A Scandinavian Saltbox Cottage in Litchfield County

This simple little saltbox house caught my attention as I was browsing real estate listings in Litchfield Co., Connecticut. It struck me as very Little House on the Prairie, the way it sits in the grass tucked beneath that enormous tree with the perfectly sculpted stone wall extending into its side yard. The gray clapboards, the stout central chimney, the shutter-free windows: it’s a quietly stunning example of American colonial architecture.

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As I tend to do, I scrolled through the listing photos before reading the description, eager to see if the interior rooms and remaining property were just as appealing as this single perspective. I’ve been fooled before by cute, historic-looking exteriors that have been nothing more than cruel, hoax-ridden façades hiding dated renovations from the 80s, bathrooms clad in 50s-style tile, and junky DIY jobs. This particular exterior was extremely misleading—but in the best way possible.

Exhibit A: this photo of the pool (which is really just a teaser for what’s to come) tossed into the first three listing photos, no doubt to make viewers gasp and halt their scrolling to fully ogle the scene. I can practically feel the warm breeze playing off the surface of the water and smell the sweet scent of the lush landscape enveloping this secluded escape.

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Under a sky that blue, the temptation to stay poolside all day is real, and I almost lost the urge to continue exploring the rest of the photos because I was absolutely mesmerized by the perfection of it all.

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Moving on to the interior, another unexpected twist awaited my discovery: the walls and wooden beams have been washed in cool tones of white and gray. At first glance, it reads contemporary, but a closer look reveals the rustic nature of the original architecture has been preserved, from the exposed beams to the rough-hewn floors. The mix of midcentury and modern furniture with the subdued color palette and varied textures of the furnishings feels inspired by Scandinavian design, topped off with an obvious touch of hygge. It is both updated and ready to cater to the needs of modern-day living while also being completely in touch with its quaint, cozy roots.

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The kitchen fully embraces the house’s rustic bones and cottage vibes, particularly through design details such as the open shelving, Shaker style cabinetry, and wide plank floors. However, the stainless steel appliances don’t seem out of place here.

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A set of French doors opens onto the patio and outdoor seating area.

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Where color is used, it is used sparingly yet playfully. Artwork in the kitchen and dining room punctuate the mostly white and neutral rooms.

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The play between traditional and modern design elements continues throughout the rest of the house. The front hall expertly displays the juxtaposition of the smooth white walls against the grain-heavy floors. Thanks to their abundant texture, the floors prevent the house from appearing cold and out of touch with its 19th century provenance.

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The bedrooms share the neutral aesthetic of the public rooms on the first floor. The exposed beams and hardwood floors create a nest-like backdrop for the streamlined furniture.

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Outdoors, the property is connected by a series of gardens and intimate seating areas. Whether you fancy an outdoor breakfast, lunch with friends on the patio, a relaxing break by the gardens or pool, or an evening in front of the outdoor fire pit, the options for lounging while surrounded by nature are endless.

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The dining table on the patio overlooks a grassy patch of lawn which connects to the pool behind the ample hedge.

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A firepit centered in this tidy gravel circle fills out an outter nook in the grass.

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A natural wooden pergola shields this seating area from the sun, providing a relaxing space to enjoy the outdoors even on the hottest of days.

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The carefully planted yet carefree gardens add depth and whimsy to the landscape. Eventually, I did read the listing description, and in doing so I gleaned that this house has apparently caught the attention of more than one well-known house and garden publication. It’s not hard to see why Gardenista decided to share this property several years ago in a feature on secret gardens.

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A parting view shows the Litchfield Hills in the distance.

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It’s rare to find antique and current styles so beautifully intertwined. The modern updates in this home have been tastefully executed to maintain the original charm. The results are surprising and altogether way too tempting!

To see additional photos of this special country house in Roxbury, CT, check out the listing here. All photos of the house and property are from the listing.

Modern Love: A Midcentury Gem in Dover, MA

I have a major soft spot for modern houses. Eichlers have always been a favorite of mine with their central atriums and floor-to-ceiling windows, which often span entire walls. These design elements were intended to blur the line between the indoors and out, making residents feel as though they were living within their natural environment and not completely separated from it. In addition to forging a closer connection with nature, these homes made it easier for people to embrace indoor-outdoor living. I'd love to be able to do that year round, but the weather in New England isn't exactly conducive to that lifestyle. I also think any floor-to-ceiling windows I'd have in any house of mine here would need to be quadruple glazed! Is that even possible?

