10 Ways to Shake Things Up
For her Sag Harbor, New York, coastal cottage, Catherine Lippincott followed her own decorating rules to capture her personal style, mixing bold and tranquil colors with old and new finds.
Design your own furniture.
Can’t find the perfect piece? Custom create it. Catherine uses her sunroom to curl up with a book or hang with friends, so comfy seating was a must. But she only had an 11- by 13-foot area with which to work. She had her contractor build two benches for a more personalized, less expensive option than any sectional she could find.
Rethink the room.
Make your floor plan work for you. Catherine knew she would not use a formal dining room, so she converted hers into a master bedroom and set up an informal eating space at one end of her living room. Now she has more privacy from the upstairs guest rooms, plus a casual spot to enjoy meals with friends. More floor plan trades to try: Flop living and dining rooms or convert an extra bedroom into a den or master closet.
Branch out from the color wheel.
There’s nothing wrong with classic combos, but an unlikely addition—such as the orangey-coral in the dining area—amps up this palette. “Blue, yellow, and coral might not be in the rule books, but it works!” says Tom. The key: Limit the punchiest colors to pillows or accessories.
Brighten up old finds with paint.
The once-dingy white industrial pendant light in Catherine’s dining space was simply utilitarian before she doused it with cobalt paint. A coat of sunny yellow takes the Chippendale chairs from traditional to kicky with the stroke of a paintbrush. Mixing finishes adds textural variety.
Cut it short.
Who says your curtains have to run the entire length of the wall? For a super-casual, campy feel, try hemming them like the checked versions in Catherine’s living/dining room, so that they hit just at the windowsills. This look works especially well in rooms with high ceilings and wainscoting, which provides a natural visual cue for the shorter length.
Mix and match eras.
Instead of following a period furniture guide to the letter, Catherine chose pieces she loved. “Mixing styles is important,” Tom says. “Too much of any one thing cancels out its value.” Start by branching out with a small rug or light fixture—modern with traditional or vice versa.
Make a major impact with modest alterations.
After devising a furniture plan, Catherine and Tom inventoried what she had that would work with the scheme. For example, with just a few tweaks, an old four-poster bed found a place in her bedroom. To give it a more modern look, Catherine had the bed painted black with a satin finish that matches the iron extensions and canopy frame Tom affixed to the posts. Now the canopy, made from old Indian bedspreads, reaches to the ceiling. Moral: Consider a face-lift for what you already have before writing it off.
Go for groupings.
When it comes to artwork, one piece is almost never enough—unless it’s huge, it just ends up looking lonely and sad. Take a cue from Catherine’s walls and hang art in groupings, instead. Try curating pieces from different styles and eras that relate by theme, color, or scale for a gallery look, such as in Catherine’s living room, or try a collection of similar prints in different shapes and sizes, such as the seashell ones in her bath.
Do the trick with something slick.
A simple way to keep any room with antiques from feeling frumpy is to mix in just one custom piece that stands out. With its pine Queen Anne side table, striped quilted coverlets, and round woven rugs, one of Catherine’s guest rooms was in need of something sleek. “I did not want this house to be ‘ye old cottage,’” she says. “I knew each room had to have something modern.” The quick fix? Tom designed one-of-a-kind footboards for the extra-long twin beds.
Opt for wicker.
A surefire way to keep things casual in a beach house is to bring outdoor furniture inside. Pick groovy pieces to keep the spaces from feeling stale. A rattan footstool and tulip wicker side table in the living area provide a fresh contrast to the room’s upholstered pieces, while the sunroom’s woven stool lends a bohemian vibe to the serene space.