalls, they sold lemonade at the top of the bluff stairs, a short walk from the house. The kids also turned the old outhouse (now a storage shed) into two restaurant incarnations called “Spikes” and later “Sharkey’s.” She and her sister and other friends were then invited to “go out to eat.” That first work experience served her children well, she jokes, because years later in their teens, they found jobs bussing or waiting tables at island restaurants.
“It was just the most wonderful place to be because the whole [island] was family oriented. We got to know all the neighbors and their kids. It just reminded me of life in the 50s when you never locked your door,” Giusti explains.
Wind n Sea has a settled and permanent quality about it that drew Giusti and her family. In 1991, she, her sister, her mother and their children rode out Hurricane Bob in the house. She remembers being in the basement with flashlights and candles as the storm roared above them. But she never worried about the house itself.
The Victorian is shingled and clapboard, with a covered porch and extended deck that invites visitors to rest awhile and just meditate upon the ocean view. Its owners have preserved its historic quality, but not at the expense of convenience. The two and a half bathrooms have been modernized, as has the kitchen. There are four bedrooms to accommodate family and guests. The septic system is updated, and so is the furnace. The garage is now a family room and loft area where children can hang out on rainy days. And in the living/dining room, which runs practically the width of the house, there is a fireplace to ward off the chill of an early summer fog. There is even a built-in barbecue in the kitchen. Attached to the porch is a patio area for enjoying a sunny day or reading a good book.
Throughout the home, there are Giusti’s imaginative artistic touches. Her sense of color is indeed a gift — there are no dark corners at Wind n Sea. It is as if Block Island’s summer gardens, glorious beaches, fields and meadows have been invited inside, but not at the expense of losing the home’s Victorian soul.
Built in 1910, the house has deeded access to another surprise. Down a winding path there is that private little beach, for those days when Wind n Sea’s new owners don’t want to brave the summer crowds at Crescent or Mansion. The beach nestles beneath the cliffs and borders tide pools in which Giusti’s children, over the years, explored the mysteries of marine life, bringing some treasures home and casting others back into the sea.
And there is that expanse of lawn with its rolling hillside bordered by stone walls that goes down to the path that goes to the beach. Artists love Wind n Sea. Sometimes Giusti came home in the afternoon to find a painter waiting by the door, wanting to set up an easel on that lawn or hold a class for some students.
“It’s just such fun,” she remembers. “I can’t think of a better house or place for kids in the summer. They flew kites, rolled down the hill, lived outdoors. I let my sheets dry on the line in the sun and wind and worked in the gardens.”
Giusti’s children, when they grew up, moved west, back to California. To be near them, she found a house in La Jolla with many of the same qualities as her Block Island home, particularly access to the outdoors and the shoreline. Even though she’s selling Wind n Sea, the owner says she will never forget it.
“It’s just probably the most beautiful place in the world. In the morning I would sit on the patio and have breakfast,” Giusti says. “I would close my eyes and hear the birds singing. So many types of birds.”
The four bedroom, two and a half bathroom home has 1,612 square feet and sits on a 1.23 acre lot. It is listed for $1,795,000 and is available for rental. Lila Delman Real Estate of Block Island has the listing.