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Bright, happy, and full of character, cottage kitchens welcome cooks and guests for convivial dinners where everyone just seems to want to linger.
When Joe and Roxanne Stapleton returned from Paris with a container full of French finds, they decided to take a decorative leap of faith. “We just fell in love with the casualness of country French style,” Joe says. “It’s elegant but not fussy, which allows for beautiful spaces that can really be used.”
A new custom cabinet with a weathered green finish backs up to an antique butcher blck to form an unconventional island in the kitchen. An antique sign emphasizes the collected look of the space. “The kitchen is our favorite room in the house,” Joe says. “We love the unfitted look of the cabinetry.”
Situated on Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, Melanie and Bert Williams’ dream home was two years in the making and a collaborative effort among the couple, their builder Wright Holman, and their interior designer (and niece) Caroline Brackett. At every turn, the home capitalizes on captivating Atlantic Ocean views. An open floor plan affords glimpses of water or tropical gardens from nearly every spot, while a two-level oceanfront deck is always just steps away. “From it,” Bracket says, “you can see to infinity.”
Settling for nothing less than light, airy, and happy, Melanie and Brackett set out to create seaside style that was comfortable yet classy, beachy yet beautiful. High-gloss surfaces—trimwork, tile, floors, and furnishings—add depth and formality.
The vibrant symphony of blue accents was inspired by the Williams’ family vacations to Caribbean islands. Thanks to Brackett’s thoughtful inclusion of spring green touches, handsome stripes, and playful patterns, the decor’s focus on one cool shade is always exciting, even energizing.
The kitchen’s checkerboard floor features white Thassos marble and black granite. Glossy cabinets boast plenty of display space for art glass and china.
Atlanta interior designer Carter Kay, in close collaboration with colleague Nancy Hooff and Savannah architect John Deering, worked to bring the kitchen of this 1859 clapboard house back to its charming roots. Kay and Hooff responded to the homeowners’ wishes for a softly muted palette. Nature inspired every color in the house. Subtle shades of green are drawn from the river, live oak trees, Spanish moss, lichen, and marsh plants found on the 3-acre property. The designers then played up warm tones of saffron, sienna, and ocher in several places. “The juxtaposition of warm shots of color plays remarkably well with textured linens in shades of wet sand and driftwood,” Kay says.
The design team selected rich and varied textures to add movement and interest, including hand-forged iron lighting and tables, relaxed rattan and wicker seating, easy-care leather and linen upholstery, and honed coral stone and reclaimed wood floors.
Heart pine floors and soapstone countertops in the kitchen are in keeping with the home’s vintage. Airy open shelving replaced upper cabinets, and the pine island/table was handcrafted for the space.
Homeowner and architectural designer Louise Brooks didn’t want the coastal setting of the Rowayton, Connecticut, home she shares with her husband, Ned, to play too strongly into the interior look. In other words, no seafaring clichés like sailing flags and rope-wrapped lamps allowed. “I didn’t want a beachy home,” she says, “so we went with dark floors and classic details, such as the clean, simple trims.”
Everything else—from the ethereal color choices to the unfussy furnishings and features—amplifies the generous play of sunlight flowing through abundant, view-focused windows. “White is my favorite color,” Louise says, “and we just added some sea-blue turquoises in the kitchen and bedroom for a coastal feel.”
Her good friend and interior designer Lynn Morgan supports Louise’s aesthetic. “We decided to keep it white and maybe do some coastal gray colors. It’s really what the rooms called for.”
In the kitchen, Louise departed from the open plan and opted for a cozier layout. A wall of windows in the sitting area ensures that the space doesn’t feel closed off, allowing the couple to look from the kitchen island to the harbor. French doors to the side make it easy for them to step outside and enjoy the terrace. Louise almost always includes a floor-to-ceiling plate rack in her kitchen designs, prizing the feature for its beauty and practicality.
Gorgeous in Gray
To rediscover the character of her 1909 farmhouse, homeowner Jen Tidwell took cues from the trees standing steadfast on the property. Like the great outdoors, the home’s layout is open and flowing. The large kitchen revolves around a generous island where cushy barstools beg family members to sit a spell. The Jenny Lind-style stools are covered with a bold ikat fabric. Industrial milk glass pendants hang over the island.
