True ColorsText by Erin MarvinPhotography by Eric RothProduced by Stacy Kunstel
Opposites attract, which is why a visual artist and a businessman might find love, and why that same couple would split their time between a city nest swathed in jewel tones and an island home of cool coastal hues. After winter has finally left Boston, and spring’s fragile blooms have given way to fertile summer days, Margo Ouellette and her husband, Philip Evans, trade the skyline views of their high-rise Boston condo for the vibrant garden oasis of their Vineyard Haven home.
It was the couple’s dog and constant companion, Chloe, that prompted their search for a summer home with a big yard. After spending half the year in the city, they thought, Chloe deserved some room to run. And after renting on the Vineyard for almost twenty years, the couple had begun to crave a place of their own. While Ouellette wasn’t immediately taken with the house itself, its location and half-acre of land were just what she had in mind. It didn’t hurt that a parking area in back can accommodate ten cars; perfect for when the couple hosts summer fetes, it’s a luxury almost unheard of in downtown Vineyard Haven.
As an artist, Ouellette doesn’t underestimate anything’s potential: how a blank canvas can become a work of art or, in this case, how a commoner’s cottage could become the perfect summer abode. As a trained architect, she took charge of renovating the house, doubling the size of the two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot space within the constraints required by the local historic district commission and turning the unadorned landscape into an English country garden.
The first floor now encompasses a large living room, Ouellette’s art studio (in what was once the dining room), her husband’s office and the kitchen. A wide corridor pulls double duty as the couple’s library; they’re both avid readers, and Evans writes business tomes. The kitchen was one room Ouellette left as is; neither she nor her husband cook, and when they have parties, they call the caterers. “You wouldn’t want to eat anything I cooked,” she jokes.
Upstairs holds the master suite and guest bedrooms. Each bedecked in a different color scheme (purple, pink and black and white), the three guest rooms offer sanctuary to the couple’s frequent visitors. “We do a tremendous amount of entertaining,” Ouellette says. “We have friends who like to visit us, and we like them to come—that’s why we got the space.”
Along with the geographic change, the entire aesthetic of the Vineyard house is a bright contrast to the couple’s winter home in Boston. Ouellette also acted as interior designer, looking no further than the view outside for inspiration in creating their summer escape. Walls evoke the blues and greens of the ocean and sky; light-colored wood floors and creamy white carpets conjure the color of sand. One bench perfectly matches the pale peach hue of a conch shell (Ouellette brought a shell to the fabric showroom just to be sure). She chose the large ottomans in the living room because their shape reminded her of jellyfish. The iridescent quality of the glass mosaic tiles in the bathroom also evokes the sea; guests have nicknamed the tiled shower “the fish tank.”
Fabrics are mostly solid colors in touchable finishes like chenille, Ultrasuede and velvet. “Texture is very important,” says Ouellette. “Because the fabrics are mostly solid in color, I wanted to add some depth.”
Notable exceptions are living room accent chairs and a large ottoman clad in a soft celadon coral pattern, in keeping with the ocean theme, and a vibrant floral pattern that Ouellette fell in love with and designed her master bedroom around. Overall the palette is kept simple and streamlined. “There are patterns in nature, but most things are tone on tone. I wanted to keep things nature based, a variation on color rather than bold prints,” she says.
Bolder colors come into play in her collection of art glass treasures, which rest on surfaces throughout the house and in six living-room wall niches Ouellette designed specifically for their display. Artwork is equally eye-catching, every single piece created by Ouellette. The abstract acrylics (“not boat pictures like you typically see on the Vineyard,” the artist quips) share a strong geometric theme. “I’m a circle freak,” she says.
She draws inspiration from her Native American heritage and works on paintings one at a time; each takes anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete. Her work can be found at Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven and L’Attitude Gallery in Boston, among others.
Other dramatic accessories include fresh flowers from the garden, most often hydrangea blooms the color of tanzanite and sky. “There are about 100 hydrangea bushes around the house,” says Ouellette. “Some of the flowers are almost a foot in diameter; the house looks like it’s floating in a cloud of hydrangeas when they’re open.”
A trip to the English countryside and visits to fabulous gardens abroad inspired Ouellette to return home and create a beautiful garden for herself. A combination of annual and perennial plants accented by potted topiaries and a stone wall and terrace makes for an outdoor haven. There’s room for Ouellette and Evans to entertain a crowd or just relax by themselves and enjoy their verdant surroundings. Day lilies, impatiens, gladiolas, lavender and roses are just a handful of the flowering plants that turn the backyard into a riot of color. “It’s an evolution,” says Ouellette. “Every month there’s a different flower. It’s ever-changing and wonderful.”
Ouellette and Evans make the most of their time on the Vineyard, hosting parties, walking to nearby restaurants and just enjoying the slower pace of life outside of Boston. “When we come here our pulse rate goes down,” says Ouellette. “It’s the antithesis of our place in the city.” •
Architecture and interior design: Margo Ouellette
Builder: Harold Chapdelaine, Stone Bridge Building and Design
November 20, 2017
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