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A Soulful Retreat

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A vaulted ceiling adds volume to the master bedroom, while beams add a sense of age and architectural interest. Photograph by Herbert StudiosOn a tranquil strand in one of the few little-known areas of the Delaware coast stands a cottage called Endless Views, a reference to enchanting vistas of water, cedars and a mist-shrouded island that is reputed to be a Native American burial ground.
 
At 1,750 square feet, the cottage was conceived as a guest house for a larger, grander home that is still in the planning phase. The owner’s goal was to create a guest get-away that is high on style, yet low on maintenance, with a simple, open design that promotes serenity.
 
To achieve a comfy laid-back look and effortless flow, the owner turned to Rosemarie Dodd Giroso, owner of Rose Authentica Inc., a boutique interior design firm specializing in holistic design.
 
“This is a very spiritual place,” she says. “It deserves a home that respects that peaceful feeling.”
 
The cottage’s interior is grounded with dark, rustic plank floors that are characterized by the rippled surface created by an adze, a woodworking tool first used in the 12th century. The wood has some history to it, too. The boards were salvaged from a brewery in Ireland.
 
Guests enter informally, up a flight of stairs and onto a broad veranda, then into a trim kitchen that is open to a dining area.
 
The kitchen is yacht-like in its compactness, yet it exudes an aura of luxury, with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. A full-size refrigerator, range, sink, dishwasher, microwave and prep area were skillfully laid out in a line only a dozen feet long.
 
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The kitchen, with its stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops and dark cupboards, is compact yet luxurious. Photograph by Herbert Studios“You don’t need a huge amount of space to design a kitchen that is attractive and very functional,” Giroso says.
 
The vintage-style faucet on the sink is finished in an aged bronze, in keeping with the earthy tones of the cottage. Instead of glass, display cabinets are fronted with a mesh that is reminiscent of chicken wire. The cupboards are painted black, a sophisticated twist on the classic white cabinetry often found in kitchens in Nantucket.
 
“I love black,” Giroso says. “It’s very dramatic, and it really complements the floor.”
 
Four-panel wood doors are faithful reproductions of those found in cottages in Newport, Rhode Island, in the days when America was young and forests were abundant. Wood beams crisscross the ceiling in the gathering room to enhance a feeling of coziness.
 
Throughout the cottage, surfaces are free of fuss and clutter. No fluttering curtains or billowing draperies here. Windows are dressed simply, with tailored wood blinds and fabric shades. A large table in the gathering room is crafted from distressed wood. The seating area is furnished with big, comfy sofas and a pair of cushioned rattan club chairs, all upholstered in deep beige. “You can put your feet up anywhere,” Giroso says.
 
Still, the cottage is neither spartan nor devoid of technology. Because he was building from scratch, the owner could readily install recessed lighting, as well as wiring and speakers for a whole-house sound system.

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The upper-floor bath features a checkerboard floor and swiveling mirrors. Photograph by Herbert StudiosIn keeping with cottage tradition, spaces are used for multiple functions.
 
A granite counter in a cheerful laundry room does double duty as a home office by serving as a computer desk. The jot of a room off the garage is furnished with a futon that offers a quiet place to read or a bed for overflow guests. The big table in the gathering room can be used for dining, board games, crafts and, occasionally, the homeowner’s paperwork.
 
Giroso says successful designs begin with a meticulously detailed lifestyle profile. “Do we need a place for a Christmas tree and outdoor lighting?” she asks. “Any chance your in-laws might be moving in? Do you bathe your pets at home or take them to a groomer?”
 
She encourages homeowners to tear pictures of scenarios that make them feel good out of magazines, “even if it’s a magazine about cigars or horses.” Before long, a pattern will emerge, a look and feeling that suits the people who will live in the space.
 
In the cottage, the priority was creating a refuge for the homeowner, who is an active businessman, and his son. The owner plans to stay in the getaway frequently while the main house is designed and constructed. “He needed a place to escape, to decompress,” Giroso says.
 
In a small home, open expanses create a feeling of lightness and volume. The designer calls it “breathing space.”
 
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 A second-story landing provides an entry to a large deck overlooking the water. Photograph by Herbert StudiosInstead of shoehorning in a third bedroom, the homeowner opted for an open, second-story landing in the cottage, a spacious surprise at the top of the stairs. In addition to a gallery wall for art, the landing provides an entry to a large deck overlooking the water.
 
“It is my favorite place in the house,” Giroso says. “The wonderful feeling you get from this space was well worth trading off on an extra bedroom.”
 
The second bedroom is furnished with bunk beds, a choice that enables the homeowner’s son to invite friends for visits. After the main house is built, the room can accommodate guests with young children or teen sleepovers. “Every beach house should have a bunk room,” Giroso says. “It’s so much fun.”
 
The floors in the master bedroom and upper-floor bath are painted in a crisp cream and blue checkerboard pattern. “In the past, people painted floors in cottages to smooth out the wood or to cover something that was unattractive,” she says. “Today, we do it because it looks nice.”
 
A cozy bedroom was a priority for the homeowner. A vaulted ceiling adds volume to the small room. Beams add a sense of age and architectural interest. A fan whirls softly over a big bed dressed with lots of plump pillows.
 
In the upper-floor bath, walls are sheathed in beadboard wainscoting. Towels hang on wooden pegs. Two small mirrors are stationed on swivel mounts so they can be readily adjusted for shaving.
 
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The view simply speaks for itself. Photograph by Herbert StudiosThe ground floor is dedicated primarily to parking. Living spaces are sited on the second and third floors, the better to enjoy the views. There are decks off each floor where guests congregate to talk or wax skimboards.
 
“Beach houses are about connection—to your family, your friends, to the outdoors,” Giroso says. “It’s about making memories.”
 
In time, a cottage becomes more than glass, wood and cedar shingles. It’s a cherished friend that people look forward to visiting. “People think of the cottage as part of the family,” she says. “The house takes on a life of its own.”
 
She can attest to that firsthand. Giroso has enjoyed a rare opportunity to test drive her work, renting the cottage for vacations with her children. “It is a soulful retreat,” she says. “Every room is a joy.”
 
 

GET THE LOOK

  • Incorporate the architectural elements of cottage style into a space. That includes beadboard, tongue-in-groove paneling, ceiling beams, wainscoting, and pegs for hanging coats or towels.
     
  • Cultivate a relationship between the cottage and the outdoors. That might include maximizing a water view or planting a flower garden in a plot that can be enjoyed from both inside and outside the house.
     
  • In cottage style, pieces do double duty, as in a dining table that also is a craft station. Pieces also are repurposed for new uses, as in a vintage bench that becomes a coffee table or an old fence that is reborn as a headboard.
     
  • Plan for breathing space, an open area that gives a home an aura of vitality. In the beach cottage, the homeowner opted to give up a third bedroom in order to create a light and airy second-floor landing. 

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