Cabin Fever

Owner and designer Heather Wells escapes the bustle of Boston at her quiet weekend home. In the mudroom, a pop of glossy red trim and light floors add an element of surprise. Three wraparound porches provide the perfect spot to enjoy the sights of New England autumns.

Tucked away in the colorful foliage of quaint New Hampshire, Boston interior designer Heather Wells’ lakeside retreat is not quite your typical cute country cottage.

“From the outside, it’s a big, dark brown house and feels very formidable,” says Wells, who purchased the Adirondack-style home, set on six acres of land, as a weekend getaway spot a decade ago and has spent several years updating it with her vision. Built in 1898 by Boston architect Louise Howe, the four-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot house was originally designed as a summer residence for two sisters, and has only had two other owners – a restaurateur and a professor – before making it over to Wells.

A chair left by a previous owner was reupholstered to match a favorite sentimental painting above a vintage dresser.

The living room is a textured melange of woods, brick and plaid, updated with streamlined seating, embracing the cozy cabin mood.

“It hasn’t been touched in a really long time,” she states. Previous owners left behind furnishings and other items, electricity and plumbing hadn’t been updated, and the home hadn’t been winterized. Still, it had a strong foundation. Rather than undertaking a complete modern overhaul, Wells chose to stay true to the cottage’s rustic roots and embrace a nostalgically eclectic feel, even preserving some of the original furnishings left behind by previous occupants. What she ended up with is the epitome of New England charm.

“I don’t really have a signature style,” Wells shares. “Each project I do informs me of what it wants, and this house told me what it wanted over time. It needed color and lots of lighting, and I wanted it to feel very friendly, lived-in and comfortable.” She calls the decor “upgraded campy”; a lot of wood, warm tones, and a generous measure of plaid bring in a laid-back, outdoorsy vibe, while an updated open layout and a quirky mix of found items keep things from delving into cliché territory.

A coat of cheery red warms up the kitchen, giving new life to the room’s damaged original floors. Vellum skin lampshades from Roman Thomas give off a natural glow above a kitchen island made from a Tuscan kitchen table.

An eclectic collection of mirrors hangs above an inlaid marquetry desk from the 1870s.

A circa 1800s console painted a vibrant yellow and a modern abstract painting in teal tones perfectly capture Wells love of period mixing and bold color.

A simple desk from Amy Pearl stands alongside a contemporary, yet classic four-poster bed in a rustic-minimalist master bedroom.

A traditional brick fireplace in the living room is balanced by clean-lined sofas and a coffee table designed by Wells from an old piece of wood. A Tuscan kitchen table elevated on blocks works as the kitchen counter, while the dining room hosts an old picnic table that the designer repainted a dark brown. Stick wicker and vintage pieces pop in throughout, including wicker patio furniture on the enclosed porch, an original 1870s inlaid marquetry desk, and an antique painted yellow chest from the 1800s by the staircase. A painting that Wells says reminds her of her grandmother hangs above a retro dresser, alongside a reupholstered plaid chair that was original to the house.

“It had a strong personality, but it was a dark and brooding house when I got it,” Wells tells us. “Because the house is dark, it can handle very bright colors, so I used a lot of color to uplift and make it more cheerful.” Painting a few of the all-wooden original walls lightened up the space, along with a few well-placed swathes of bright color, like the warm red floors in the kitchen and the bedroom’s orange-toned wall.

“It feels cozier and more cheerful inside than you would expect from the outside,” concludes Wells. “I love the fireplace in the winter and the fire pit outside in the summer. It’s just a very friendly, easy, relaxed home.”

Photography by Eric Piasecki/Otto

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