Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reader Question: Dealing with Cape home eaves

I received an email from a reader recently with some exciting news and a design dilemma.  Here's what Jeanine wrote: 

"My husband and I recently bought our first home, a teensy traditional Cape in Newton, MA.  Since you're originally from this neck of the woods, I figured you must be familiar with this style house.  Do you have any ideas for how to deal with the pesky eaves on the second floor?  I know it's part of the charm of a Cape but I am at a loss for how to hang curtains and generally decorate around them.  The ceiling is only 7.5" up there and I'm afraid to do anything that will make it look even lower!"

Well first of all Jeanine, a great big CONGRATULATIONS is in order.  Buying a first home is a huge step but it's particularly an amazing accomplishment in the highly competitive (and very desirable) suburbs outside of Boston.  And you could not be more right - I have been in lots and LOTS of Cape style homes and I know exactly the "eave situation" you speak of!

For those of you not as familiar with this style, a traditional Cape Cod style home looks like this.  The steep pitch to the roof line originated as a way to protect the house from heavy New England snowfalls.  It is typically 1 1/2 stories with small eaves in the upstairs living space.  It has a large central fireplace to keep it cozy.  This style of home can be found all over the Northeast, not just on Cape Cod!

Bedrooms are usually on the second floor in a Cape and the pitched roof line and eaves can pose some problems for furniture arrangement and decorating. Here are some photos of Capes that I think are doing it right.

You might be surprised to learn that the way to combat the low ceilings in a Cape is to go bold!  Anything that draws your eye up to the ceiling will actually make the low-ness less of an issue.   For example, curtains should be mounted as high up as possible.  Make use of every last inch of that wall space!

Taking it one step further, this bathroom has been swathed in wallpaper above the chair rail and across the entire ceiling.  The drama of the paper really helps the weird ceiling angles recede. 

Accenting the ceiling with color, in this case a bold stripe, will also create the "look up!" effect. 


This picture is also a good study in stripe direction. It's easy to become paralyzed by which way the stripes should go in a space like this with lots of corners and angles.  Turns out - it doesn't really matter that much.  They're going every which way here and I think it looks great.

A bed is a Cape home is usually situated on a wall with a steep angle rising above it.  My favorite way to deal with this is by using fabric to add some presence to the wall and make the angle look purposeful. 



By extending the fabric used on the headboard up into an angled canopy, the pitched ceiling really disappears.  You're too focused on that awesome fabric (love the scalloped edge!)  Notice too the height of the lamps on the bedside table.  Everything here is serving to elongate.

I hope this helps Jeanine!  I'd love to see pictures of how it ends up.

If you have a question or a design dilemma irking you, drop me an email (address listed over on the right sidebar).  I love a challenge and I love searching out pictures to help inspire you to tackle the issue and make your space the best it can be.