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Dressed-up:A chandelier dripping with crystals, a prominent arched window, and an ornate etagere.
Laid-back:Relaxed gingham slipcovers, a trio of humble baskets, and a piano bench turned coffee table.
This beachfront retreat offers the best of both worlds, the ease of casual living melded with the elegance of tradition. The cottage's palette of muted, watery blues and chalky whites unifies the diverse mix of scavenged furniture and accessories.
A coat of white paint pulled together the reproduction dining table, old chairs, and hutch. The iron chandelier was a tag sale bargain because its bright gold finish was a turnoff. It was painted creamy white, embellished with beads, and enhanced with a basket of shells that was wired to the fixture's arms.
The dark Victorian-style headboard was lightened with a coat of white paint and toile fabric inserts. The lines of the wicker table echo the headboard's scrolls, but the table looks a little wimpy in comparison. A salvaged iron grate evens the score, lending the table the visual heft it needs to hold its own against the towering bed.
Traditional coastal elements such as wire fishing baskets, fishing poles, clam-digging buckets, and other utilitarian items in the white-washed mudroom give the cottage a sense of place and keep useful items close at hand. The inexpensive vinyl floor looks terrific and is durable and a snap to clean.
Nautical items set the mood in the beachside cottage, and shells can be found perched nearly everywhere -- alone or in vases, bowls, and urns. When decorating around a theme, there's a thin line between "Too cute!" and "Too much!" Here, overkill is avoided by clustering accessories in well-composed vignettes rather than scattering them randomly, and by choosing items with soft colors that recede into the background.