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Impulsively perfect

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Living room with oversized sofa and modern accent chairs to pull in for cozier conversations. Benjamin Moore, Cake Batter does a complete flip on the former dark panelled walls. Photo: Bruce Murray, Visionfire

How to transform a spur of the moment decision into the best idea ever

So, don’t be mad. But I bought a cottage today in Chester.”

“You, did what?” 

“I fell in love with this place, and I think you’ll love it too, but I had to put an offer in quickly and it was accepted, so now we own a cottage on the South Shore.”

I wish this were a made-up story, unfortunately, it’s the truth about how my husband impulsively bought an 84-year-old home without telling me and thus began an unwanted labor of love of a home that was ready for a coastal update.

At the time I was just launching my own business as a personal styling and interior design consultant and you can also throw in there learning how to be a new Mom. My husband thought nothing of the timing and was only focused on spending the summers in our new cottage in Chester—a home exactly as he purchased it: dark and dated. When I asked him how we would furnish the four-bedroom, he told me to just look on Kijiji for temporary furniture, given he had already blown most of the budget on the purchase price. Luckily, we had been married long enough that I paid absolutely no attention and got to work sourcing fresh paint, new furniture and about six local handymen who would help me transform the space into my (our) new summer escape.

Dark brown paneling spanned throughout the entire main floor, heavy trim and stucco ceilings, called for a serious paint job in order to lighten things up and give each room a more expansive, bright feel while keeping it cozy.

The light fixtures had a nautical, gothic theme throughout each room that felt heavy, so we swapped in some beachy, brass fixtures throughout the home, and kept a few of the vintage fixtures to maintain the heritage aesthetic. 

The sunroom was all about bright white and airy furniture. We let the original chunky, red leather couch live on the side road for a while and brought in whites & greys, then added bright colourful custom pillows, fresh artwork and plants. It quickly became our favorite room in the house, and our morning cup of coffee space that everyone loves to be in. 

Next, we tackled the fireplace in the main living room. As hard as I tried to work around the large stone fireplace, it didn’t seem to matter which furniture I brought in or paint I put on the walls… it was too heavy and too dark for the space. I chose a hand-crafted glass mosaic made from all of the oceans best blues and re-designed the mantle & side benches to serve as storage and extra seating. This was our greatest mini-project in the home, and reaffirmed just how important the ‘focal point’ is to a space. 

We added a wood-fire wall, custom cushions and kid-friendly sofas & chairs to the living room so that we didn’t need to fuss when sandy feet came through the door in the summer, or popcorn was spilled on the couch during winter getaways by the fire. 

The dining room was important. My husband loves to cook, and I always love being at a large round dining table where you could see your guests at equal lengths. We had a local company build a custom farmhouse dining table, that was just slightly oversized for the room, and added our favorite wooden Chilton chairs that have grooves in all the right places. If there was one space, I was going to take some risks, it was going to be the dining room, so I added large scale octopus fabric drapes, with thick brass rods to create impact in a room filled with natural woods & textures. 

Needless to say, four years later I’m beginning to forgive my husband for his rash-decision making. Our cottage has become my own oasis in the summers and a place we all look forward to retreating to. The home was well-loved before we bought it, and with a little bit of design TLC and a lot of paint, I have a feeling it will become a sanctuary for our children & their families for many years to come.

Dining Room:
Custom Round Dining Table: David Bryant; Halifax Harvest Tables
Chilton Dining Chairs: Thornbloom
Custom Drapes & Rods: Bellissimo Home
Beaded wooden light fixture:
Jute Rug:

White Slip-Cover Glider & Ottoman: Bellissimo Home
Sofa: Hudson Bay
Throw Pillows: Thornbloom

Living Room:
Fireplace tile: Surfaces & Co. Toronto
Sofa: Van Gogh Furniture via Thornbloom
Accent Chairs: EQ3 & Gus Modern via Tuck Studio
Nesting coffee tables: Mercana via Thornbloom
Sconces: West Elm
Textiles: Kravet fabric & Indigo

Master Ensuite bathroom:
Wallpaper: Farrow & Ball via Westgate Halifax
Custom Vanity & countertop: Livingstone
Marble Mosaic floor & Subway Tile: Nova Tile & Marble
Sconces: Restoration Hardware
Hardware & plumbing fixtures: Ensuite Bath & Kitchen

East Coast Living