The first things you notice when you approach Gail Greenwood and Chil Mott’s home are delicate lace curtains hanging in black-trimmed windows and a skull affixed to the yellow clapboard beside the front door. This dichotomy sums up what you’ll find inside of their 1930’s cottage, half of which feels frozen in another time, while the other half tells the story of a rock ‘n’ rock life.
The couple met in the late 1980’s when Gail began playing bass with Chil’s punk rock band, The Boneyards. The two bonded over music, a shared love of history, and joy rides that lead to adventures exploring abandoned buildings. “I love stories about houses that were just left as they were — with the table still set and everything — the family up and moved, or, sadly, the elderly died or were put away. There are so many abandoned houses that I am dying to break into,” Gail explains.
Chil’s reverence for the past dates back to his childhood, when he would accompany his mother, a second-generation genealogist and family historian, to cemeteries. He would shine a light on gravestones as she searched for clues to the past. “Don’t be afraid of ghosts,” she used to say, “Just ask them a lot of questions.”
Together the couple has developed a style they like to call “dead grandmother.” The first floor of their home echoes the feeling Gail previously described — minus the dust and cobwebs — of walking into a home untouched by time. The house manages to look a bit like a movie set while still feeling comfortable and inviting.
The kitchen is the most striking example of a time warp. Vintage hand-painted wallpaper with a repeating pattern including a fruit motif is the perfect complement to the house’s original cabinets, now painted a bright cherry red and stocked with Fire-King and LuRay tableware. Sparkling white 1940’s appliances look right at home beside a mid-century red and white dinette set.
The bathroom — tiled by Chil in black and white with Vermeer’s “Allegory of Painting” as inspiration — displays old apothecary bottles, vintage glass jars and a working vintage red hairdryer.
The guest room was inspired by the Nature Lab at Gail’s alma mater RISD, and intentionally has a little bit of a creepy Bates Motel vibe. The red walls feature botanical paintings and drawings from long gone relatives — Chil’s grandmother, Gail’s great-uncle — and antique taxidermy Gail acquired for use as study models when she taught drawing at Mass Art. The room holds some of Chil’s most precious family heirlooms: a glass-front bookcase filled with antique genealogy and history books inherited from his mother, and the rocking chair his great-great grandfather was sitting in when he died.
The frozen-in-time feeling of the home ends on the second floor. Once an unfinished attic inhabited by pigeons, the large open space filled with custom built-ins made by Chil is now the office of Greenwood Associates, the illustration and graphic design company started by Gail’s father Robert in 1954. Gail and Chil inherited the business from Robert and Gail’s late sister Betsy. Although the business has a long history, the office and art studio is filled with things that distinctly mark the space with signs of modern life — computers, magazines, lighting equipment, props for music videos.
A large collection of electric basses and guitars that line the walls tell the story of a life filled with music: the Rickenbacker and Thunderbird Gail played when she was on the road with Belly, L7 and Bif Naked, a black and white Hamer that used to belong to Rhode Island rock legend Carlotta Christy, and the ones they now play with their current band Benny Sizzler. The instruments are also reminders of the old Boneyards days when they first met and traveled with their bandmates Sluggo and Gene in a red and white van, playing shows with the Goo Goo Dolls, Social Distortion and the Circle Jerks. “To this day I have never laughed — nor cried — as hard as when we were all in that van, the “Pack of Luckys.” The funniest people I have ever met,” Gail remembers fondly.
Their band no longer takes them far from home, but their life is still filled with music and laughter. The couple is currently planning a new Benny Sizzler video, complete with costumes and props they make themselves, featuring their charming and incredibly well-trained dogs Maurice Cheeks and Bear.
You can see Gail and Chil’s full house tour and read more about their style and inspiration on Apartment Therapy.
Photos and text by Jacqueline Marque