This waterfront home has been completely transformed into a colorful getaway by drawing inspiration from its every view
Whether it be the sheer magnitude or unpredictability of the sometimes wild, sometimes serene ocean, something keeps a human’s gaze continually returning and searching for the coastline whenever it comes into view. It has a way of situating us, all while instilling wonderment at the vast horizon beyond. To live nestled up to the shore is the dream for many, and sadly the reality for all too few. When the perfect piece of property found one lucky homeowner and her life partner (as opposed to her finding the property), she knew in her soul this was where she was meant to be, relishing the chance to wake up to the sound of crashing waves each day. She made a quick call to her interior designer, Susan Shulman of West Newton’s Susan Shulman Interiors to help her transform the oceanfront charmer into something truly spectacular, but more importantly, a home that reflected the soft elegance the homeowner so naturally exudes.
A city lover at heart, this particular homeowner never saw herself leaving the hustle and bustle of Boston. When happenstance brought her to an open house on the South Shore, she assured her loved ones she would not leave the city. However, it was the moment she looked out the expansive windows onto Cape Cod Bay that she knew this was home, her home. “Some people believe that things happen for a reason, and as a result, you can either view an opportunity as a negative thing that should be ignored or quashed, or as a serendipitous event that should be seized and acted upon. I guess evidence indicates that I am of the latter persuasion. The day I looked at this house, came inside, walked up the stairs, and saw the vista that appeared before me, I felt I had been struck by lightning,” the homeowner reflects. “The idea that I could start and end every single day for the rest of my life with the sounds, smells, and sight of the ocean with all its movement, colors, activity, sea life, and unpredictability right outside my door was intoxicating.”
Resting along Cape Cod Bay on the South Shore, this perfectly placed pearl, known as Salt Ayr can see as far as Eastham to its left and Duxbury Beach to the right. In only two years of homeownership, the homeowner and her longtime interior designer, who is now a close and dear friend, have curated every nook and cranny of the modestly sized home with exquisite works of art. Shulman has over 25 years of design experience in the New England region with a close group of lifelong clients. Her experience, paired with the homeowner’s vision, created a warm and creative home that immediately presents itself as a distinctive destination.
The original building was a small, historic cottage. In 2009, the previous homeowners did a complete remodel, turning it into an open concept two-story home that maximized the panoramic view, while epitomizing oceanfront living. The remodel, however, kept with a completely neutral palette. Enter the homeowner and Shulman: a dynamic duo unafraid to utilize color, texture, and art to establish a highly curated environment. “Over the years, we have developed a unique and symbiotic process of decorating that Susan likes to call, ‘creating a story,’” the homeowner shares.
After working together for 20 years, their trust in each other is key. Their process begins with the homeowner pulling inspiration from magazines or fabrics, and Shulman turning this inspiration into reality. In fact, that was the exercise that brought the two together over 25 years ago, as the homeowner entered the Boston Design Center with a dog-eared magazine in search of a particular fabric. She was paired with the Designer on Call, and the rest, as they say, is history. For this project, the overall goal was to achieve a level of sophistication with the many existing pieces of art, yet provide a balance for comfort, as it is after all, a beachfront home. “It was really about bringing the ocean in,” Shulman says. “We didn’t want to be obvious, but we placed nods to sea life throughout the home.” The art in the homeowner’s previous residences resonated with her love for the water, but now the goal was to enhance the view right outside her door. “My main goals were to do nothing that obstructed the views and to furnish in a way that reflected and honored the beauty of the ocean, sky, sand, and marsh that grounds the house,” the homeowner and Shulman say in unison as they often finish each other’s sentences.
Entering from the lower level, a rich navy sea-inspired wall covering transports you into another world of oceanside living and exudes the impression of being under the sea. This walk-in area shares a glimpse of the rest of the home’s exquisite nature; the artwork adorning the space and the mahogany paneled ceiling achieve their desired air of sophistication. “I wanted the Cole & Son Fornasetti Acquario wallpaper pattern to create the feeling of being underwater, so that when people came up the stairs, they would be prepared to ‘emerge’ to the ocean views that greet them at the top,” the homeowner shares.
Reaching the top of the stairs, the detail is clear, with a soft overall aesthetic that invites the outdoors in. “All window treatments and light fixtures were designed to be able to look past them to the outside,” Shulman notes. From the natural edged geodes, to the dining table and window treatments, the range of color and texture is an interplay of the natural world and every kind of art that is influenced by its ethereal beauty.
