When Jim and Kelley Sullivan decided to redo the guest house behind their waterfront home in Scituate, they knew it would cost more to rehab the circa 1924 two-car garage with a two-bedroom guest house above than it would to start fresh and get exactly what they wanted. So they knocked down the existing structure and built a three-car garage with a suite above that includes a reinvention of a multimedia room, a small kitchen and a guest bedroom and bath.

Photography by Dan Cutrona Interior Design: Cabbages & Kings Interiors

Photography by Dan Cutrona
Interior Design: Cabbages & Kings Interiors

They named it “The Boathouse,” because of its incredible water views, and hired Cape Cod-based interior designer Peri Olson of Cabbages & Kings Interiors to help them turn it into a space that would suit all the purposes they had in mind, from gathering together as a family to watch a ballgame on the 186-inch high-definition flat-screen TV, which slides down from the ceiling, to entertaining guests at cocktail parties.

“We wanted that South Shore coastal living look and we wanted it to be casual and comfortable, but stunning,” Sullivan says.

The Cabbages & Kings concept

Olson believes the best way to decorate a space is to start with workable items a client already owns, add a few magnificent custom pieces to give the room a high-end look, mix in some perfectly fine retail pieces she buys right off the floor at stores like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, and then accessorize with one-of-a-kind pieces.

“I’m a firm believer that when you do a project there are places where you need to invest, and there are places where you really don’t,” she says.

For “The Boathouse,” the inspiration began with a fabulous window treatment fabric that was a coastal theme without being cottagy or feminine. Olson considered the custom window treatments to be an investment because they helped define the décor. Since the homeowner is very tall, custom sofas that have extra height in the back and extra depth in the seat were a necessity to ensure comfort. Custom cushions to complement the window treatments made sense, but she found really cool accent pillows for the sofas at Crate & Barrel.

When she found the perfect high round black table at Pottery Barn, there was no reason to keep looking elsewhere. A long trestle table in the Sullivan’s basement was the perfect size for the space where she wanted to use it.

“There is a surplus of used furniture right now that nobody wants and when people just keep buying, I don’t think that’s cost effective and I don’t think it’s environmentally conscientious either,” Olson says. “I think it makes more sense to start with what you have that you can use and change the hardware or cut the legs down or change the finish.”

Using custom details to define the space

She takes the same approach to store-bought items she finds as well, customizing them to suit the room and create a more interesting look. Adding a piece of glass to the top of a table or doing something a little funkier with hardware can make an ordinary sideboard or bureau look more impressive. And the best part about repurposing an old piece of furniture or customizing a new one is that you create a one-of-a-kind look that won’t be found in any other house.

To complete the look for “The Boathouse,” Olson used some creative and unique accessories. An old lobster buoy repainted to match the colors of the room and placed inside a glass lamp offers a fun alternative to the usual seashells or beach glass that people tend to use to fill that style lamp. She also hunted through antique and junk shops on the Cape for other nautical accessories, pieces that could be bought for a fraction of the price of a reproduction of the same item at a design center.

“Old things fromThese are only a few, there is whole host of  that are available and can easily ship them for you at very replica watches nominal rates, as per order. Most of the present here are actual collectible jewellery items. other places bring a lot character,” she says. “I like to use vintage and antique accessories because they bring a lot of history to a new space and they’re authentic.”