Colorful Waterfront Cottage
By Marisa Spyker
Inspired by Nature
A kaleidoscope of perennials in full bloom envelops Gwen and Jay DeBruyn's Saugatuck, Michigan, cottage. Their love for the place took root the first time they saw it and has continued to blossom over the years they have owned it. "There are two acres of beautiful azalea gardens that were planted by the original owner, who was a landscaper," says Gwen. "The colors remind me of a fireworks show—pinks and purples and yellows and oranges—and it all looks out over the Kalamazoo River."
Get the Look: The cushion fabric on the living room window seat is by Kravet Soleil. The solid orange pillow fabric is by Design Tex; the diamond-patterned pillow fabric is by Schumacher. The green pillow is by Company C, and the orange patterned pillow is by Duralee.
No stranger to bright color at the home decor shop she owns (local favorite Bayberry Cottage) in neighboring South Haven, Gwen used the vivid garden hues as a jumping-off point for revitalizing the property's 1950s ranch-style home, where she dreamed of hosting her extended family—including six children and three grandchildren—for long, leisurely dinners on the weekends. "Our lifestyle at the beach is relaxed and carefree," says Gwen. "We come here to play, so we wanted colors that make us smile the minute we walk in."
To that end, Gwen chose the most cheerful hue of all for the home's French front doors. "The gardens are the real showstoppers, but we wanted the house to hint at what was inside, too," she says. "Yellow doors were the answer, with a neutral-leaning green for the exterior walls. They welcome us every time we come home."
Inside, the living room's blue, red, orange, lime green, and yellow hues adorn rugs, pillows, and upholstery in graphic patterns like chevron, paisley, and stripes.
Among the architectural details the couple opted to keep was a tucked-in sleeping nook. The original owner had carved an opening into the wall that connects the living room and guest bedroom to create space for an extra bed. "It's probably my favorite feature of the original house because it is so unique," Gwen says. "The kids sit on the bed-in-the-wall and hang out while the adults chat." A sliding, reclaimed barn door coated in the structure's original deep red paint closes of the bed, which is dressed in peacock blue, lime green, and hot pink linens.
Get the Look: The sliding red door is vintage.
Balance with Neutrals
The eye-catching colors and patterns flow into the bedrooms on comforters, artwork, and glossy lamps. To balance all the bold, Gwen painted the walls and ceilings—formerly sheathed in dark, knotty pine—in neutral white. "I'm known to change things around a lot, and white works with any color and style," she says. "It's clean, calm, and relaxing."
Get the Look: The driftwood bed is by The Bramble Company.
Created for Company
Transforming the cottage into a retreat fit for entertaining meant the DeBruyns would need plenty of space, so they hired Michigan-based architect John Hurst to open up the layout, and builder Chris Lozano of Custom Carpentry to construct an addition that included a new dining room and large master suite.
Cozy, Colorful Guest Room
A light-filled guest room shares the sleeping nook wall with the living room, giving the space an extra spot to snooze or relax with a book. White walls and warm wood floors are the perfect balance for a colorful rug, bedspread, and pillows.
Get the Look: The walls in the guest room are painted White Down.
Kitchen Made for Entertaining
Serene Screened Porch
"We entertain family, friends, and clients on the porch, and the window makes serving and visiting easier when I'm in the kitchen and everyone else is outside," says Gwen.
Get the Look: The porch wainscot is painted Smoke by Benjamin Moore.
That mix of modern and bright with eclectic and traditional is a theme Gwen and Jay carried throughout the home—pairing primitive wood antiques and distressed seafaring accents like painted oars and a life preserver with high-gloss pieces. A collection of vintage pine frames Gwen inherited from her father holds mostly traditional, nautical prints. "They represent our love for Lake Michigan, which has always been a big part of our lives," she says. Her extensive collection of sea glass also dots the rooms, in the form of jars and vases perched everywhere from the coffee table to windowsills and atop the fridge. "I have walked along coasts for the past 15 years and amassed thousands of sea glass pieces," she says. "Having it around makes me calm and happy."
That's precisely what Gwen and Jay had in mind for what is now their full-time home and family gathering spot. Their grown kids, who all live nearby, come over to gather in the azalea garden and drink wine around the fire pit, while the grandchildren play yard games and make s'mores. "It's our ultimate happy place," Gwen says. "This is the house we've always dreamed of having."