A Colorful Beach Guesthouse

Text by Debra Judge Silber Photography by Keller + Keller Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

She wanted color. Not just a dash here or an accent there. This client wanted color. And she wanted it bright and beachy. “I like color,” she explains simply. “It’s bright, it’s happy. That’s my personality…outgoing, colorful, and bold.”

Josh E. Linder and Thomas Henry Egan III, partners in the Boston design firm Evolve Residential, could not agree more. No strangers to bold interiors themselves, they knew their client well, and weren’t at all surprised that she wanted them to help her work some vivid magic on a guesthouse her family had built behind their home on the South Coast of Massachusetts. They knew, too, that an exuberant interior would be a bit out of the ordinary for the sleepy village dominated by rambling Shingle-style houses, many of them longtime family homes updated with additions and decorated in tastefully predictable palettes.

In this guesthouse, though, a flowing, coordinated color scheme would serve as the invitation to gather, to relax and let go. While visiting family kept the guesthouse full much of the summer, the client wanted it to double as a space where she and her husband, as well as their three teenage children, could entertain local friends—or retreat alone.

Fully on board, the designers nonetheless recognized that some caution was advisable. “You have to be very careful,” Egan says. “Because you know, a riot of color can also look like a fabric factory exploded.”

For most projects, Egan focuses on the architecture and Linder on the interior. With this cottage already built, they made just a few tweaks to the exterior, incorporating architectural features drawn from the surrounding village. “We used the town like a little salad bar,” Egan says, describing how he and Linder, along with the client, handpicked local architectural details to enhance the building’s sense of place. At about the same time, landscape architect Dan Solien and his team went to work on the property, adding a pool, outdoor fireplace, paths, and planting beds that create what the client describes as a “private, magical space.”

Concentrating on color, the designers and client pored through piles of fabric samples and chose turquoise as a dominant color, with blue and lime green in supporting roles. Those three hues shade-shift their way through the house, reappearing in a striped rug here and a throw pillow there, with a continuity that never gets redundant. “Even if it’s a similar color, if you change the material or change the color it’s paired with, it will change the look of the color itself,” Egan explains.

Bold blues pop out of the woodwork, but the vibrant colors mostly play out in patterns—zig-zags on drapes, streaks on wallpaper, plaids on pillows. Perhaps it is a bit of a riot—but it’s not a mob. The key to maintaining harmony, says Linder, is to differentiate between patterns, using a variety of textures, fabric weights, and scale, and then reintroduce the patterns around the room for continuity. The inclusion of a few well-chosen antiques from the client’s family’s collection doesn’t hurt either. These sedate pieces in wood and leather ground the palette and give the eye—and visitors—a place to rest.

The main floor’s living, dining, and kitchen areas are unified overhead with a coffered ceiling fitted with pale blueish-green grasscloth. In the living area, a sofa spills multicolored stripes toward the floor, where a rug of much broader and more subdued stripes carries the color to the rest of the room. The adjacent kitchen joins the party with chevron-patterned wallpaper that echoes the living room colors. White cabinetry topped with white Thassos marble provides just enough calm to rein in the rainbow.

The nearby dining area is dominated by a custom table for ten consisting of an ocean-blue concrete slab atop two rope-wrapped bases designed by Christian Astuguevieille. Transparent chairs on the living-room side of the table allow a view of the artisan’s work. The roped bases are among the nautical references that surface throughout. Linder and Egan don’t try to avoid these familiar clichés, but to express them in unexpected ways. Above the table, for example, three large pendant lights catch the eye with their size, but on closer inspection, the small spheres they contain become recognizable as glass floats for fishing nets.

The rope motif of the table’s base is repeated in the handles of the wet-bar cabinets and as a railing on the stair. These moves not only reference tradition, but also help balance the palette, Linder explains. “The rope and jute and sisal make a good counterpoint to all the color,” he says. “It brings the intensity level down just a notch.”

Nautical nuances continue in the second-floor bunk room, where young visitors vie for a seat in a futuristic ball chair. The space-age style of the piece is surprising in this setting, but as Linder explains, “We just wanted something crazy, exuberant, and playful, something the kids will want to jump into.”

The atmosphere in the master bedroom is pure cottage, with a spooled four-poster and wide v-groove paneling to subdue the blues, purples, and greens that spill in from the hallway wallpaper. In the third bedroom, a boldly patterned wallpaper from Stroheim cascades down the sloped ceiling to meet the bed’s tufted headboard in the same pattern. Not to be restrained, the draperies, an upholstered bench, and a gaggle of pillows toss in a few more patterns. But that, Linder says, is the best part about designing guest bedrooms. “You can have fun, and give your guest an enchanting experience,” he says.

It’s not just visitors who have fallen under the guesthouse’s spell. “It allows us to laugh and relax and enjoy each other and be together,” says the homeowner. Linder says the client hinted that they may have made the cottage just a shade too appealing. “She said, ‘You guys did too good a job,’ ” he relates. “Nobody wants to come to the main house anymore.”

Project Team
Architecture and interior design: Josh E. Linder and Thomas Henry Egan III, Evolve Residential
Landscape design: Dan Solien, Horiuchi Solien

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