A wall of windows sheds light on a mix of milled and modern elements in the kitchen. Recycled barnwood covers the kitchen island and range hood adding a rustic touch. Other materials plucked from nature complement the planks. Rich veins run through kitchen countertops of Calacatta marble. Leather and linen, including pillows stitched from grain sacks, cover soft surfaces.
These elements also inspired the home’s color palette. Gray, a shade some might consider cold, warms when paired with rich browns. Accents of cool blues and greens, along with fiery streaks of orange and red, liven up the rooms.
Homeowner and interior designer Angie Gren filled the flowing spaces of her Frankenmuth, Michigan, home with her signature style—a clean, coastal look she credits to the film Something’s Gotta Give and her East Coast travels. Key to the style, she says, is warm white walls and trim, honed marble, vintage-inspired tile, antique or reproduction lighting, woven texture, and beautiful textiles. “I love Shingle-style architecture,” she says. “I wanted to capture the feeling of a crisp East Coast cottage that maybe a chic European family had moved into and warmed up with a collection of fantastic antiques and dishware.”
With its huge island, fireplace, and farm table, the kitchen is Angie’s favorite room. Her best antique pieces—including white ironstone, aqua pottery, and Meissen Blue Onion dinnerware—are displayed on open shelves near the sink.
The spacious yet cozy kitchen overlooks the pool and backyard. The island was inspired by a Swedish worktable Angie saw in an antiques shop in the Hamptons. The bottom was left open so Angie, a passionate cook, can easily access her favorite pots and pans.
Each room in Edie and Steve Wadsworth Morristown, Tennesee, home provides an enticing bundle of contradictions. Traditional architecture frames the space, but Edie enlivens the look with eclectic accents that include thrift store finds, statement-making light fixtures, and vibrant colors. She pairs sweet furniture with sleek mirrored tables in the living room and industrial lighting with a farmhouse sink in the kitchen.
The kitchen deftly balances rich, deep tones with crisp, pale colors. Open shelving on the black-painted island supplies ample dish storage, while the oversize marble counter is ready for meal prep.
Homeowner Amy Jacobs set about furnishing her 1940s cottage in Nashville with years of meaningful items acquired while scavenging antiques stores and searching Etsy shops. “I don’t shop at just one vendor—I like to hunt and gather for all the right pieces,” she says of her methods. She scoured flea markets, thrift stores, and websites for items that spoke to her love of rustic nature and travel.
Amy pays as much attention to properly displaying her hunted collections as she does in scouring for them. Expanses of crisp white paint and tile balanced by richly stained floors create a versatile backdrop for her collections. High, open walnut shelves in her streamlined kitchen serve as a showcase for framed farm animal prints that match the room’s rough-hewn aesthetic.
The thoroughly renovated kitchen blends the best of gleaming modern with rustic charm. Stainless-steel appliances and a subway tile backsplash are brought down to earth by a walnut island with industrial metal legs and stools.
This kitchen, part of a two-story brick structure that was built in the mid-1800s and served first as a livery stable, then as a mechanic’s garage, for more than a century, got a big update thanks to professional home renovator, designer, and antiques collector Lisa Bates.
Her renovations were mindful of that mix. While she added sleek white tile and stainless steel to the kitchen, she retrofitted the old cherry cabinets and installed reclaimed maple flooring. “My carpenters thought I was crazy when they saw the filthy, oily planks salvaged from a John Deere tractor factory,” Lisa says. “But I knew the floor would be gorgeous after it was sanded.” And she was right—the nicks, scratches, and rich patina impart a sense of history that is a hallmark of her design style.
Reconfigured cherrywood cabinets and reclaimed cypress shelves add softness to crisp white and stainless-steel finishes in the restored kitchen. An old window installed above the sink borrows light from the adjoining studio.
Elizabeth Beeler had her work cut out for her in her 700-square-foot Birmingham, Alabama, home. First, she stained wood floors original to the 1931 house dark ebony to hide imperfections. Walls throughout were painted white; the ceilings pale blue. “A consistent palette lets me move furnishings and accessories from room to room and nothing looks out of place,” she says. It also helps the small house seem larger.
She splurged on a few special touches in the renovated kitchen, like the marble countertop, which sits in a starring role atop old doorless cabinets. She then saved on cabinetry by hiding the existing lower cabinets under layers of ruffles. Elizabeth’s fiancé, Shiloh Strong, built shelves above to keep the look open and airy.
