Tour a Chromatic Getaway on the Massachusetts Coast

On her first visit to what would eventually become a beguiling and much-loved gathering spot for a host of family members and friends, Katie Jordan couldn’t actually get inside. It was November, and the house—which had been built in 1912 and never winterized—was boarded up. Nonetheless, as she and a friend wandered its autumnal grounds, the conviction grew that she’d at long last found exactly what she was looking for.

“The whole ocean side is all these incredible rocks, and then the harbor is just to your right,” she explains. Standing sentinel at the edge of a weathered granite promontory on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, the dwelling overlooks both a bustling fishing port and a stretch of scenic coast. The glorious view loses none of its romance even at night, when the distant lights of Boston often glimmer bewitchingly across the dark waters.

Pops of color—yellow Bruno Rey chairs, a red 1953 Chambers stove, lilac Pyrolave countertops, and trim in Farrow & Ball’s Cook’s Blue—define the kitchen. Vintage American hooked rug; antique inlaid-wood dining table; antique wingback chair in a Jim Thompson Fabrics plaid.

“I was looking for an older home that nobody had ruined,” Jordan continues, and this particular structure—once she was able to enter—proved perfect for her and her son. It was one of two houses that belonged to the local yacht club, and after being sold in 1951 it had passed down in the same family ever since. With no notable additions and only minor changes having been made through the decades, it remained a pristine specimen of a modest New England seaside cottage.

So the task became one of equipping her prize with the amenities modern life requires (heat, for one) without erasing the home’s period charm. For assistance, it was only natural to recruit AD100 laureate Frances Merrill of Reath Design in Los Angeles, who had already partnered happily with Jordan on her full-time residence in California (AD, February 2020).

Merrill understood her brief immediately. Rather than trying to carve the interior into a more contemporary layout, she and Jordan opted to keep much of its old-style configuration of smaller rooms—all the better to provide a wealth of intimate nooks and corners where lucky occupants can simply enjoy hanging out. There’s a table for cards and games, quiet places to sit with a laptop, a snug den that shelters a U-shaped sectional ideal for movie watching on the occasional rainy day. Comfy rockers and wicker sofas line the wraparound porch, marvelous perches for contemplating the ever-changing nautical panorama. “We just wanted it to feel easy and comfortable,” Merrill says.