Anyway, I get so excited when I see modern Eichler-esque houses for sale around here. There tend to be a lot of modern houses in and around Lincoln, MA, and many of them are enormous and fancy beyond anything that would ever resemble a modest, no-frills Eichler. That's one reason why I was drawn to this listing in Dover—at 2,800 square feet, it's relatively modest in size, yet it boasts a spacious open floor plan with a truly picturesque view of the Charles River. The clerestory windows let in tons of natural light, and the materials used throughout the interior include stone, wood, and concrete. These elements are echoed outdoors on the house's wooded lot with pebble walkways, a bluestone patio, and stone walls. Did I mention it's nestled on a very private 6 acres of land? 

The driveway winds through the trees and delivers you to this view. I am in love with the little bridge that leads to the front yard. Out of view is the river to the left and a three-car garage to the right.

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This view is why I love modern houses with floor-to-ceiling windows. The glow from the interior lights at nighttime is so welcoming. Think about how festive the outdoor space would look with an expanded patio, fire pit, and some string lights. 

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A different view of the house and its wooded lot. It vaguely reminds me of the property around Fallingwater. 

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This patio sits beneath the trees and would make a great spot for relaxing with a book, enjoying a cocktail, and admiring the scenic property.

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Inside, there's abundant natural light. Vertical beams stand in place of solid walls to create a modern, open-concept layout that's typical of houses built in this style.

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A large fireplace with a stone facade punctuates the center of the living room. The high ceilings and wall of glass make the space feel large and airy. The sliding door opens onto the shaded patio previously pictured.

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A set of Shoji doors separates these two areas. I'm not sure what their intended use is—a hallway and second living area? It's also hard to tell from the photo what material was used on the floor, and while it could be terrazzo, the seams make me think it's a type of vinyl. 

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Look at this bedroom! Wouldn't this be an amazing place to wake up every day? I tend to require a completely dark room for sleeping, so I would need to come up with some light-blocking solutions for this room, but the views outside are so calming and restful. 

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Below, a different bedroom has ample windows and wonderful views of the yard. Again, it's hard to tell from the photo, but this floor might be polished concrete. 

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Don't you want to move in right now? I know I do! I'd also love to decorate a house like this. The windows and ceilings and beams are perfect, but I think I'd soften the stone details and warm up the flooring as much as possible.

I collected a few photos of similarly modern homes that embrace their natural surroundings, sloped interior ceilings, and large floor-to-ceiling and clerestory windows. Bright white walls, rich wood tones, and a mix of antique and new furnishings all seem just right for decorating a modern house in the woods.

How would you decorate this home if you had the chance?

To learn more about this unique modern house in Dover, MA, visit the listing page. All photos of the house are from the listing. Click through the inspiration photos for sources.

Blush Crush: A Dusty Rose Georgian in Kingston, MA

Pink houses are a thing, and sorry millennials, you did not start this trend. People have been decorating with pink paints since the 18th century, using red ochre and burnt sienna to create varying shades of the delicate yet earthy color. Pink is in good standing as an historical paint color (Benjamin Moore has several pinks included in their historical palette), but here in New England it's not a hue that's wildly popular, especially in comparison to other perky colors such as yellow and blue. And for some reason, a lot of people recoil at the phrase "pink house," their minds automatically jumping to images of Barbie or Pepto Bismol. Why on earth would your mind go to the worst example possible?! That's the equivalent of hearing the word "landscaping" and automatically picturing an overgrown yard full of shapeless hedges and weeds.

There are many shades of pink, and many great ones, at that. That's why I wanted to share this Georgian style house that's currently for sale in Kingston, MA. The color of the clapboards caught my eye, and then I started flipping through the photos of the interior. Let me be the first to say that there are a lot of reasons to be tickled pink (ha—get it?) about this house.

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The tone-on-tone treatment of the clapboards and shutters increases the impact of the rosy pink hue on this house. Even the trim is painted the deep maroon color. The dark blue door and cream-colored pediment create some contrast, if not a subtle patriotic look.

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In the foyer, the elaborately carved newel post and spindles on the staircase are a show-stopping feature. 

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Notice the wide plank floors and the bull's eye glass in the front door.

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The carved spindles continue all the way up to the second floor where they've been painted white. One of the many fireplaces can be spied in the room to the left, where Delft tile has been laid over the surround and then framed. 

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There are numerous fireplaces in the house, and many of the surrounds have been decorated with Delft tile. 