Though largely absent of color, the interiors of Kathy and Doug McCabes’ 1930s cottage are rich with visual interest thanks to an array of texture, patina, and character. “Doug and I both collect quite a few things,” Kathy says, noting that their treasures feature prominently in their decor. The McCabes are experts at reimagining, repurposing, and refinishing their finds, from vintage garden statuary and architectural salvage to majolica pottery and ironstone china.
The McCabes’ new kitchen features an antique worktable repurposed as an island. False drawer fronts hide a bread warmer tucked beneath its well-worn surface. The chandelier suspended above hails from a French cathedral.
Brilliant Blue and White
To artfully balance a love of tradition and a desire for fresh, family-friendly design, interior designer Carrie Blanck looked to a single color. Never bland or boring, an energizing thread of blue runs through every room in this remodeled Harbor Springs, Michigan, home. And stately gray-blue exterior and massive periwinkle kitchen island introduce the biggest swaths of blue.
She worked with items the family already had and built on a beloved beach motif. To inject modern attitude, she relied on color and finish choices. Enter tones of aqua, powder, and French blue, as well as surprising accent hues. Although white kitchens are a Harbor Springs staple, Blanck introduced color in the periwinkle island and sunny yellow stools that serve as prime gathering space.
The size may say “cottage,” but inside, the look is more like loft living in the country. The tiny house in the charming mountain town of Highlands, North Carolina, that Craig Kettle and partner Michael McGaughey share is only 624 square feet, yet Craig modified a few ideas from city dwellers to create a distinctly urban space: one big living area, open shelves, a metal room divider, and salvaged decor aplenty.
After gutting the interior, Atlanta architect Bob DeFiore suggested a two-sided fireplace as a room divider, allowing the kitchen/living area and bedroom to occupy distinctive spaces while still keeping an open floor plan. The kitchen features rustic farmhouse elements, including caged pendant lights, an apron-front sink, and a chalkboard door on barn-door hardware. Wood shelves, butcher-block countertops, and a custom dining table warm up the one-wall kitchen.
Color makes people happy. At least that’s always been Jenna Buck’s experience. “I 100 percent believe that people’s surroundings affect them,” says the Atlanta homeowner and interior designer. “Using colors in your house that make you happy and connect you to important memories and feelings makes any interior design more effective.”
In the remodeled 1980s house that Jenna shares with her husband, Caleb Gross, and their daughters, each room wears a vibrant display of hues and patterns—just look at the gorgeous green kitchen. Kitchen cabinets don a subdued shade of green, but Jenna brought in bright color with café curtains and barstools.
As the owner of her own design firm, Holly Shipman knew how she wanted the Grayton Beach, Florida, home she shares with her husband Gary to look and live. “I wanted a blend of the courtyard houses of Rosemary and Alys Beach and the modest concrete cottages of Old Grayton,” she says.
Holly worked closely with architect Tammy Massey to craft a home aligned with the natural setting and tough enough to hold up to three dogs and lots of visitors. A fresh translation of traditional precedents, the two-story home features graceful proportions and old-world craftsmanship. The rambling floor plan creates a mostly one-room-deep home with abundant windows and French doors that merge indoors and outdoors. Floors of river-recovered pine with a dark-honed finish lay a soothing foundation.
Fabrics and furnishings were chosen with comfort and ease in mind. The kitchen opens into the home’s main living space. Symmetrical shelves flank the sink windows, holding everyday dishes.
Fresh and Inviting
Living in a town called WaterColor on Florida’s Emerald Coast, it seems fitting that homeowners Lee Ann and Buddy McCulloch craved a house filled with color—a marked contrast to their more traditional primary residence in Texas. Interior designer Cara McBroom helped the couple achieve their vision of a casual, coastal home filled with bold, bright colors.
They kept the walls bright white and then pulled in vibrant color with pillows and art. “Every color really pops,” McBroom says. She installed large works of art to carry out the color scheme and filled every room with a fun mix of floral, geometric, ikat, and chevron print fabrics.
McBroom selected washable linen slipcovers for the sofas and chairs and added rustic wood furniture that echoes the distressed floors and ceiling beams. A school of silver-leaf fish hovers above the crisp kitchen and highlights the stainless-steel appliances and shimmery backsplash.