From Blah to Beautiful

WHEN ROBERT and Cindy Martin first looked at the Meredith house where they now live, Robert stepped out onto the deck, took one look at the view and said to the real estate agent, “We’ll take it.”

His wife, a bit nonplussed, exclaimed, “Don’t you even want to know how many bathrooms it has first?” But Robert was already sold on what he saw.

As empty-nesters, the couple moved out of their Hopkinton home to this gated community on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1999. Designed by Architects Workshop in Campton and built two years before by Cargill/Blake Construction, the 2,800-square-foot house serves as their year-round residence — as well as a place for for their three grown children to stay when they come for a visit.

Moving out of a larger home into this smaller space took some adjustment, says Cindy. The couple had a lot of furniture that seemed out of place. There was the Queen Anne dining room set that was very formal in this lakehouse setting. Then there was the sofa that had been with Cindy for a long time, and was meant for the end of the bed in the master bedroom. But it wouldn’t fit through the bedroom door, so it ended up (temporarily) in the dining room.

The Martins also wanted their home to look pulled together, “but not in a fussy way,” says Cindy.

With the exception of the living room/dining area, which was baby blue, the rest of the house had all white walls. And the problem with white walls is that they’re just so, well, vanilla. That’s exactly the way interior designer Lori Currier of Weirs Beach described it when she saw it.

“My first impression was that it was a vanilla box, and it didn’t seem to have much dimension or character inside.” Currier’s goal was to complement the amazing views of the lake and mountains outside with striking indoor spaces. The Martins wanted a casual feel, but something that was more unifying.

Starting from scratch, her first order of business was to infuse color with paint and fabrics. She also suggested a casual outdoor theme to integrate the rooms, which the Martins were very excited about.

She painted the walls a warm beige color in the main living area. Stark white vaulted ceilings got a facelift with tongueand- groove pine boards, which made the room more casual and rustic.

“This tends to lower the ceiling a little bit visually, so it makes it more cozy,” says Currier. Keeping out the sun while keeping the views intact was a challenge she solved by adding a thin protective film to the high windows. Roman shades made of fine woven rattan were purposely chosen for their ability to filter light. “What’s nice is that when they’re down they’re sheer to a degree, so you don’t jeopardize the view,” she says.

Traditional draperies made by Kim Jestings of Drapery Fabrications in Meredith softly frame the windows — but don’t cover them up. If you look closely, says Cindy, you’ll also see that the curtains have rope trim and braid. “This helped both Lori and me,” says Cindy. “I wanted very casual, a comfortable feeling that you could just put your feet up, which the fabric accomplished. The rope trim just polished that up a bit.”

Master Bedroom Redux

“Clean and fresh” is how Currier describes the master bedroom with its new sea foam-green walls. Though the bedroom set is the same, new bedding in yellows, greens and blues with matching window valances and throw pillows were added to update it. So was an upholstered bench at the end of the bed.

Out went old artwork that didn’t quite fill up the space above the bed, and in came a new piece that provides the proper scale and proportion. Scale and size are important to keep in mind with artwork, says Currier. “Anything too small will get lost in a big area. Keep it balanced.” Silk orchid arrangements and greenery provided the finishing touches.

Storage and a TV Stand

When the owners’ adult children come to visit, the family room is definitely the room they use the most, says Currier. The room was dramatically cleared of clutter by adding a built-in wall unit with a window seat, bookcase and television stand.

Along with being a cozy little nook to curl up and read a book, the unit provides much-needed storage. The entire structure was built by a carpenter at his workshop and then brought to the house and assembled on-site.

Adding the window seat brought architectural interest to a room that didn’t have any before, says Cindy. “It’s really quite nice,” she says, adding that there is now roll-out storage for the family’s DVD and CD collection underneath. Cindy’s daughter-in-law, who is not quite five feet tall, enjoys sitting in this space while watching TV to avoid being crowded out by the family’s bigger members. “It’s like her own private couch,” she says.

Fish pillows, a fern area rug, an old oar, and plaid fabric all give the room an outdoorsy lakehouse feel. Above the television is a glass curio cabinet so the homeowner can display his collection of Hacker Craft boat memorabilia.

In fact, Currier loves incorporating her clients’ collections into a design. “It is so much fun to have a collection you can work around and play with,” she says. “It tells a lot about that person.”

For their daughter’s room, Currier based the look of the space around her whimsical bottle collection. Some of the bottles were gifts that Cindy had given to her own mother for special occasions over the years.

When Cindy’s daughter Kim was about 5 years old, the family was having a yard sale and the bottles were some of the items that were for sale. As they were being toted away by a lucky buyer, Kim started crying. Out of sympathy the woman let her pick one or two to keep.

From then on, Kim looked for colored bottles whenever she went to a flea market or yard sale, and her collection has grown quite extensive.

“Kim is fascinated by colors and glass,” says Cindy. Although Kim is studying to become an architect, her mother suspects that the lure of those colored bottles will someday lead her to a profession as a glass blower.

Most of the time, colored glass bottles are displayed on window sills, but Kim had hers on display on ledges in the bedroom. Currier painted the plain white walls a vibrant yellow, which shows off the brightly colored vessels. The bed linens, window dressings and lamps brought in even more color.

The most dramatic color change occurred in the kitchen, however. (See next page.) It went from plain white to a daring barn red. Although the white cabinets stayed intact, the Formica countertops were replaced with dramatic blank granite. Whimsical hand-painted knobs replaced plain brass.

Another interesting detail is the valance curtain pole above the window. It came from a company that builds Adirondack homes. Currier and the owner visited this workshop one day and they were able to hand-pick a de-barked pole expressly for the curtain rod.

Because the wall between the kitchen and the dining room was not a supporting wall, the double arches could be opened up to create one large archway. The granite countertop was then extended beyond the edge of the counter, which made for a more social space for entertaining — especially with the addition of bar stools.

What was once a “vanilla box” is now a house brimming with color and coziness — as well as happy clients. “This was a project that most of us designers only dream about,” says Currier.