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The Color of Linen

The Cotuit home of Beth and Philip Odence is a 200 year-old ship captain’s house on the bluff above the harbor, and it’s a showcase for the power of color, a study in the ways that paint can transform a house, and a gallery in which the fabrics of Design No. Five are on display everywhere. For many years, the house was decorated in a colonial style, and as such it was nice enough, but the “before” pictures quite literally pale in comparison to those of its transformed state. Where white, natural wood, faded brick, and pea-green dominated the palette in the “colonial” phase, the true colors of the home’s original nature now shine. In fact, color is a feature of the ship captain style home because these world travelers sailed back with design ideas from the islands, from African nations, from India, and from the far East. They decorated their walls with “exotic” art and furnished their rooms with pieces that could appear in museums. 

The “anchor” in the Odences’ home is their cocktail room, which is painted white and situated between the kitchen and Beth’s studio. Its low ceiling and walls are both finished in horizontal v-groove shiplap, which alludes to sailing vessels. It’s a smaller space, but Odence says, “White makes rooms look bigger than they are.” White also creates a canvas upon which other colors can pop, so the almost surreal painting of a fisherman holding an oversized catch, by Rhode Island painter David Witbeck, really shines. “Every time you add color, you accent,” says Odence. “You want to consider ‘what am I emphasizing?’ and only highlight the good.”

Moving east through the home, the dining room offers another lesson in color. Odence explains, “It was a dark room to begin with; I like to choose dark colors to go with it.” It’s important to consider when one will use a room. Since people tend to eat dinner in the evening, Odence selected dark gray walls with a silver wash, “which is still in keeping with coastal style.” Black and white rope knot prints on handmade paper adorn the wall and provide further emphasis, while also toning down the formality of the space. On the eastern wall, the colors of the Cotuit Skiff fleet shine in Charles Lowell’s original four-panel photo from the CMYC’s centennial celebration, “The Biggest Skiff Race Ever,” where 66 boats crossed the starting line. 

Where the dining room captures a stormy coastal feeling, the living room evokes the deep red sky of night, of “sailor’s delight.” Odence chose Benjamin Moore’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” essentially a Nantucket red, but finished it with a pumpkin glaze. “Philip and I have always had a red room,” she says. “One of its benefits are the sight lines, which complement the room you’re coming through.” In contrast to the expansive effects of white, red brings the walls in. Odence’s choice of red for the window trim was also conscious. “If I had painted it white, that would have taken away from its impact. But the trim is without the glaze, so it enhances the color.”

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