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The Delft tile surround here really pops against the white walls and woodwork. 

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In addition to the special tile, this room also features two deep window seats.

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The sunroom is one of my favorite spaces in the house. The clouds on the ceiling are an unexpectedly whimsical touch, and I love the dark color on the walls. It feels both cozy and bright at the same time. 

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The three-bay garage has a lovely set of arched doors. 

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A gravel path leads to a barn that's set apart from the main house and garage a little bit. The combination of the weathered shingles with the dusty rose doors and light-colored trim is one of my favorites. Naturally weathered shingles look right at home in a farm-like setting and by the sea—they have such versatility and add immediate character to any structure. 

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The transom window over the main door stretches from end to end—such a pretty detail that also serves the function of allowing some extra light to filter into the barn. 

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This house was built in 1760, so the current paint color is in keeping with late 18th century Georgian architecture. I keep trying to picture it painted yellow or blue or even white, but a rose by any other name...

All photos shown here were taken from the listing. To learn more about this house, visit the listing here

 

 

Fixer-Upper Infatuation: A Concord Colonial

At some point over the past five years, most of us have probably asked ourselves if we have the guts to take on a fixer-upper (I know you've seen at least one episode of that show!). My answer, at least in my imagination (and not if my husband is asking), is a resounding yes. I love a good before-and-after, and the idea of living in a house that I reimagined and designed to my specifications sounds exciting.

That's what drew me to this old house in Concord, MA. The listing says it needs "a complete renovation."

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The outside is rather deceiving—it looks pretty perfect just the way it is, with the lavender-hued front door, stone walkway, and cute little fence, all of which look well-maintained and cared for. Then I scrolled through the interior photos, and sure enough, it's in need of some TLC. There are some really special details still intact, such as the millwork, the beamed ceilings, and the huge turned newel post. It remains a blank canvas, however, and just needs someone with a good imagination to breathe some life back into its walls.

How would I freshen this place up if it were my fixer-upper? Let's take a look.

THE EXTERIOR: FRONT EXPOSURE

I wouldn't change too much about the outside of the house. The simplicity of the side gabled roof and white clapboards speaks to the house's Shaker-style architecture, which focused on simplicity, neatness, and function. It was common for these houses not to have shutters. I think the lack of shutters actually increases the aesthetic appeal, so I wouldn't add any. That beautiful lavender color on the door would stay.

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What I would change about the house is the roof—a cedar shake roof, as shown in the top two photos below, would look incredible. I'd also spruce up the fence, give the house a new paint job in white, and add some minimal landscaping that wouldn't obscure the structure. 

THE ENTRYWAY

The foyer and staircase show off the house's good bones. That turned newel post is such a fantastic detail.

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To make this area feel warm and welcoming, I'd freshen everything up with a warm white paint, install a runner on the stairs, put down area rugs in rich and vibrant colors, set up a console table with a lamp or two, and maybe even add a bench to create a small seating area. I'd also hang a mirror to reflect light and make the space appear brighter. 

THE KITCHEN

The kitchen needs a total overhaul, but I would save the beams and work them into the new design. I'd love to see a combination of warm wood, white paint, and taupe or gray trim used in this space. 

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I would keep the bones of the kitchen looking traditional in style, but I'd probably add a few contemporary touches here and there. Wood accents would play a big part in the design scheme, and a butcher block island countertop or wood-framed work table would make great accents.

THE DINING ROOM

This next room is probably the dining room since it has built-in china hutches. How great are those window seats?

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I could see this room looking fabulous in high-gloss, peacock-green paint. It would certainly feel cozy with dark paint, low ceilings, and a huge fireplace. But seeing as I've gone light and bright in other areas of the house, I would bring that look into this room and soften all those hard wooden edges with super plush cushions in the window seats, woven window shades, sconces or pendant lights, and a warm white color on the walls with a taupe or gray color on the millwork. 

The same room from a different angle, showing the fireplace:

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Light walls and a warm, gray trim color are in keeping with the traditional look but would make the space feel updated and on pace with today's trends. Traditional does not have to look dated!

THE LIVING ROOM

The interior architecture of this room provides a lot of woodwork to work around.

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I would consider adding more millwork to the space, as shown in the photo below. I would add some non-structural beams to the ceiling and build out the wall to include panels of painted woodwork in a soft taupe or gray. A cute dog is definitely the best finishing touch!

