Q: We want to furnish our Cape Cod home in a style appropriate to its historical architecture as well as to our contemporary lifestyle. Our preference is for wooden furniture with simple lines, though we wish to avoid large expanses of wood paneling and flooring. The interior design must also not be stereotypically country or modern. What do you suggest?
A: You might start by considering this look produced by designer Barbara Hauben Ross.
Her contemporary interpretation of the 19th-century Shaker style perfect for those who favor spare yet elegant design. This informal eating area features a collection of Windsor chairs which, like the table, are hand-crafted in solid cherry. Note, too, .. that the chairs are not identical.
Since you don't like large expanses of wood flooring, you may wish to install ceramic pavers in a contrasting shade of terra cotta. Green or black would also be a good background color for solid cherry-wood furniture.
In this model, the designer chose to surround the fireplace with the same material she used on the floor. A flat wood trim was then added as a decorative frame around the fireplace as well as around the window and door openings.
The trim has also been installed on the walls, the way a crown molding would be, though it's been dropped well below the ceiling. Such a placement is more effective in a room with a fairly low ceiling and with door and window openings of various heights and widths. Dark wood trim likewise works as a decorative asset when placed against white-painted walls.
The recurring use of a single design detail in various parts of the room helps to unify the entire space.
Ms. Ross' reworking of this room provides a fine example of how color and detailing can change both the mood and style of an interior. The reproduction American antiques she chose for this setting certainly don't qualify as stereotypically country in their styling. At the same time, the room's architecture could comfortably accommodate other types of furniture. Colorful contemporary pieces and accessories -- which, again, needn't be predictable in their styling -- might look equally good in this space. As with most design issues, it's a matter of personal taste.