Awash in Neutrals

King of Neutrals
A neutral palette in this waterfront home designed by Caldwell-Bebe's Jim Hawes puts the focus on the relaxing panorama of ocean, river, and sky.

Eye Candy

Though the great room is unified in pale hues, there's no lack of eye-catchers. Over the walnut dining table, a striking compass chandelier holds court. A high-back wing chair is "positively voluptuous," McLean, Virginia, designer Jim Hawes says. And a painting over the fireplace brings horizontal fields of color to the board-and-batten walls.

Unexpected Accents

Despite its strong horizontals, this David Bell painting, commissioned to crown the mantel, is nearly square in shape. Coral dyed the same earthy red found in the painting fills a simple glass cylinder. "You want to have something surprising or humorous in a room," designer Jim Hawes says. "I call it the 'aha!' moment."

A Delicate Balance

An antique Swedish glass-front pine cabinet deliberately breaks the scheme of dark woods that anchors this light room. The doors' harlequin pattern of glass and wood mimics the pattern on the sisal rug. "Symmetry is overrated," Hawes says of the room's furniture arrangement. "I'm more interested in achieving a sense of balance."

Dine in Style

To complement the striking compass chandelier, brass compass-rose plaques on the dining chair backs link echoing semicircles. Easily bleached slipcovers protect the chair seats. "After all, people eat crabs here," Hawes says of the Chesapeake Bay residence.

Color Works

The most significant color notes in the home come from evocative paintings. Hyacinth sails on a Chesapeake-style model sloop pick up the rich colors of this painting.

Big Bed, Small Room

In the small master bedroom, the owners wanted a West Indian-style four-poster. To keep it from visually "eating the room alive," Hawes dressed it with a white matelasse coverlet and gauzy fabric panels.

Neutrals Need a Kick

To keep a serene color palette from getting boring, Hawes suggests kicking it up a notch by varying wood tones, injecting objects for visual interest, choosing shapely furniture, and mixing prints and solids. Hawes chose dramatic prints for pillows and sheets, then tossed in coordinating pillows in sold, cheerful colors to spice up pale hues in the master bedroom.

Keep it Calm

The sunny guest bedroom boasts the best views in the house. Given its panorama, the room is kept calm with an old Swedish painted chest and bench, a Victorian nursing chair in a soft pattern and a faux straw-upholstered headboard. Floor-to-ceiling linen curtains tame the light.

Sunny Space

Two styles of rattan and wicker furniture -- one sophisticated, one classic -- save the long, rectangular sunporch from uniformity. Hawes loves the airy curves of the coffee tables, which were inexpensive finds from a local store.

Smart Floors

Life on the shore can be tough on floors. The sun, sand, and surf can do damage when they come inside. Hawes says sturdy flooring choices, such as slate, tile, or concrete, will stand up to sandy traffic in exterior rooms and entry spaces such as this sunroom.

Welcome to the Shore

Despite this home's breathtaking views, guests step into the entry and confront a solid wall. Hawes wanted to make the awkward space intriguing by crafting an eye-catching still life that says, "Welcome to the Shore." He began with an old, sugar maple-topped Swedish pedestal table. An antique French double window -- elegant in shape and venerable in its original worn finish -- makes a virtue of the foyer's height. A huge South Seas clamshell is a conversation piece. "The entry is a bit of a tease before the impact of the view," Hawes says.

King of Neutrals

Designer Jim Hawes of McLean, Virginia's, design firm Caldwell-Bebe, is known for his love of neutral color schemes peppered with colorful artwork. "I don't believe in heavy-handed decorating," he says.

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