THE MASTER BEDROOM

This looks like a good-sized master bedroom with a straightforward layout that would be relatively easy to work with.

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I'd lighten everything up with fresh paint, add floor-length drapes on the windows, and layer lots of textured linens in soft blues, chocolate browns, and creamy whites. A soft wool rug underfoot would feel luxurious.

UPSTAIRS ROOM #1 WITH SLOPED CEILINGS

Given the sloped ceilings, this room is most likely on the third floor of the house. I could imagine transforming the space below into a light-filled bathroom that uses the sloped ceilings to its advantage.

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Ambitious? Perhaps. This space makes excellent use of the knee walls, though, and the chimney stack could most likely be camouflaged by being incorporated into the built-in storage.

UPSTAIRS ROOM #2 WITH SLOPED CEILINGS

Here's another awkward little room with sloped ceilings. These spaces are always tricky to plan when you have low, slanted ceilings to contend with, as well as something like a brick chimney stack located in the middle of the floor. On the plus side, the chimney stack offers a unique architectural detail to work into the design. It's just too bad that it's in such a weird spot.

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I would try to work around it by creating a sleeping nook or daybed/reading nook in this area. Sleeping and reading are two activities that don't require much in the way of overhead clearance (unless you tend to sleep standing up or read while jumping on a trampoline). These cozy little corners make great use of this awkward space.

THE EXTERIOR: SIDE EXPOSURE

Much like the front of the house, this exterior exposure is in pretty good shape. I'd insert more windows in the breezeway and gussy up the barn/garage structure.

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A trellis over the garage door would be a simple but stunning addition. Another lovely detail would be a brick or pea gravel walkway lined with some nicely-edged garden beds full of boxwoods or hydrangeas.

Any fixer-upper requires a lot of work and a ton of decision-making. Having a vision for the finished product and knowing what you want is half the battle. I think I'm off to a pretty good start here!

What would you change about this house? What details would you keep or add?

To learn more about this historic colonial house in Concord, MA, visit the listing page. All photos of the house are from the listing. Click through the inspiration photos for sources.

A Topsfield Summer Home for All Seasons

Sometimes I'm amazed at how many country estates exist in the greater Boston area. Many communities to the north, south, and west are home to large houses surrounded by acres and acres of land, many of them having been built in the early 20th century. The house I'm talking about today is a great example.

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Sitting on 10-plus acres in Topsfield, this c. 1900 Ipswich River watershed estate is exactly the type of house I picture when I imagine a New England summer home. Most people's minds would probably take them to the Cape or somewhere closer to the beach, but for me, this countryside setting with a huge yard, multiple gardens, and access to the river is my idea of a summertime retreat! Just looking at the exterior of the house makes me feel relaxed and stress-free.

As much as I love the outside, I really fell for the inside of this house because it features one of my absolute favorite design details: brick floors. Brick is a wonderful material to use as flooring because it adds texture and warmth in place of plain hardwood or tile flooring. I think brick flooring is gaining in popularity because so many people are trying to achieve modern farmhouse style now, but it still feels unexpected when I see it. It's a great option for mudrooms and laundry rooms, but in this house, it was used in the entryway, sitting area, and dining room. It runs the whole length of the front of the house!

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These rooms feel both cozy and cool to me. Imagine opening all of those windows to let a sea breeze blow through the house in the summertime! In the fall and winter, a roaring fire would warm guests at the dining table and make this small sitting room feel nice and toasty.

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Brick was also used in this bedroom to create a small archway leading to a window seat. I'd love to curl up with a book in this spot! Notice how there appears to be three different types of brick used here—two different types on the arch and wall, and a third type around the firebox opening. Perhaps this was an original exterior wall at one point? 

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Many of the rooms have fireplaces, and abundant windows fill the rooms with natural light. There's also plenty of built-in storage. 

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And then there's the backyard, which is never-ending.

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Small patios and walkways lead to different areas of the yard and connect grassy swaths of land to nicely tended gardens.

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This view from the deck overlooks two small terraces and a tiny outbuilding in the distance.

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The walkway leads to a pond and small sitting area. This would be such a peaceful place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or unwind after a long day at the office. I'm not sure what this small outbuilding is used for, but I'd like to imagine that it would make a great writing or artist's studio, or even a potting shed. 

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With so many inviting areas both inside and out, this property makes the concept of indoor-outdoor living in New England look effortless and appealing. This would no doubt be a magical place to live.

For more photos of the home, check out the listing. All photos shown here are from the listing.