Classic and contemporary: Davitt Design Build’s chic approach to luxury home construction


In 1982, Matt Davitt brought to life Davitt Design Build to be a specialist in coastal and luxury home building. Matt, a certified master builder and leader in the design-build industry both regionally and nationally, is often called upon to discuss design-build concepts, building trends and economic conditions facing the construction industry. Since the company’s inception, Matt has worked hard to build a team of talented architects, designers, expert builders, and project managers. “Our work can be seen throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and we work predominantly with high-end clientele,” shares Vice President David Whitney.

David, along with Designer Mary Rae dives deeper into the inner workings of Davitt Design Build, with a focus on the successful completion of the Modern Coastal Castle. “Customers come to us with a piece of land, or a teardown rebuild, and we take them all the way from permits, through coastal resource management, to the design and construction of the home. There are three operating divisions that we support within the company. The first is the design build, which is our largest operating entity. We also have an insurance division, which started about 30 years ago, and specializes in high-end residential insurance restoration. If there is fire or water damage, we come in, negotiate with the insurance companies to remediate the loss, and ultimately do the rebuild,” David highlights. He adds that the third division focuses on land development and speculative new construction, again specializing in luxury and coastal homes.

Before we dive into recent projects, David gives us an overview of how the company works closely with its clients to make their visions a reality. “We focus on a team-oriented approach. When you first call Davitt Design Build, we assess the project and conduct an initial introduction and scope review. Mary joins as well to gain design insights.

“Our sales team works from the clients’ feedback, which involves a great deal of communication, listening, and collaboration, so we can create something that is based truly on our client’s vision, while providing design and budgetary guidance from our team. I think that is what draws clients to us too; we are not in it to create a home for ourselves. It is about taking client ideas, conveying them to the team, and then bringing those ideas to life,” David highlights.

Attention to detail
To share a prime example, we ask David and Mary to share the process that brought together the Modern Coastal Castle, which was inspired by an Italian fortress used on the set of a James Bond movie. “This was such an interesting way to start a home. Clients usually come with interior pictures, but in this instance, the customer had a vision and took creativity to a new level from the outset. We fine-tuned their vision to merge two worlds with an old Italian fortress exterior and a modern sleek interior.”

Each level of the home features a walk-out deck, with expansive windows that showcase the surrounding ocean views. The rooftop platform overlooks Narragansett Bay and the Beavertail Lighthouse. The property also boasts a manmade rock garden and lavender-lined pool. “It is one of the premier spots in Rhode Island, 1.4 acres along the water, overlooking Narragansett Bay. Mary helped the clients design the fortress to feature a modern interior, while blending the unique positioning of the lot and its environment. There was a multitude of elements the team had to balance, while designing the home, and the final product speaks to the experience, adaptability, and creativity of our team,” David shares.

“We did every single detail,” says Mary. “We went through each room; we talked about trim molding, and we wrapped the plaster around the windows to make a sleek finish. The kitchen for example is darker, because it works well with some of the whiter countertops. Those are the kinds of details that we care about.”

On projects of this scale, both leaders are aware that challenges will always arise. For example, as we learn from David: “We had to cut into the studs in the kitchen to bring in an oversized marble shelf. Above it, we had a window needed to be engineered to correctly match the fitting, while ensuring the structural support of the wall.

Any passersby will notice the home’s clean lines, incorporated to mitigate the old fortress shape, which has given the design more character, according to David. “The texture to it, the monotone color, the shadows that fall on it shows its age; each of these add wonderful elements that make the building beautiful. The front door, for example, is a giant flat front door, but when you get close to it, you can see the studded-beam detail. This feature makes it look like an old wooden door that has been around for centuries,” Mary explains.

Regarding the exterior, the design elements surrounding the home are just as stunning. “When we were digging the foundation, we uncovered many boulders on the lot, and we decided to use them to create a rock garden to surround the house, which gave the impression that the rocks had always been there. I feel that this brought nature back with a modern element,” David details. The pool patio was cut into existing ledge to create an irregular pattern, and, against the backdrop of the bay, the sharpness of the outside features was an excellent complement to the softness of the property’s surroundings.

Customer experience
The project took a total of 12 months to complete, and Mary expresses that this new build showcased the expansiveness of Davitt’s capabilities. “I think it’s fun for us to push the boundaries, which is why we absolutely love working on projects like this,” she says.

The Modern Coastal Castle is not the only one of its kind, and it certainly will not be the last. Both David and Mary are excited for what lies in store in the years to come, and the variety of projects the company will take on. “Our pipeline is full for the remainder of 2022 and 2023. The company has grown from 20 employees to 35 in the past five years. My background is in the financial sector and private equity, and I have seen all too often that when companies grow quickly, they may lose the essence of what they were built on. For us, the core values of our success are quality and teamwork, and as we grow our team, I know that our reputation will remain as an industry leader in design build. For me, it is about being strategic and purposeful with our growth to continue to deliver on our high-standards of quality and customer experience,” David concludes.