Magazine

Your Home | Summer Living

Once a sea captain’s cottage, this Cotuit fixer-upper brings on the charm

Quaint meets fresh in an interior designer’s 19th-century residence.

Designer Beth Odence, daughter Charlotte (holding Dexter the pug), and husband Phil enjoy lunch on the patio.
Joyelle West
Designer Beth Odence, daughter Charlotte (holding Dexter the pug), and husband Phil enjoy lunch on the patio.

Interior designer Beth Odence has a penchant for quirky abodes. Her first condo, which she bought in 1983, had been a second-grade classroom. Since then, she and her husband, Phil, have lived in an oft-added-to Dutch Colonial, a 1930s Art Deco-style home, an old farmhouse, a factory loft, and a bungalow whose resident iguana had discouraged all other potential buyers. Just over two years ago, they purchased a historic residence in the village of Cotuit on Cape Cod.

The 4,000-square-foot home — originally a small cottage, expanded over the years — belonged to two different sea captains in the 1800s. Having downsized after becoming empty nesters, the Odences wanted to upsize their beach house. Beth Odence runs her business, Design No. Five, out of the two-story guesthouse added long ago. The cedar-shake Cape, named Laughing Gull Hill by the previous owner, was in sorry shape and had been on the market for four years. The couple, last in a long line of prospective buyers to face the Barnstable Historical Commission, have been told they were the only ones who did not propose tearing it down. “It has great bones,” Odence says. “I love its charm.”

Osterville-based contractor Ed Lacey spent six months making the house structurally sound. “Only then did we get to making it pretty,” Odence says. While some spaces were gutted, local plasterer Brian Bellani, whom Odence calls a “magician,” restored original horsehair plaster in other rooms. The floors, of heart pine, fir, and maple — in one bedroom, the boards are more than 18 inches wide — were all refinished.

Phil mixes a drink at the bar he designed. “He wanted it to be simple, simple,” Beth says. “And that’s what he got.”
Joyelle West
Phil mixes a drink at the bar he designed. “He wanted it to be simple, simple,” Beth says. “And that’s what he got.”

Advertisement

The heart of the home is the living room, better known as the “cocktail room.” It’s where the couple entertains and where Phil mixes Mad Men-style drinks at the bar he designed for himself. Twelve feet of new French doors open onto the patio, where the Odences spend much of their time. “Opening the wall not only made the room brighter, it changed the way we live,” Beth says.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

To avoid a formal feel, she lined the walls with V-groove paneling painted bright white. A sofa upholstered in Libeco linen (“it wears like iron,” says Odence) sits under a whimsical painting by Rhode Island artist David Witbeck from Cove Gallery in Chatham. It was Beth’s 60th-birthday present to Phil.

An easy chair is upholstered in Design No. Five’s Mermaid’s Purse print. Odence says, “Last year I called the office from Thailand and said, ‘Let’s make our own fabrics!’” Her associate Courtney Philos-Jensen draws the patterns, inspired by natural specimens found on the nearby beach. Odence considers the home a design lab for the line. “I used it here because our pug, Dexter, sleeps on the ottoman,” she says. “I want to be sure the fabric is durable.”

While Phil uses the cocktail room for reading and working, Beth cozies up in the family room, dubbed the “red room.” The comfy furniture stands out against walls meant to emulate the Nantucket red pants Phil favors. Artist and decorative painter Karen Crocker created the effect by painting the walls Benjamin Moore Drop Dead Gorgeous, then treating them with a pumpkin-colored wash. The gallery wall includes a seascape by Crocker and an abstract by Jamie Wolf, who founded the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

The eclectic decor in the red room includes leather-and-wood campaign stools from Serena & Lily and a Made Goods coffee table covered in striped canvas with leather trim.
Joyelle West
The eclectic decor in the red room includes leather-and-wood campaign stools from Serena & Lily and a Made Goods coffee table covered in striped canvas with leather trim.

Crocker also glazed the walls in the adjacent dining room. Friends and family often surround the 12-foot-long table, from Ramble Market in Waltham, one of Odence’s favorite sources. Gold-lined shades on the pendant lights keep the space from feeling stuffy, as do black-and-white photographs of boating knots, odes to her husband’s and daughter’s love of skiff racing.

Advertisement

The kitchen, which had to be gutted because powderpost beetles had eaten the rafters and joists, feels simultaneously fresh and quaint. Two layers of pine flooring were ripped up to uncover the original boards, which dip from wear but add to the atmosphere. Odence took a chance with online cabinet manufacturer CliqStudios. “At that point, economical sounded good,” she recalls. “And they’re great.” The primitive island, brought from their previous Cape house, came from a butcher shop in France, complete with cleaver marks.

The master bedroom, upgraded with a walk-through closet and larger bathroom that holds a Waterworks soaking tub, is on the first floor. Upstairs, five bedrooms, including a tiny space Odence thinks was once a birthing room, share a newly expanded bathroom. The claw-foot tub fell through the subfloor and was saved and painted black.

The house abounds with history, with more memories in the making daily. “In summertime, the doors are thrown open, people go back and forth from the beach, we lounge on the patio, gaze at boats in the harbor, and gather around the fire pit,” Odence says. “It just needed some tweaks.”

MORE PHOTOS:

New chairs surround a dining table Beth had in storage. The walls “change color depending on the time of day,” she says. Painter Karen Crocker applied a silver glaze to get the effect.
Joyelle West
New chairs surround a dining table Beth had in storage. The walls “change color depending on the time of day,” she says. Painter Karen Crocker applied a silver glaze to get the effect.

In the so-called cocktail room, the blue seaweed-patterned pillows are from Design No. Five’s customizable fabric line. The antique sea captain’s chest is from Eldred’s auction house in East Dennis.
Joyelle West
In the so-called cocktail room, the blue seaweed-patterned pillows are from Design No. Five’s customizable fabric line. The antique sea captain’s chest is from Eldred’s auction house in East Dennis.

New black cabinets with thick white Corian countertops make a crisp, clean contrast with the worn wood kitchen floor and vintage butcher block island.
Joyelle West
New black cabinets with thick white Corian countertops make a crisp, clean contrast with the worn wood kitchen floor and vintage butcher block island.

Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.