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Cape Cod Style

Cape Cod Decorating Style

When you hear someone say they like the Cape Cod decorating style they could be thinking about the actual Cape Cod cottage with the dormer windows or be attempting to achieve the Cape Cod feeling on the interior of their home without the actual architecture. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting the area can’t help but fall in love with the warm and friendly ambiance of both the interior and exterior of the homes. Here we will help those who want to convey the Cape Cod style without the benefit of the typical home.

First it is a good idea just to sit back and reflect on the history of the Cape Cod influence. A lot of smaller New England coast towns have the same general feel because when the English settled here they brought some valued furniture, mementos and ideas from across the pond. There is a great deal of English influence in these seaside homes. Many were built by sea captains for their families to live while they were out months at a time. The interiors were purposely comfortable and cozy, and rooms tended to be on the smaller size. Homes of the era used a lot of white on the interior which made the rooms appear much larger.

In addition to a good use of white paint you would see an abundant number of shutters. These were practical along the coast to keep the cold, frigid winds out during the winter months. Even closed the rooms would still feel friendly and welcoming.

Today’s individuals who prefer the Cape Cod style will use more wall color than just white for decorating. Blues and greens will be employed that bring in the colors of the ocean and sea. It is not unusual to see beiges that remind the owners of the light sand beaches both of New England and the mother country. However, if you use one of the vivid or neutral colors, you still want to leave your woodwork a low gloss white.

Typically the floors would have been wide planked wood in the darker tones as this type of lumber was plentiful during the time the original homes were built. If you have newer narrow plank or engineered wood floors, you can use area rugs in the typical Cape Cod serviceable colors scattered about.

Remember, the interior of a Cape Cod home was to be warm and cozy. But it was also supposed to balance the masculine and feminine. When the seamen came home they wanted their creature comforts. They wanted large wooden bed frames, large over-stuffed chairs, utilitarian and sturdy dining tables and a somewhat lack of clutter. This is why you see a lot of built-in storage spaces in a traditional Cape Cod. Out of sight, out of mind.

To keep the rooms and furniture masculine yet adding a feminine touch, the women would have lots of throw pillows in vibrant colors like red, blue and green. The fabrics would have been natural fibers but could have unique weaves. There were children in and out, summer and winter, so the upholstered furniture had to last for years.

Accenting the home was not done with the help of frills in the Cape Cod decorating style. Because the ‘menfolk’ were generally away from home, there would be nautical items here and there. They would not use too many because that would make the home too fancy and too cluttered. Lanterns, sconces and hurricane lamps were used for lighting. Some easy items to use would be brightly colored translucent bottles filled with sand, or a basket of different sizes of sea shells. A small lighthouse ‘whatnot’ would be right at home.

Professional decorators will bring in other elements such as bead board to resemble wainscoting. Bead board is not hard to install for the do-it-yourself handy person. Generally, this will be painted white to match the wood work throughout the home.

It is neither hard nor expensive to enjoy the Cape Cod decorating style. You can take it one step at a time, one room at a time. This way you can select and choose your favorite colors and accoutrements with deliberation.

Try looking for another style of decorating.

More information on Styles and Periods of Interior Decorating

Styles and Periods
Furniture History
Decorating Styles
Period Decoration
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About the Author – Lee Brown

Lee Brown is the co founder of interiordezine.com, she has worked in the Interior Design Industry for over 23 years, specializing in commercial, hospitality, high end architectural homes and retail design. Over the past 13 years Lee and Chris Brown have been collating their wealth of design knowledge to provide free interior decorating education to the world. Make sure you register for your free ecourse today. Free Interior Decorating eCourse
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