LEAH FISH IS LUCKY enough to have parents with a summer house on Cape Cod — she felt luckier still when they asked her to design the interiors of their new guest cottage. As a regular visitor to the West Falmouth property, she’d get to enjoy the fruits of her labor firsthand.
Fish, who lives in Cambridge, worked closely with the architect, Jeremiah Eck of Boston’s Eck MacNeely Architects, and her parents to shape the plans. The cottage sits next to a bird sanctuary, so there were restrictions on the plans: It had to be constructed on a raised foundation, and neither a full second story nor a full kitchen was possible. But the just under 1,100-square-foot cottage has numerous large windows that look onto Buzzards Bay and a wonderful flow that makes it feel expansive and utterly complete.
Taking cues from the decor of the main house and the oceanfront locale, Fish selected a soft color palette where white is the dominant hue: White-painted paneling recalls the bead board commonly used in antique coastal cottages; whitewashed wood floors complement the painted white trim and moldings.
“I wanted the outdoors to be the focal point of the interior,” she says. To avoid obstructing the views, Fish shied away from window treatments except for simple shades in the bedrooms, and she made sure furnishings and fabrics didn’t compete with the landscape. “While it might not seem obvious right away, the wall colors reflect what you might see at any given hour outside,” she says. The fiery orange accent wall in the television room recalls the way the horizon sometimes looks at sunset; on other evenings, the sky has a lilac tint, and Fish used that color in one of the two bedrooms.
In the loft bedroom, where Fish’s two young children sleep when the family visits, she opted for a tropical blue. “The color is a childish version of the ocean, which I picked because I wanted the room to be more fun,” she says. “On perfect summer days, the water here looks very much like this Caribbean blue.” For another playful element, and to accentuate the triangular roofline, she had the ceiling painted in stripes—an inspiration derived from the inside of a circus tent.
For most rooms, Fish chose simple furniture and outdoor fabrics. “This is a summer home, and summer is dirty; people go swimming, they’re coming in and out from the beach,” she says. “I wanted things to be easy to clean.” The living room’s hand-woven rope sofa and armchairs, manufactured by John Himmel, have a nautical feel. With its hint of turquoise, the glass coffee table recalls the ocean, and the Eames molded plastic armchair echoes that hue. “The chair was perfect,” says Fish. “It has a soft summer feeling but brings a bit of modern flair into the room.”
The home’s connection to nature makes it a very relaxing place to be, says Fish, who particularly enjoys the orchestra of crickets at night. On their visits, she and her husband sleep in the bedroom with the lilac walls, where the bed faces a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the ocean. “I wake up in the morning and it’s like ‘Wow.’ I can’t get over how amazing it is.”
Leah Fish decided against rugs in most of the rooms, liking the way exposed wood floors enhance the cottage’s open, airy feeling. The whitewashed wood — achieved by painting bleached red oak slabs with watered-down white paint and then partially rubbing it off — was laid in a diagonal pattern, similar to the way the outdoor decking was installed. The effect, says Fish, “created huge continuity. It makes the interior space feel larger and brings the outdoors in.”