An Ocean of Inspiration

Cape Cod Home  /  Early Summer 2019 /

Writer: Elizabeth Hilfrank / Photographer: Jon Moore 

Designer Holly Hudson sets a course for a nautical new addition to the Red Brook community.

A corner townhouse in the Cataumet Red Brook Harbor Club community sits on Shore Road, overlooking Red Brook Harbor. Standing on the deck, one can see the water ripple in and out, ever-changing yet ever-consistent. Turn around to go back inside, and still, one is surrounded by the sea, in the form of timeless, nautical décor. 

This continuity from the outside in is not happenstance. It is due to the meticulous work of interior designer Holly Hudson.

Builder Bill Riley of Rycon Group brought Hudson into the townhouse project when all there was to see was raw space. The main building unit still under construction, there were no models to follow, and Hudson was to be the first designer to make her mark in the community. While Hudson has designed a number of townhouses throughout her career, this one came not without challenge. It was a completely turnkey project, in which she would transform a three-story,2,500-square-foot space into an authentic, nautical-themed home that could sleep not only the client’s children but also grandchildren, without looking like a boarding house. 

The client is a passionate deep-sea fisherman in her spare time. She owns a boat, and she wanted a summer home for her and her husband to enjoy life on the water. Hudson knew she had to represent this passion for the sea and for casual summer life in the design of the townhome, and starting with the color palette, she did just that. “I had been given a specific color palette by the client to work within—blue and white,” Hudson notes. “I added accent colors like red as a nod to the American theme. It’s all about being organized. We had spreadsheets for every element and item that goes into each space to say, ‘OK, what are we trying to say in this room versus that room?’”

Hudson sought to create “cohesive complimentary rooms that acted as a family” while still providing an element of surprise at the turn of each corner. In order to check all these boxes, Hudson used the same cream paint color throughout the house, then added wallpaper and art as accent pieces. Hudson complimented the blue and white coloring with light, driftwood colors, paying homage to life at sea. Exposed driftwood-style beams line the ceiling and intersections of the rooms. “In a ship, the beam is the extreme breadth of the vessel, part of the ship’s frame on which the decks are laid. To this end, I wanted to incorporate this concept into this project by adding beams to support the different members of the space,” Hudson explains. “I also liked the organic element of using and exposing the beams, adding not only a structural element but also creating a visual casualness.”

An important factor also weighing into the color palette of the house was the lighting. As an end, corner unit, the townhouse receives natural light on three sides, which allowed for Hudson to decorate the home with warm, authentic nautical lighting. But how did Hudson know what “authentic, nautical lighting” was? The designer did her homework, picking up yacht magazines to explore their resources and taking advantage of the plethora of boatyards dotting this area of Cape Cod to ask the experts. “I would go down to the boatyard near my office and ask them for their resources on nautical lighting. I wanted to try to be as authentic as possible while also being comfortable,” Hudson says.

A look into the kitchen gives a sense for how Hudson created an authentic ship feel within a land-based home. Determined to not make the kitchen feel “too mechanical,” Hudson lit the kitchen with three warm blue and white buoys hanging over the center island. For seating, she surrounded the island with blue and white director’s chairs. “In the past you would find director’s chairs on the decks of yachts because they were easy to fold up and hide away, then set up again for captains to sit in. I added these chairs to sort of marry the elements of living on the water,” she explains. “Living on the water” does not always mean on a boat, however, and Hudson made sure to nod to island life in the kitchen as well. Hanging above the sink windows, one sees blue Bahama shutters. Typically, these are found on the outside of island houses, as a way to protect the houses against harsh weather. So Hudson once again brought the outdoors in. 

Moving from the kitchen, walk up the dock steps to the second floor. Small dock step lights will guide your way, and your hand will rest on the boat-rope railing. Climbing all the way to the third floor, you’ll reach “the ship’s birth,” i.e. Hudson’s creative way of making a space just for the grandchildren. Four twin-size beds line the room, and, while Hudson did not design the external bones of the home, the ceiling conveniently angles inward in representation of the low ceilings Mayflower travelers slept under. “There wasn’t a lot of headroom, so I thought, ‘Who would this room be great for?’ Kids,” Hudson says. “I wanted the room to be an event, to be a memorable space. I wanted the kids to fight over who would get to sleep in the bunks.”

Down to the light hanging over each bed, carefully positioned so one child could stay up to read while not bothering the others, Hudson transformed the room into an imaginative child’s dream ship. Each twin bed has a lit porthole “window” hanging overhead, where the kids can hide the treasures they find on the beach during the day. At the end of the room stands a bookshelf and a bench, both topped with mahogany, as is the trim on the beds, so they experience the same visual as one would as they descend a ladder into a ship’s berth.

Going beyond the main living spaces of the home, Hudson paid special homage to the client’s love for the deep sea in the smaller areas, particularly the bathrooms. Walking into the water closet of the master bathroom, one may be surprised to see tentacles rising up, as a wall decal of an octopus stays suctioned to the wall. Walk into the powder room, and silver “Moby Dick” wallpaper surrounds you. The fish on this paper are not just any fish, however, but the kind that the client finds while out fishing. A lit porthole mirror sits above the sink, and tissue is held by a single rope nailed into the wall, just as one may find when using the head on a ship. “I love designing powder rooms. I love to take the space and make it something special,” says Hudson. “If it’s small, don’t be afraid to use a busy wall cover.”

Because this project was turnkey, Hudson got to dive even deeper into one of her favorite parts of her job—art consulting. She sought to decorate the walls with art that would be indicative of being on the water, which is why an oversized beach scene hangs prominently on the wall in the living room. “It’s a picture that will make people smile and laugh, to say, ‘I love that. Where’d you find it?’” Hudson says. “It was important to me to meet the criteria of the nautical theme without being kitschy. I wanted to represent the hard work and sophistication of the client so that she would be excited to walk through the door.”

The Red Brook Harbor Club community is built on a vision of “the balance of natural beauty with planned function,” and, being the first fully designed home in the neighborhood, Hudson designed to this vision. With careful detail to authenticity and organic resources, Hudson created cohesion between the outdoor ocean view, and the ship on the shore, while bringing excitement to each room. This Shore Road townhome has now become a model for the rest of the Red Brook Harbor Club community. “It’s all about finding the right rhythm with a project,” says Hudson, “and I was able to find the rhythm with this one.”

Elizabeth Hilfrank

Elizabeth Hilfrank is a freelance writer who lives in Mashpee. A Cape Cod washashore, Elizabeth writes most frequently for Cape Cod Life Publications in Cape Cod HOME. When she's not writing, she works as a video marketer for a tech start up in Boston.