Ships that Pass in the Night

Cape Cod Home  /  Winter 2019 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Tales of a Wayside Inn”

Although it may be stating the obvious, New England is full of history. In one charming chapter of this region’s rich legacy stands the story of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, a nationally significant landmark located in Sudbury.  In 1716, an otherwise unremarkable family opened their home as a tavern and inn and maintained a successful business over generations for almost 150 years. Now still in business and recognized as the nation’s longest running inn, it is easy to imagine 300 years of tales and adventures shared by guests and patrons, many of which found their way into Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic work, Tales of a Wayside Inn.While most of us can’t cite centuries of shared stories, laughter and memories in our own homes, it was just that kind of ambiance that a husband and wife wanted to create when they bought a historic home in Cummaquid.

“My husband and I are empty nesters and the time was right for a second home,” recalls the homeowner. “We both had ties to the Cape. Mine were a bit stronger since I discovered as a young teen that my ancestors were early settlers in Eastham. We have traveled to England numerous times and love the charming inns where we would stay. We knew we would be hosting friends and family as they came to the Cape to visit, so it just made sense that we would welcome them as though our home was as accommodating as an old inn.” In pursuit of that objective, the owners’ quest brought them to a consummate professional, Irina MacPhee, principal of Dennis-based Pastiche of Cape Cod.

“It was clear from the beginning that this would not be the typical project so many people are looking for on the Cape,” explains MacPhee. “Not light and bright, not sweeping, open, shared spaces. But more grounded, sophisticated spaces that subtly spoke layers and layers of history. It was really about honoring the history of the home.”

In the world of interior design, the tools of the professional are many, but perhaps none so vast, and equally subtle as well as powerful, as the options of fabric and the countless ways to utilize the capacity of textiles. Often a particular swatch is credited with being the inspiration of a room. So it was in this project. “It all started with the Cowtan and Tout fabric in the sitting room,” MacPhee recalls. A deft choice given the versatility of the shades and tones found in the pattern. The natural white background keeps things from being too stuffy and dusty—a perilous path to maneuver when attempting to provide old world charm—and the shades of sage green and hues of yellow goldenrod are the perfect tones for every season, neither too light nor too dark. Set against walls bathed in a green evocative of the historic celadon found in ancient Ming vases and grounded by a luxurious, subtly patterned, tone-on-tone neutral rug from Dover Rugs, the room feels welcoming, yet not too precious— just the right balance to entertain your guests and encourage a bit of cozy conversation.

Leveraging her toolbox again, MacPhee balanced the cooler greens with their complementary cousins on the color wheel by introducing shades of eggplant and amethyst into the space with texturally tactile pieces like soft throws and over-stuffed chenille throw pillows on a settee in front of a sunny bow window.

Needing to furnish the entire home and wanting to set the appropriate backdrop for this historical setting, MacPhee embarked on an odyssey to source a plethora of antique pieces. While most of the soft, upholstered pieces were sourced and crafted by furniture lines MacPhee trusts and relies upon, the search for the unusual and unique involved a dedication to adventure that MacPhee enthusiastically embraced.

“I go everywhere looking for things,” she explains. “It is funny because I have been buying things from so many dealers for so long, we are able to review generations of memories when we see each other. Most times, I may have an idea or two about what I am looking for, but often find things along the way that I pick up, not knowing if it will work or not. If it doesn’t, it will probably find a home in a future project.” Such was the case with a very special and unique item MacPhee added to this project: an antique foot warmer that sits below the settee. “People would put embers in the base of the foot warmer for their guests, and then, they would use it as a foot stool. It was such an ingenious, yet thoughtful, elegant way to welcome someone; I just loved it. That piece was hard to part with,” MacPhee says with a smile.

MacPhee also relies upon her own innovation to create the perfect solutions for her clients, like the custom-built bar, set in an antique-looking armoire she designed so the homeowners could easily mix spirits and aperitifs for their guests. In keeping with the unique and unexpected and at the request of the homeowner, MacPhee added the gilded finish to the interior of the piece that when closed, looks as though it could have been the backdrop to Longfellow as he gathered inspiration for his writings.

Any good visit with friends and family will undoubtedly include a memorable meal, and MacPhee has wasted no imaginative details on the home’s dining room. The walls are awash in a pumpkin glaze that has been applied to the period-correct paneling that embraces the space. MacPhee has paired an antique-inspired pattern on the dining chairs that speaks of generations that might have gathered together around the ample, round table to share stories, wisdom and tales of accomplishment. The contrasting rust herringbone pattern on the chair backs keeps the fabrics from feeling too formal and suggests perhaps the upholstery may have evolved over decades. A built-in cupboard displays English china that might have been passed down in a dowry.

“Throughout this project, we incorporated items that suggest history and layered them on each other,” MacPhee explains. “That’s how a home that has been around and handed down over and over again lives. The porcelain dish on your bedside table might have been a favorite of your grandmother’s. Or the painting in the dining room might be of a relative you never knew, but you have looked at it all of your life as you share meals with your family. It’s all an accumulated collection, and now this family can create their own legacy.”

With art, literature and music, beauty and appreciation are most important when the beholder is satisfied according to their own set of criteria and how the piece resonates solely for them. So is it also with interior design. For this set of homeowners, they could not be more satisfied. As they explain, “We found a home to create our history for the next chapters of our life. Irina pulled together everything we need to welcome people to our home and feel that it has been this way forever.”

 “As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,…”

For more inspiration, follow Pastiche and Irina MacPhee on instagram @pashicheofcapecod

For more history based articles, explore our history archives here!

Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.