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Treasuring The Dunes

An Osterville interior decorator works with Bunny Mellon’s family to restore a famous Oyster Harbors cottage.

An Osterville interior decorator works with Bunny Mellon’s family to restore a famous Oyster Harbors cottage.

Photography by Dan Cutrona

The Dune House has long been a cherished seaside retreat for family and friends on Paul and Bunny Mellon’s Osterville estate. Since the days when Jackie Kennedy Onassis would come to savor peace and quiet in the rambling cottage on the dunes, this has been a special place for relaxed summer days.

Mrs. Mellon—who is a still active, vibrant 103-year-old—especially loved the Dune House on the family’s sprawling Cape estate during the decades when she and Paul came to Osterville for the summer. According to her grandson, Thomas Lloyd, whose family started restoring the family’s Putnam House and Dune House to their former glory recently, the latter cottage’s collection of small rooms that open out one to the other with simple, understated elegance was the place where his grandparents would retreat when the ebb and flow of the summer season became too much.

“My grandparents would come here all by themselves and she would cook hot dogs for their dinner,” Thomas says on a recent visit to Oyster Harbors with his wife, Rickie Niceta Lloyd, and their two children. On a tour through Dune House, Thomas shares stories of the days when famous guests came to stay.

Every room was artfully built and decorated under Mrs. Mellon’s artistic eye to make the most of the stunning beauty outside; natural light pours through windows that open out to the ocean on one side and beautifully planted and maintained courtyard gardens and a wildflower meadow on the other. Mrs. Mellon’s gardening skills are legendary; Jackie Kennedy consulted her when the Rose Garden was being redesigned early in JFK’s presidency and she once designed a garden for a famous European castle.

Everywhere you look there is something lovely to see; even from the bathroom windows, which are fitted with special screens that slide into the wall, allowing for sunlight and sea breezes to stream in at all hours of the day. The guest  bedroom and bathroom have recently been restored to their former beauty—along with other rooms in both Dune and Putnam House—by Osterville interior decorator, Hope Van der Wolk. Rickie Lloyd chose Van der Wolk after reading a cover story in Cape Cod HOME (“Reclaiming an Osterville Mansion’s Glamour,” Spring, 2011) about the designer’s transformation of an aging Osterville mansion.

Hope, who once worked for American interior design icon Sister Parish in Manhattan, and who is well-known on the Cape for her discerning eye and artistic sensibilities, is working on the interiors of both houses with an eye to recreating Mrs. Mellon’s understated, coastal-hued sophistication. “In both houses, my intent is to freshen up the interiors without really changing things,” says Hope. The interior decorator’s studio is in shared space with Van der Wolks, a Main Street, Osterville shop owned by her brother, Peter Van der Wolk. Ironically, Hope’s office and design studio are actually located in a spacious room at the back of Van der Wolks that used to be Paul Mellon’s summer boardroom.

“For both spaces, I always design with Mrs. Mellon’s legacy in mind and try to carry on the integrity of what she did so beautifully,” Hope says, noting that famed American interior decorator, Billy Baldwin, was one of the original designers on the estate. “It is fun for me to see all Baldwin’s and Mrs. Mellon’s details—such as whimsical flounces and hand-tied bows and poufs in the tufts of upholstered furniture,” the designer notes, pointing to a charming sitting room chair that has been reupholstered with Mrs. Mellon’s signature treatments in mind. Fortunately, Olander and Son, the upholstery company that executed the original details of the furniture is still in business today and was able to recreate these special treatments.

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