When planning the great room, Shulman suggested it be divided into three distinct areas since it was such a large space. The homeowner was initially stymied by its magnitude, but the result became complementing open areas to gather, each with their own functions: dining, entertaining and relaxing. “The most important tool we used was carpeting to define each space. We chose three compatible ones, each containing the furnishings of the dining room, fireplace and living room areas,” Shulman says.
Overlooking the marsh, the living area is defined by a brighter blue carpet, large sectional, and an over-sized ottoman with a natural wood overlay that floats above the upholstery in order to provide a cocktail table space at any point along the long sectional. The choice of patterned throw pillows, as well as colorful accent pieces, further tie the marsh’s hues into this comfortable corner.
The middle of the great room features a cozy four-point seating area that focuses on the fireplace. An adjacent bar area sets the stage for a rich area for evening conversation and cocktails. Panning over to the beachfront windows, the dining space is bright and airy. The round table, custom designed by Shulman and fabricated by one of her trusted craftsmen, perfectly fits the area, with its natural aesthetic blending with the water views.
In the kitchen, deep tones mix with lighter hues for a blend of sophistication and coastal style. The upper tier of the island, a breakfast bar, flanked with mahogany paneling, is topped with a deep counter of granite in organic earth tones. As with the remainder of the kitchen, the lower tier of the counter continues with granite. The soft white used for the cabinets and island keeps things bright, while the darker toned hutch adds depth to the space. In the corner by the water, a stunning collection of mirrored glass wall sculptures gather to create a three-dimensional layer of art. The neutral wall covering also gives the illusion of sand, visible beneath the water view beyond.
Up on the top floor, the homeowner chose to rethink the rooms to maximize views and space. “It was a natural decision to locate the master bedroom in the largest room, but we had a decision to make regarding the bedroom that faced the ocean and the bedroom that faced the marsh. We ended up deciding, thanks to a suggestion from my sister, to utilize the room facing the ocean as a study and adapted the same window treatments and furnishings we had used in our apartment,” the homeowner says.
The study overlooking the ocean was surely a wise decision, as it captures the sweeping views and is perfectly adorned to become a quiet, peaceful space. Here, the level of color is just right amidst the deeply-hued furniture pieces. The vaulted ceiling expands the room, and Shulman found a perfect home for two pieces of blown glass sculptures for the second-floor alcove. Past the glass door, the deck, which the homeowner named the SkyBox, is a serene oceanfront retreat.
The marsh room, a one-of-a-kind tropical oasis, is used as the guest room. “Susan has done a remarkable job of creating the look of a tropical resort with natural rattan furnishings—shades, a queen-sized bed, night tables, and a desk and chair. Again, the colors of peacock blue, cream, and palm greens complement the view of the marsh outside the windows,” the homeowner confirms. The bedspread, a colorful collection of palm leaves, is the star of the show, creating a fun and unexpected environment. Finishing it off, the floral artwork perfectly coincides with the color palette. The window treatments, as with the remainder of the home, pull from the surrounding nature outside.
As with many beachfront homes, the quality of living here goes beyond the interior. What distinguishes Salt Ayr are the array of decks that take advantage of every view. “The many decks have become such a feature of life here that they have their own names: at the driveway door, it’s the Aloha Deck, then coming up the outside stairs on the west side of the house and past the shed is the Mermaid Deck. Then it’s the Sand Bar that surrounds the windward ocean deck with a wall separating the brick walkway from the sea wall, and the Sunset Deck which faces the marsh, and finally the SkyBox, which is the deck on the second floor of the house overlooking the sea,” the homeowner explains. “Despite the short season of warm temperatures we have here in New England, the decks really expand the life of the house so they became one of the main priorities in furnishing and decorating. I still look to the outside, both to the ocean and to the marsh as inspiration for my daily life—in decorating, reflecting, and the normal activities of living,” she continues.
Salt Ayr’s precious nature lies in its range of sweeping views. While the marsh sways in the breeze to the front, the ocean dances just behind. Inside, life has taken shape with each view as a muse; each room a work of art inspired by the coastal environment. For the homeowner, every day by the ocean is a gift, whether cozied up in the study, lounging on the decks, or strolling along the shoreline with continued joy and amazement at the ocean’s unpredictability. As for the home’s name, Salt Ayr reflects all that life can be along the ocean for the homeowner and her partner. “I could have named the house any of the other choices we considered for the joy of life it has brought me, but Salt Ayr reflects the house it will always be, perched on the edge of the magnificent ocean,” she says.
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And for more on the homeowner’s impressive art collection, click here!