Easy Breezy Beach House: Designer Justine Sterling puts a Cape Town spin on a Cape Cod classic
Written by Jennifer Blaise Kramer • Photographed by Jessica Delaney // When tasked to design a great room for longtime Cape Cod clients, interior designer Justine Sterling knew the job came with unusual challenges. The starting place was good—the room came with stunning views of Osterville and elegant architectural details, such as a coffered ceiling. However true to its name, the room was definitely great, sizing up at 1,500 square feet, which Sterling called “the size of a small home.” It needed definition, style, and heart but came with one catch: no kitchen.
“I love space planning—it’s my favorite part of the job,” says Sterling, who sketched up three possible floor plans for this job. “But no kitchen! That’s always the heart of the home. Here it was just a great room with a bunch of doors, a fireplace, and stairs right off the entry.”
Determined to make this the true heart of the home, the team landed on a plan positioning a U-shaped, low-slung seating configuration smack in the center of the room; this way guests walk in the entry and see the water right away. A custom dining table made to seat 14 for family parties spanning three generations is situated on the far end with the kitchen located on the other side of the wall. On the opposing end, Sterling retiled a nondescript fireplace in Waterworks penny tile for its sea glass effect. Since forgoing a TV above was a request, she gladly hung an ocean oil painting instead with the help of Jacqui Becker Fine Arts.
“I love rooms without TVs, it makes my job so much easier when I don’t have to focus on the damn TV!” she laughs. Instead she created a cozy nook for games by the fireplace with movable poufs nearby. For the grandkids, she hung swinging chairs by the bay windows, where they opted out of window treatments to let the view shine. These touches all helped create a beachy vibe that’s lighter and more carefree that what’s commonly found on the Cape.
“I love coastal. But my interpretation of coastal is more Californian opposed to the typical New England approach,” says the native South African. Working with high texture jute, bamboo, and driftwood—and the largest rug she’s ever made—she also put a twist on the color scheme. Ditching the expected navy and white for a more playful palette of turquoise and tan, she achieved a version of beach house that’s more west coast than east. No shell prints or “in your face stripes” for this designer who stays true to her roots, even in Massachusetts. “Cape Town feels more Californian. It’s more laid back.”