There's something about the New England way of decorating, and living, that's uniquely and universally appealing. I always chuckle when I see a foreign home, whether it be in Norway, England or New Zealand, featured in a publication for it's New England style and sensibility. What is it about the New England way that does appeal to so many?
There's a simple sophistication that draws from the surrounding landscape. It is a style that embraces comfort, that is steeped in tradition and deep rooted in family history. From coastal Connecticut shores, to the deep woods of Maine to the snowy mountains of Vermont, the decor embraces and pays homage to the surrounding landscape which is why New England homes are often synonymous with coastal or woodland decor.
A New England Home tends to be more minimal in terms of decor, focusing on the architectural elements of the home - wainscot or beadboard, exposed beams, dark, wide plank floors, always at least partially exposed. Windows are minimally covered and often not at all. Newer architecture tends to mimic the traditional in a larger scale, often with more open floor plans. A brass pineapple or lobster door knocker might be fitting. Conjure up images of these interiors and what immediately comes to mind are large landscapes in oil of a rocky coastline, perhaps in an approaching storm, nautical maps, images and large scale models of sailboats are prevalent in coastal homes, with large brass lobsters and a smattering of large, interesting shells. Family portraits of great-great grandparents take center stage in a New England home, perhaps in honor of those who stepped off the Mayflower safely in the new land? Collections of lobsters, anchors and all things nautical will be cleverly arranged and displayed. Large canvas totes will be present in every room - to store newspaper, firewood, clean dry towels for pool or beach in the mudroom. Many wood-paneled rooms may feature paintings and collections of horses, or black labradors. There will be signs of an active lifestyle - tennis racquets hanging in the mudroom, riding boots and hats, life jackets for sailboats.
Blue and white might seem to be the colors of choice in many of these houses, with a penchant for stripes, gingham and plaid. (Do New Englanders dress as they decorate?) The plaid may appear anywhere - on walls, furniture and rugs, to the piles of blankets in the basket, next to the firewood, by the fireplace. Fireplaces are essential in these homes where even in July it is not unheard of for temperatures to dip well into the 50s. While classic Colonial colors of the south tend toward pastel, Northern colors are deeper, warmer - say navy blue over robin's egg blue as New Englanders are heartier. For those with simpler palates, varying shades of whites is a "color" theme for many houses that line the coast. Is this because white hides sand better than the darker colors?
Devoid of frill and excess, there's a homeyness, comfort and often rustic feel to many New England homes.
Elements of a New England Home (infused with a bit of snark)
- Walls tend to be painted in classic colors, varying hues of white, yellow, green, blue, beige, brown and gray, with newer homes embracing bolder colors and prints (as seen in Benjamin Moore's Historical Collection.)
- Blue and white is a popular color scheme with accent colors notably in oranges, greens and yellows.
- Blue and white accessories such as ginger jars and blue and white porcelain plates
- Stripes, gingham and plaids are often in abundance
- Boats, preferably those with giant white sails, grace walls, and sit atop coffee tables and desks
- Brass lobsters, crabs and all else nautical
- Pineapples, especially door knocker, This prickly, sticky fruit is the symbol of hospitality and also the official symbol of Newport, Rhode Island
- Sports paraphernalia - tennis and squash rackets, riding boots, wooden oars and life preservers to reflect a healthy and active lifestyle
- Woven area rugs
- Books, especially those on history and historical biographies
- Lit Fireplaces during cooler months and chilly summer days
- Electric fans for those hot days. Hearty New Englanders living in older homes don't need air conditioning.
- Wood and wicker baskets and Canvas totes for storage purposes
- Inherited antique furniture
- Family portraits from generations back, perhaps even on horseback
- Dog bowls, black Labrador retrievers