Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Style Guide: Colonial Cottage

Furnished with country antiques, a mid-17th-century farm cottage on Long Island, New York, serves as a peaceful weekend hideaway for a Manhattan couple.

In the mid 1600s, when Long Island was first colonized, it was primarily home to farmers and shipping merchants. Today the natural beauty of the North Fork, with its quaint village towns, views of the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay, and accessibility to New York City, makes it an ideal place for city dwellers looking to while away summer days.

For one Manhattan couple, the challenge of blending the old -- a cottage built around 1647 -- with today's leisure lifestyle was met by creating an easy-care decor complete with country antiques, area rugs, washable slipcovers, and minimal window treatments.

Liberated from continual housekeeping, the homeowners are able to enjoy their personal passions: she the cultivation and care of antique roses in the cottage garden; and he the pursuit of sailing on the waters around the North Fork.

The homeowners have invited us to tour their seaside cottage and experience the simple pleasures of a summer's day on Long Island.

Living Room, Detail

The collection of mismatched, odd-framed botanical prints and chaise longue add a classic touch to the room's minimal details: bare plank flooring, cream-colored walls, and green painted chair rail and baseboard.

The hand-tinted 1800s Redouté botanical prints were found in London and depict the types of trees and flowers grown on the cottage property.

The chaise is given a fresh summer look with its loosely tailored slipcover in white pique fabric. "I usually collapse on this chaise after working in the garden," says the owner.

Dining Room

The dining room's built-in corner cupboard is original to the house and exemplifies the fine craftsmanship of 17th-century woodworking. The dining table and red cupboard (barely visible at left) were purchased locally by the homeowners.

Positioned around the table are 19th-century painted dining chairs. They are decorated in the Hitchcock style and feature traditional rush seats.

The English wrought iron chandelier, striped rag rug, and simple swagged draperies continue to reflect the home's casual, comfortable mood.


The mullioned glass panels and natural finish of the oak cabinets and countertops provide a natural harmony with the original character of the house. A dough bowl sits on top of one of the cupboards and a cataplana -- a Portuguese copper pot for cooking and serving shellfish soup -- stands on the other.

To maintain efficiency and meet the special requirements of the homeowners -- one a professional caterer by trade -- the kitchen is outfitted with the latest in modern conveniences. It was put to the test a couple of years ago, when a feast in celebration of their daughter's wedding was prepared for 120 guests.

Master Bedroom

In the master bedroom, the Shaker-style tester bed creates a dramatic focus with its clean lines, natural finish, and exposed canopy rails. It is complemented by a pair of matching bedside tables and a chest of drawers.

With the exception of pale yellow in the woven rug, the room is bathed in white; from walls, ceiling, and trim to the linens and Marseilles coverlet on the bed.

Rather than using lace or plain gauze, the homeowners created added texture and visual interest by hand stenciling the muslin draperies with white paint.

Guest Bedroom

Unlike the master bedroom, the guest room features a warm blend of color and pattern, including wheat-colored walls and brightly patterned bed linens. The rose and white striped drapery fabric and pastel-colored needlework rug continue to add a special country charm to this room.

One of the Victorian iron beds was from the homeowner's Manhattan apartment, the other a lucky find while exploring a nearby antique shop.


For most city dwellers, the enjoyment of the out-of-doors is one of the special pleasures of a weekend retreat. The property here combines the natural beauty of the location with manageable garden areas for weekend cultivation and tending.

Teatime often finds the couple in the garden, where a festive table is set with a mix of German porcelain and 1930s French platters and plates.

Some of the tantalizing high tea delicacies shown here include a grape-studded savarin, peaches poached in sauternes, and petits fours.

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