Monday, April 7, 2008

Style Guide: Colonial Cape

Period furnishings and unveiled windows help imbue an 18th-century home on Martha's Vineyard with the breezy charm of island living.

"I love being in Vineyard Haven," says the owner of this home on Martha's Vineyard, an island just off the coast of Cape Cod. "It's a real town with real people who live there -- it's not just a summer community." An interior designer by profession, she became a Vineyarder 11 years ago when she purchased a 1773 three-quarter Cape Cod cottage in the center of all the activity.

The house was originally built by Vineyard Haven's first harbor master for his son and daughter-in-law. One of the few remaining survivors of a devastating 1830 fire, the structure has undergone various renovations over the years -- including a complete kitchen update and bathroom addition. Thanks to unpretentious arrangements of period antiques, a cool blue-and-white color scheme, and unobstructed windows and open doorways, the dwelling still retains much of its original Vineyard charm.

Now that summer is here, we thought the timing ideal for a trip to the Cape. We're glad you decided to come along.

Living Room

The homeowner chose to decorate her home simply. She created an airy, uncluttered space as a setting to showcase her antique furnishings and accessories. A peaceful blue-and-white color scheme, inspired by the surrounding sea and sky, fills the room with soft color and light.

The sofas are slipcovered in a blue and white striped cotton fabric, while a French blue floral decorates the footstool and throw pillow. The windows are dressed with drapery panels and valances in a classic blue-and-white bird-and-thistle toile from Brunschwig & Fils.

Living Room Detail

"I am interested in nautical things," says the homeowner. One of her prized possessions is the antique ship model displayed on a Queen Anne cherry drop-leaf table in the living room. A soothing background for the antique pieces is provided by the wainscoting and trim, painted in a hsitorical Wickham Grey from Benjamin Moore The walls are painted stark white to simulate plaster.

An antique tin reproduction wall sconce adds a colonial touch to the vignette. The homeowner sells these sconces and other decorative items, like dishes and cotton rugs, through her interior design business.

Dining Room

Adjoining the living room is a cheerful sunlit dining room. American ladderback chairs gather around the dining room's reproduction harvest table. The blue and white color theme of the living room is repeated here with Brunschwig's bird and thistle fabric covering the dining room settee, and Staffordshire plates decorating the wall.

A sisal rug underfoot provides a neutral base for the room. Through the rear doorway and past the kitchen lies the backyard -- and a barn where the owner plans to set up an antique shop.

Dining Room Detail

New French doors not only provide easy access to the rear garden, but help to bring the natural beauty of the Vineyard in. "They're not terribly authentic," says the homeowner, "but they really make the room lighter. When they're open, it's almost like you're eating outdoors."

Potted plants, woven baskets, and a tiger maple table further enhance the natural decor.


The master bedroom on the first floor features a hand-crafted pencil-post bed, decorated with a hand-tied fishnet canopy. To help create a romantic country look, the bed is finished in a rose-colored fabric dust ruffle, with floral bed pillows. A framed antique doll's quilt hangs on the wall.

A pair of gold-leaf birds tie back the Swiss organdy curtains. "The light is so pretty on the Vineyard that I was careful with the colors in the house," notes the homeowner. There are two additional bedrooms upstairs.

Outdoor Shower

Taking a shower outdoors after a day at the beach is one of life's simplest pleasures. It also helps to refresh the body and the spirit on hot summer days. The shower is located near the back door off the kitchen. "We even use the outdoor shower when it's cold and raining." notes the owner. "On those days the hot water is particularly wonderful."

Glossy bittersweet grows over the walls, and the blue-and-white color scheme from inside is carried out to the shower with a large fluffy striped bath towel.

No comments: