The most comfortable cabin
It takes a jewelry designer to recognize a gem. After months of searching for a Rhode Island summerhouse, Providence resident Donna Abrams considered Jamestown, a sleepy island just a 40-minute drive away. “I got into town and said, ‘This is it.” It was so quaint.” She felt the same way when she spotted the cedar-clad cottage with loose shingles and over-grown shrubs. “I knew immediately it was what I wanted.” Abrams loved the soft light that filtered into the house, and she embraced the cottage”s quirks. “I liked the fact that the whole house creaked,” she says. But, most of all, she and her husband fell for the incomparable view from the backyard — a rolling 1895 golf course with bucolic, hilly farmland beyond.
Inside, the couple was just as pleased with the efficient layout, offering room enough for weekend guests. The nautically compact use of space in the 2,300-square-foot home is not surprising given the cottage”s provenance: It was built in the 1920s for an admiral from the Naval War College in nearby Newport.
No structural renovations were required, so Abrams and her Providence-based designer, Linda Heckman, focused on furnishings and accessories. Abrams” vision of intimate and relaxed interiors encompassed her husband”s demand for comfort and her own inclination to mix historical styles, antiques and reproductions, floral patterns, and formal and informal pieces — the quintessential elements of cottage style. With its roots in casual seaside homes and simple farmhouses dating to the early 1900s, this eclectic, unpretentious look blends old and new, fancy and plain. “Above all, I wanted it to be pretty,” says Abrams. She and her designer set off on shopping trips from Maine to Long Island, buying European and American treasures from the 18th to the mid-20th centuries.
Heckman reupholstered a classic slipper chair and a delicately carved armchair for the downstairs den using overscale prints to “make the old world new again,” says Abrams. “In the city,” says Heckman, “we would”ve used silk and damask. Here, it”s cotton, linen, and chintz. It”s more of a summery feeling.” Neutral wall colors form a backdrop for other contrasts. Brown, green, and pink accents make little splashes in most rooms — a deep-chocolate Hepplewhite chair in the living room, blue-green striped shades in a downstairs bedroom, and a persimmon wing chair in an upstairs den. Clever pairings include a gilded cocktail table beside linen slipcovers, and a rustic farm table with high-style chairs. Rhode Island paintings abound, set off by largely vintage lighting (much of it crystal). “Light fixtures are earrings for the room,” says Abrams.
The owners couldn”t be happier with the relaxed cottage look of their home — except, perhaps, when they”re savoring the pastoral panorama from the deck as they sip their morning coffee.
Why It’s Best
• Timelessness. “Driving over the bridge to the island, you feel as if time stands still. The tiny cottage has a view like an 18th-century painting; the inside is an eclectic mix of old and new.”
— Homeowner Donna Abrams
• Creative pairings. “The overstuffed sofas, chair, and ottoman slipcovered in white invite you to sink in and relax. The old accessories offer a warm, comforting escape from the here-and-now. There”s no master plan, no matching. The combination of all the furnishings and accessories — plus the spirit of the owners — prevent the cottage from being stereotypical.”
— Designer Linda Heckman