Michelle Keefe brings the Scandinavian principles of simplicity to a dated Cape Cod cottage, and the result is a breezy retreat made for easy seaside living.
When Michelle Keefe and her husband, Harry Schechter, purchased their Cape Cod summer home in Pocasset, Massachusetts, they knew they had work ahead of them. Originally built in the 1930s, the cottage underwent an “unfortunate update,” as Keefe calls it, in the 1970s. Translation: vinyl siding, carpeting in the kitchen(!), and an abundance of linoleum. But the challenge was what drew Keefe and Schechter to the 1,224-square-foot house in the first place—plus, it had loads of beachy potential.
“Everything in the house was meant to make life easier down here,” says Keefe, who drew inspiration from Scandinavian minimalism to create a comfortable space for her family. She sought to minimize time spent cleaning, to make entertaining easy, and to keep her kids outside by making the outdoors accessible and welcoming.
To bring the cottage back to its original splendor, Keefe also called upon elements of classic Cape Cod design—cedar shingles, wood floors, and an open porch. The result? A no-fuss, warmth-infused home. “It’s a special place for us,” Keefe says. “A little slice of heaven.”
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Replicate Keefe’s style—and create your own piece of paradise—by following these tips for simplifying your space.
Lighten the interiors
With its original dark paneling, the house felt small and cramped. Keefe knew a simple coat of white paint (in this case, Simply White by Benjamin Moore) could go a long way in opening up the interiors. “This was the easiest aspect to change, but it created the biggest interior impact,” Keefe says.
Shaker-style cabinets keep things simple in the kitchen, and Keefe chose open shelving on the walls instead of upper cabinetry to keep from weighing down the small space.
If you look closely, you can spot hints of hygge, the Danish concept of cultivating coziness, throughout the house. Keefe transformed the kitchen’s bench seat by ditching the stereo and adding more thoughtful accessories. A snug cushion, sundry pillows, and a monogrammed throw make the nook a much more inviting spot to embrace hygge—no extra ornamentation needed. “Living in a space that is light and joyful manifests into a lifestyle of the same sentiment,” Keefe says.
One of the hallmarks of Scandinavian style is minimalism. Keefe kept the décor simple and purposeful, including only select elements of nautical intrigue. For example, a stately sailboat replica and seashell mirror stand out as maritime focal points against a fresh white canvas.
Open up the porch
Keefe knew her family would only be using the house in the summer, eliminating the need for a covered three-season porch. So they knocked out the porch’s walls, which had been part of the ‘70s-era update, to restore and maintain the spirit of the original cottage. “Having the open porch brought back the summer home feel,” Keefe says. The family savors those warm summer evenings spent lounging on the porch and taking in the views of the harbor—called Hen Cove—just down the street.
Reinvent the backyard
With no outdoor living space, the former backyard appeared desolate and unwelcoming. But by adding a cedar deck and rich mahogany patio furniture—plus a sliding kitchen window—Keefe instantly made an outdoor haven for entertaining with a spacious patio table and a bench seat that doubles as extra seating for guests. “I wanted to create an inviting area for summer meals and play,” says Keefe, who also designed the deck as a drop zone for the kids—a pit stop where they can shed the salt and sand of the day before heading inside.