March 08, 2017
When people think of Cape Cod decor, they often imagine the light, airy feeling of being on the beach. Bright whites, sandy browns, and pastel blues and greens all conjure seaside sensations that have us thinking about lazy summer days. But there’s more to Cape Cod decor than just beaches and breezes. Whether you live on the shoreline or a bit further inland, you can channel that coastal feeling all year round without making your house feel like it’s just a summer home.
Cape Cod-style homes originated in the early 1700s along the New England coast. Because these houses had to stand up to the harsh storms of the Northeast, they focused on simplicity and practicality more than elegance and ornamentation. Not surprisingly, these architectural characteristics also made their way into traditional interior Cape Cod decor.
As many of these year-round homes transitioned into summer homes, the decor shifted to reflect coastline characteristics perfect for that beachy, summery feel. But there’s more to the New England coastline than just the warm, sandy months of the year. The area has a rich nautical tradition that works well with Cape Cod decor in any part of the country, whether through the centuries-old imagery of sailboats and submarines, the charming appeal of wooden antiques, or the stripes and burgees of the many yacht clubs that still call the Northeast home.
While traditional Cape Cod style calls for crisp whites and sandy neutrals, there’s plenty of room to add a splash of color to your interior decor. Coral patterns on pillows, window treatments, and rugs add a little vibrance without calling too much attention to themselves. Or, if you want to be particularly bold, use dark colors, like navy blue, crimson, and forest green to contrast the bright, airy feeling that so often accompanies Cape Cod decor
Speaking of darker colors, don’t forget that Cape Cod is as stormy as it is summery. Dark gray and wood panel accents create a cozy feel, especially in the colder months. Deep cherry stains on exposed wood make for a sleek look without sacrificing the simplistic and natural characteristics of a quaint New England cottage.
Handmade wooden furniture is a staple of classic Cape Cod style. Ladder-back dining chairs, trestle dining tables, and step-back cupboards all reflect traditional coastal decor. While you can opt to refinish pieces that have seen their fair share of time, the weathered look also adds charm and a vintage feel.
If you want to be a little more daring, forget the wood stains and opt to paint vintage furniture pieces in bright pastels to make a space both quaint and welcoming. Just remember that balance is key—you don’t want your home looking like it’s ready for Eastertime year-round!
One last idea for evoking that lived-in look is to hang silhouette portraits in the living room near a bookcase or fireplace. These tiny, anonymous pieces are simple and inexpensive—you can often find them at yard sales—and they lend an air of history to any sitting space.
Sticking with the vintage theme, your Cape Cod decor accessories should bring character and charm to your home. Old, yellowed books and antique photos make for great accents, as do nautical tools, like barometers, sextants, and nautical maps. Anchors are another great way to recall an old ocean theme, but be careful not to go overboard—there’s a fine line between tactful and tacky.
As for lighting, lanterns and table lamps tend to work best for Cape Cod designs. Electric lantern fixtures that hang from the ceiling conjure feelings of sailboats and seaside shanties, while simple table lamps maintain a sense of practicality and warmth, perfect for nighttime reading or cozy get-togethers.
Though classic Cape Cod curtains provide a traditional accent, you can also get creative with the window treatments. Old nautical flags, for example, can make great curtains if they aren’t too badly worn. You might also consider simple floral patterns that add a little life without taking all the attention away from the room as a whole.
Textures are important, too, for year-round Cape Cod decor. Make up the beds with diamond-tufted chenille bedspreads or quilted fabrics with applique or embroidery to communicate warmth and comfort. The same goes for tablecloths, and any other fabric covers you may have around the house. If you want to go all the way vintage, burlap and grass cloth are great materials for conjuring up that old New England feel.
Still want a few ideas to add to the decor?