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Wave of Inspiration: Vintage nautical meets bold statements on the Eastern Shore

Nov 02, 2015 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Carol Sorgen // Photography by Stephen Buchanan

The owners of this Eastern Shore vacation getaway wanted their home to reflect the fact that it was on the Shore, but also make it cozy and inviting for themselves and their guests on a brisk autumn or winter weekend. Interior designer Marika Meyer had just the solution.

“This is a family-friendly older home, and we wanted to keep it casual and comfortable,” says the Bethesda-based designer. Meyer relied on Designer and Project Manager Katie McCarthy, who grew up on the Eastern Shore, for her input. The creative team came up with practical solutions for Shore living while still retaining the charm and character of the five bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home.

For starters, most of the furniture in the main living spaces is upholstered in indoor-outdoor fabric by Perennials (, the better to withstand wet bathing suits and sandy feet. Traditional nautical tones of blue and white give a nod to Shore life, but shots of yellow and red—such as the bordered dining room area rug—add visual interest.

“Color and pattern have made a comeback over the last few years,” Meyer says. “The living room is a study of combining color and pattern. We paired geometric fabrics on the chairs and drapes with tribal prints for the ottoman and pillows. To keep the feel of the house unified, we made sure to incorporate the same palette in the kitchen and dining room.”
The home isn’t “overly decorated,” says Meyer, but adds that the owners are “passionate” about art, and pieces, such as a Jasper Johns contemporary painting, balance the traditional character of the house and the antiques they also enjoy. “The combination gives the home a sense of freshness,” Meyer says. “In most projects, our goal is to create a balance between the traditional pieces while adding a bit of modern flair. In this case, the artwork and fresh geometric patterns brought new energy to the antique tables, desk, and sideboard.”

Among the quirks of the older home are high-angled ceiling lines and wall niches. To impart a sense of uniformity in the guest bedroom, Meyer used bold yellow and white-flowered wallpaper throughout the room, even on the ceiling, while an upholstered headboard filled out the space.

“The room was very dark and awkward so we wanted to create a warm and welcoming retreat for guests,” the designer adds. “The pale yellow tree of life paper by Thibaut introduced a soft, organic flow. We paired that with a pale yellow upholstered headboard and custom bedskirt to make the bed extra comfortable. Then we installed two swing-arm sconces flanking the bed for extra reading light. Custom shams in Malabar fabric add whimsy and tie in the blue that runs throughout the house.”

Not all rooms are wallpapered. “We wanted to balance the patterns of the furniture and windows with a simple wall treatment,” Meyer says. The main living area is painted a bright white “to help the light bounce around the room.”

For those fortunate enough to have a waterfront/water view home—or wish they did—Meyer offers these tips for adding a nautical twist, without going overboard (so to speak!):

“You don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics if you have a home by the water,” Meyer says. “It’s all about balancing form and function.”

  • Artwork is a great way to bring the seaside in, and if a Jasper Johns isn’t in your budget, visit local art schools or shop online at sites such as Etsy (
  • Be creative with accessories. Pair a traditional chair with a contemporary side table and reading lamp
  • Freshen up an upholstered piece with new fabric (indoor-outdoor fabric no longer has to look like it’s made just for your patio)
  • Painted furniture—whether you do it yourself or find an occasional piece in a local antique shop, craft gallery, or online—can add a touch of charm and whimsy

How to Make a Guest Feel at Home

Include a tray with bottled water and cups in the guest room

Leave a stack of recent popular publications along with top-selling novels. Guests welcome the chance to catch up on reading

Make sure the guest room has ample bedding and pillows in both feather and hypoallergenic options

Have two plush terrycloth robes ready. Nothing says comfort like a plush robe to snuggle in after a long day of travel

Have extra universal chargers at the ready. We all know the feeling of forgetting this key technology tool

Leave a basket with a variety of soaps and shampoos in the guest bath with extra towels