Design for Living
A Cape reproduction home does not have to look like it was decorated in the past. Here, the owner showcases her fabulous antiques in a neutral palette and carefully considered color scheme.
Designer McMillan West knows that good design choices will pass the test of time. When she and her family moved into their Amherst Cape Cod-style home, her treasured belongings moved right along with them.
West says she fell in love with the reproduction Cape because it reminded her of her parent’s home, though the curvaceous landscape and panoramic mountain views were a definite bonus. Years ago, the kitchen was bumped out to make way for a family room creating an open, yet still inviting floor plan. She points out that “there’s a wonderful flow from room to room.” With lovely details like wide pumpkin pine flooring, built-in cabinetry, and a host of architectural details already waiting for them, the only thing the West family had to do was add new carpeting and lighting before they repainted the entire interior. “The bones were already there. We just made some basic changes to improve it,” says West.
Basic maybe, but the results are beautiful. Having spent her childhood around the antique business, West’s “appreciation for old things” was cultivated at a young age. Her home is a mix of Early American country with just a few traditional and modern design elements thrown in to showcase the warm woods and strong lines of her antiques. She
assures me that nothing is too precious. With two small children and a dog running about, her home is “livable – there’s nothing you can’t touch.” Many pieces were found at flea markets or were simply given to her. She then had pieces reupholstered in neutral fabrics with subtle patterns to work with just about anything so that “furnishings can easily move from one room to another.”
To further play up the contrast, she has painted most of the interior in a warm cream chosen to “create an open, airy, calm feeling” throughout. However, she wanted some of the rooms to have some intense colors to stand in “as a beautiful backdrop for collections.” She chose a rich brown for her dining room to accent her grandmother’s Transferware plates. Another room is bathed in a Hermes orange, which she readily admits might not be for everyone. “I like different, unusual and an element of surprise,” says West. But one of her favorite rooms is her study – an “incredibly cozy room” where she often works and reads to her children. This room is blanketed in a deep, moody blue making it the perfect place to retreat to in the evening.
The home boasts many windows, in all shapes and forms, but she chose to dress them simply or not at all. “There are views from every room and we didn’t want to miss a thing.” And we both agree, light is “good for the psyche.”
“(Windows) can read as stark and undone – just because it’s not framed in fabric doesn’t mean it can’t be a focal point,” she adds. Clearly, watching the seasons unfold is one of the many benefits of this home.
And when she and her husband want a place all to themselves, they retreat to her other favorite room – the bedroom. The upholstered headboard takes center stage, but it’s her Niermann Weeks iron-and-crystal chandelier that catches your eye. Believe it or not, these items came with her too. “I bought the chandelier at auction last year,” and it balances the height of the ceiling perfectly.
When the West family walks into their home, she says “it feels like we’re on vacation. It’s a wonderful retreat for our family.” As every home should be. NH
Tips to Freshen Up for SpringOnce the snow piles melt away, it’s a good time to lighten up and refresh your home for spring … without stretching your budget.
Paint can do wonders to give a tired room a new lease on life. Paint varying shades of a soothing neutral on trim (in semi-gloss), walls (satin or eggshell) and the ceiling for the perfect foundation to a beautiful room. Add an element of surprise by painting a niche or the top of a landing an unexpected, bold color.
Spruce up an old piece of furniture in a new color. Small dressers are perfect for the entry and can hold mail, hats and even the dog’s leash. Use them in the bathroom to hold towels and beauty supplies. Or in the den or study as a TV stand to store videos, movies or paper supplies for the home office.
Furniture isn’t the only thing that can move. Remove art and send your collections off to a new room. Swap out pictures and paintings with an old map, your children’s artwork or some china plates. Now lean some of your other pieces on tabletops – mirrors and empty frames work well, too.
Mirrors are a great way to double the light and the view. A large mirror can be placed beside a bed or at the end of a hall. Use small mirrors in bookcases, as a backsplash in the kitchen or hang them in a group on the wall and with other art.
Clear out the clutter and store smaller items in matching boxes, place the remote or mail on a decorative tray and corral newspapers and magazines in a deep basket.
Remove heavy drapes and replace them with light-filtering curtains hung near the ceiling to give the illusion of height. Strip floors bare or bring in a sisal rug for added texture. Replace bedding with a cotton or linen coverlet and slip-cover pillows (with a simple straight-stitch) with pretty dish towels, fabric remnants or rustic grain sacks.
Fresh flowers may be an expensive splurge, but a bowl filled with spring bulbs or a vase bursting with apple blossom branches isn’t. Force bulbs by placing roots (only) in water or purchase a flowering plant that you can replant once the ground is ready.