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A Shipshape Cape Cod Cottage Inspired by Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic”

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A Shipshape Cape Cod Cottage Inspired by Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic”

September 19, 2017

Tei Carpenter and Victoria Birch have a lot in common. They’re native New Yorkers, they met in high school, and they roomed together at Brown. They both went on to pursue careers in design (Tei, an architect, launched her NYC firm, Agency-Agency, in 2014, and Victoria runs LA firm Victoria Birch Interiors). So when Victoria’s family bought a rustic beach house in Falmouth, on Cape Cod, she enlisted Tei—of course—as her project collaborator.

Overlooking the romantically hued Great Sippewissett Marsh on one side and a private stretch of bay beach on the other, the site has expansive, 360-degree views. The original house was built in 1958 and was never meant to be a permanent structure, according to Victoria. “When we started thinking about the renovation, my parents were clear that it didn’t make sense to go high end, since the house is so exposed to the elements. We wanted something cheap, cheerful, and durable.”

Join us for a tour.

Photography by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

falmouth beach cottage exterior
Above: The cottage is clad in white-painted shingles; the Harbor Wallmount Light is from Urban Archaeology.
“What was most important from the beginning was to open up the house and reorient it to take advantage of the views while bringing in air and light,” Tei says. “The project was a true collaboration; I focused on the architecture, and Victoria focused on the interior design. We wanted the house to be functional, usable, and shipshape. To that end, we studied berth cabins; how things are organized in a tight and tidy way, and inserted built-in storage whenever possible.”

falmouth beach cottage dutch door
Above:  A Dutch door ushers in sea breezes (the screen door is painted in Benjamin Moore Blue Macaw high gloss); the cork buoy on the peg rail came with the original house. The floors throughout the house are painted in a California Paint high gloss finish and the interior walls and ceiling are Benjamin Moore PM-2 white eggshell.
falmouth beach cottage hooks 2
Above: The interior is essentially one large room; a small bath is located off the entry, and two bunk rooms are partitioned off the main living space.

During the brainstorming process, they decided the house couldn’t be too precious, that it needed to stand up to the elements, and that they didn’t want it to be “overly kitschy,” as Victoria says. “We both loved the vibe of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the unexpected mix of aqua and red in the crew uniforms, so we used that as a template for our color palette.”

falmouth beach cottage kithcen 1
Above: The reconfigured kitchen overlooks the Great Sippewissett Marsh, a protected tidal salt marsh.
falmouth beach cottage tei victoria
Above: Victoria (left) and Tei (right); friends and design collaborators.
falmouth beach cottage kitchen view 2
Above: Victoria spec’d a deck-mounted utility faucet from Chicago Faucet and had it stripped down to the original brass base (“an idea I found on Remodelista,” she says); it quickly weathered to a vintage finish in the salt air. The countertops are oak finished with a marine varnish; “the same stuff you’d use on a boat,” she says.
falmouth beach cottage kitchen 2 1
Above: The light fixtures are vintage, sourced on 1st Dibs; the double sconce over the window is from Amsterdam.
falmouth beach cottage kitchen windows 1
Above: For the window’s pulley riggings, the duo enlisted a Brown classmate, Chase Hogoboom, a veteran sailor and boat builder, to help conceptualize the system. The handmade bronze window hardware is from J. M. Reineck & Son, a small specialty maker of classic yacht hardware in Hull, Massachusetts.
falmouth beach cottage window pully detail 2
Above: A closeup of the pulley system.
falmouth beach cottage peg board 1
Above: A Julia Child–style pegboard holds a kitchen’s worth of essentials, including a clever paper towel holder made from spliced nautical rope.
falmouth beach cottage lr wide
Above: The main living area has sliding doors that open to a deck overlooking a stretch of sandy beach.
falmouth beach cottage view 1
Above: A view of the bay.

falmouth beach cottage dining area 1
Above: In the dining area, a suite of black Salt Chairs from Design Within Reach surrounds a Farm Table from Recycling the Past. The built-in storage bench for beach gear has a hinged lid.
falmouth beach cottage table 2
Above: The Wicker Dome Pendant Lights are from Kouboo; Victoria spray-painted them and had them rewired with gray cloth electrical cord. The Case Study Arm Chair Dowel is from Modernica  (“I prefer Modernica as a source because their chairs are made of fiberglass, not molded plastic,” she says).  The vintage life preserver is from 1st Dibs.
falmouth beach cottage bedroom
Above: The sliding doors are painted in Benjamin Moore Bluebelle in high gloss and fitted with simple rope handles.

falmouth beach cottage bedroom bunks 1
Above: In both bedrooms, all furniture is built in, nautical-style.
falmouth beach cottage bedroom detail 1
Above: Victoria chose Original BTC Short Wall Sconces in red (they’re available from Horne), true to the palette of The Life Aquatic.
falmouth beach cottage living room wide 2
Above: A view of the main living area toward the kitchen; the cottage’s only bath is located off the kitchen. The bunk rooms are open to the main room and lack ceilings, a detail Tei and Victoria preserved from the original house. “I have seven nieces and nephews,” Victoria says. “They like to have sleepovers and whisper ghost stories at night.”
falmouth beach cottage bathroom sink
Above: Tei and Victoria found the vintage wall-mounted sink at a now-shuttered salvage yard in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
falmouth beach cottage medicine cabinet 1
Above: Victoria sourced the vintage bath cabinet on 1st Dibs. “I found most of the bathroom fixtures and fittings on Remodelista,” she says (we’re flattered), including the Toilet Roll Holder Porcelain by Thomas Hoof from THPG.
falmouth beach cottage bathroom shelf detail
Above: Victoria lined the small bath with shallow shelves as display perches for beachcombing finds. The ceiling light is the Alabax Medium from Schoolhouse Electric.
falmouth beach cottage side door
Above: A view of the  side door and wraparound deck.
falmouth beach cottage hose
Above: An outdoor shower and hose for after-beach cleanup.

See more nautically inspired projects at:

Product summary  

Design Within Reach

Salt Chair

$175.00 USD from Design Within Reach
Dining Tables

Farm Table

$600.00 USD from Recycling the Past

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