AFTER PURCHASING their Harwich Port summer cottage in 2012, owners Ashley and James Matthews were told by a builder that to make it the home of their dreams, they’d have to tear it down and rebuild. “We felt that we wouldn’t be able to do that for a few years,” says Ashley. “So we decided to decorate it really well in the meantime.”
The couple had rented the four-bedroom house with their three children for two summers before buying it. The 1,830-square-foot beachfront house, built in 1965, was dated and lacked character. “It had vanilla walls, vanilla wall-to-wall carpet,” says Ashley.
As she scoured the design website Houzz.com for ideas, Ashley noticed she was drawn to rooms decorated by Weston-based interior designer Katie Rosenfeld. Deciding they needed help sorting through all the options, the Matthews hired Rosenfeld for their project.
Looking to bring color to the interiors, Ashley found inspiration in a collage by Robert Mars that she bought at DTR Modern Galleries on Newbury Street. The work, which now hangs in the cottage’s living room, depicts vintage Coca-Cola bottles against an unconventionally hued American flag.
“We decided to go with the piece’s American flag motif,” Ashley says. “Rather than navy blue, we’d focus on turquoise, and in addition to red, we’d add bright pinks.”
The designer got to work bringing the colors into every room. The unified scheme was practical, too. “By threading the same colors throughout the house,” Rosenfeld says, “you have the freedom to mix and match furnishings if something needs to be moved.”
Intriguing, high-quality textiles were an important part of Rosenfeld’s plan to give the home a distinctive look and establish its palette. She splurged on colorful custom draperies and Roman shades in a bold, beautiful array of geometric prints, unexpected florals, and coastal motifs. An abundance of playful bright pillows, designed by Rosenfeld, add another layer. “I wanted the interiors to relate to the surroundings in a way that was newer, fresher, and more humorous,” she says.
Because the budget also needed to accommodate a new kitchen and updates to two bathrooms, Rosenfeld cut costs in other ways, beginning with reupholstering several armchairs that came with the house. “They were in horrible shape, sad, totally out of date, ready for the dump,” she says. “We completely remade the chairs, changed the proportions on some of them, added tufting, waterfall skirts, and swivel mechanisms. All that was much less expensive than buying new chairs.”
Most of the furniture is sheathed in hardy outdoor acrylic fabrics. “If it couldn’t get sandy and wet, I didn’t want it,” says Ashley. Also forgiving are the Chinese sea-grass rugs that cover the new hardwood floors in the living and dining areas. “Sea grass is basically like a doormat,” says Rosenfeld. “It absorbs dirt and grease, hides sand, and vacuums up nicely.”
Rosenfeld acquired most of the furnishings from retailers including West Elm and Crate & Barrel; the kitchen cabinetry and bathroom fixtures came from Home Depot. “You can make it your own by mixing things that are special with store-bought and catalog items,” she says.
As a nod to the home’s mid-century origins, many pieces have a retro flair. In the living room, a bohemian-inspired West Elm shag rug is paired with a chair from Wisteria modeled after the French modern “vibo” style, with sleek arms and a rough hand-woven rope back. The large white Jonathan Adler coffee table is also a favorite spot for family board-game sessions.
“We don’t need a 4,000-square-foot house. We like that it’s a little cramped, because it forces us to hang out,” says Ashley. “It’s so pretty now, I never want to tear it down.”
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