There’s a period of time that comes at the tail end of winter, when it isn’t quite spring, but it seems the daffodils are urging themselves forward with unseemly haste, the snowdrops are dipping their heads before the last of the north winds, and the scudding clouds in an impossibly blue sky can only signal one thing: the return of warm weather, and time to open the beach house.
I watch the horizon for the later setting sun, and find my thoughts drawn to the elegant Grey Lady far off in the Atlantic Ocean, my home away from home: Nantucket. For anyone fortunate enough to own a beach house, the sand you build your castles on is real for you all year long. It’s not just the warm weather months that restore us; it’s the anticipation of the season we long for. In my basement there are canvas bags, ready to be filled with things for the summer house. As the cold weeks drift into warmer, sunnier days, slowly the bags are being filled. And my eagerness grows.
Inevitably, my mind turns to the harbor, the water, the sea. The array of constantly changing shades of blues, greys and greens. The piercingly clear cobalt blue sky, the sparkle of the sun and light on leaves and water, the shimmer on the white trim of weathered shingle houses, the glistening sand where the waves have receded: all create the vision for me of a perfect “Nantucket Day.” Home is where the heart is, and everyone who knows me says, “Trudy goes home to Connecticut, but she leaves her soul on Nantucket.”
Because my beach house is on Nantucket, it’s that island’s unique slant of light (rivaling Giverny) that I draw upon for inspiration in my design work. In decorating no two projects are alike. They’re client-driven, personal and unique. But there’s a reason for my love of blue and white (Chinese Export Porcelain) with touches of pink (New Dawn roses) and yellow (daffodils dancing down Milestone Road on the island.) There’s a reason for my love of sand and sea colors: to forget the shades of water and sky is impossible when your home is nestled somewhere near a beach.
My color palette comes from the infinite blueness of sea and sky, the velvety grays of the fog, the bleached white of seashells, the sandy beige of the beach, the soft greens of the pines and bayberry. Beach house style blends all these hues. The essence of summer near the ocean, I believe, is serenity, and a beach house should embody this.
Clean interiors, free of clutter except perhaps a stack of first edition books on life at sea, art that reflects a sense of place, and special niches for prized collections, whether Lightship baskets or whalebone scrimshaw, are key to achieving the simple life summer demands. Window treatments should be designed to let as much light and air into the rooms as possible. Accessories are best when they are memories of special days and nautical nights: shells from beach walks, models of sailboats, antique sea chests, and paintings of schooners.
Whether you’re ready to open your beach house for the first time, or the fiftieth, here are some tips to help you create the perfect summer home:
- Blues are serene because they evoke the sea and the sky, but I wouldn’t use an intense marine blue on a wall. I’d reserve it for accents such as pillows, china or curtains.
- Carry your main colors throughout the house. Even in a rose room, I would include touches of blue to pull things together and help lead you from room to room.
- I love juxtaposing rich color with white: in a white room, I might use ivory woodwork.
- Go with soft, muted shades in bedrooms; saturated colors in living areas.
- Add color with flowers. Sunflowers or pink roses are wonderful in a blue and white room.
- Don’t attempt too much in one room; your eye needs a place to rest.
- Remember that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury. See my post on spring cleaning for ideas on cleaning without harmful chemicals.
May summer be a delightful sojourn of rest and repose for you, wherever you find your heart and home!