An old wives tale holds that for every woman with visions of home improvement dancing in her head, there is a husband who is famously not into the details. But when Blythe and Mark Harris moved into a clapboard cottage in Sag Harbor, New York, that was decidedly not the case. “It was surprising to me,” says Blythe, Co-Creator and Chief Creative Officer of Stella & Dot, a direct-sales social shopping company based in San Francisco, of her husband’s involvement in the project. “But his dad is an artist so maybe that’s where it comes from.” Click here to see more photos.
Though Mark, CEO and founder of the firm Axiom Law, is admittedly passionate about design, there was another reason for his enthusiasm: Blythe was more than eight months pregnant. So the couple enlisted interior designer Elizabeth Cooper to help speed along the process before their little one arrived, and Mark took the lead. Fortunately, much of the necessary work was strictly cosmetic. “I loved the view walking into the front door—the house was so open and airy,” says Blythe. “I loved the wide-plank floors, all the old wavy glass; it had lots of great details already.” To maintain that light-filled aesthetic, Cooper repainted the kitchen cabinetry white and, after a fortuitous run-in with interiors guru—and Sag Harbor neighbor—Steven Gambrel and feedback from the Harrises, bleached the original pumpkin pine floors.
Taking a cue from Sag Harbor’s past as a fisherman’s village, Cooper, Blythe, and Mark added classic coastal elements such as nautical-themed antiques—almost all of which were found locally in the Hamptons—cotton dhurries and natural-fiber rugs, and crisp white shiplap walls. “We wanted to honor the sense of place and history and created this idea of a sea captain’s residence, especially in the front room,” says Mark, referring to the joint library-sitting area at the house’s entrance, where a wall of custom bookcases is filled with tomes about whaling and boating and a ship’s lantern from Nova Scotia rings true.
Despite the conceit, comfort and simplicity are key. “One of our biggest references was an old, worn-in shirt,” says Blythe. Another: stripes. “Mark and I love classic blue and white striping and fabrics that don’t feel too decorator-y,” she adds. The couple had Cooper incorporate the preppy staple on sofas and pillows in the living areas, in the John Robshaw bedding and on a cobalt Madeline Weinrib rug in the master bedroom. In the children’s room, Katie Ritter’s Beetlecat wallpaper strikes a rare colorful note with its orange accents. “I got steamrolled on that decision completely,” says Mark. “But it was the right call.” To make it up to him, Cooper used the same pattern in blue on a roman shade in the kids’ bathroom.
For the Harrises, the house serves as a testament to the creative collaboration of everyone involved. “This was the most rewarding project for me—working with Mark in that way and having something so intimate come out of it,” says Blythe, who admitted that, before this house, they lived in rentals with only basic furniture. “This is the first time we actually put down roots. We brought our babies home here. I have an incredible emotional attachment to the house.” Naturally, the same is true for Mark.
TIPS FROM THIS HOME TOUR
Don't live near the beach? With some inspired design, you can fake a seaside retreat in no time.
1. ADOPT A LIGHT COLOR PALETTE
Crisp whites and blues help open up a space and establish a casual, sand-on-your-toes vibe throughout.
2. CHOOSE NATURAL FABRICS
Cooper translated one of Mark and Blythe's inspirations (an "old, worn-in shirt") into comfortable, durable upholstery on furniture, plus cotton dhurries and sisal and abaca rugs underfoot.
3. HAVE A VISION
Mark and Blythe Harris helped hone in on the feel of a sea captain's home with vintage books on whaling, rustic vintage tables and desks, and shiplap walls throughout the house.
4. INCORPORATE NAUTICAL ACCENTS
Cooper added found objects from Hamptons-based antique stores, including caged boat lighting, ship's wheels, and coastal-themed artwork.