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Design Ideas
House Tour: Artist Erin Houghton’s Sunny Beach Cottage
Discover 10 things this creative can teach you about color, classic style and vintage elements.
Using artwork to inspire your décor is a great decorating trick. But when you are an artist, your rooms become your blank canvas on which to create. Stepping into artist Erin Houghton’s home feels like walking into one of her paintings. The similarities between her the décor of her artist-beach cottage and her artwork are... Keep Scrolling
Written by Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Bret Gum
Styling by Jickie Torres

Using artwork to inspire your décor is a great decorating trick. But when you are an artist, your rooms become your blank canvas on which to create. Stepping into artist Erin Houghton’s home feels like walking into one of her paintings. The similarities between her the décor of her artist-beach cottage and her artwork are striking, seamless and even a bit surreal.

When you arrive at the beach cottage’s front door you see the same bright shade of red as
appears on a bicycle in one of her paintings. And the yellow gingham curtains on the kitchen windows match the sunflowers that pop up in her artwork as well as in her garden. Erin’s attraction to vibrant colors is the basis for her aesthetic approach to her life and her work.

The living room is “the epitome of everything that I love,” Erin says. The different white textures of the room are anchored by wood finishes.

How does her ability to mix and match paint influence her décor? “I use the same skills to create harmony in decorating by repeating a single primary color throughout the garden
and home,” Erin explains. “My favorite colors are ocean and sky blues accented with whites, reds and yellows,” Erin says. “My style is a mix of classic and whimsy, as I use traditional beach-cottage blue and white elements, mixing them with vintage finds and collections, and then layering pillows and accessories in florals, checks and stripes.”

Erin added a distressed paint finish to the mirror from Ballard Designs to make it look more like an architectural piece.

“I love things that are well-worn, rusty, imperfect and handmade to offset the more classic elements.”

Erin’s collection of vintage picnic baskets warms up this reading nook in the livingroom. The earthy tones balance out the light bright colors in the room.

To add whimsy and texture to her beach cottage, Erin decorates with what she calls “vintage imperfect elements” and collections such as picnic baskets, which she uses to store books, boxes, metal clam baskets and seashells. “I love things that are well-worn, rusty, imperfect and handmade to offset the more classic elements,” Erin says. “I collect vintage birdhouses in all sizes, shapes and colors, and signs, galvanized buckets and watering cans for the garden. The watering cans, when not in use, are filled with flowers or greens from the garden, and the buckets are used for charming planters.”

“I grew up with and adore books. I have them stacked up everywhere and use them to add height to tables with lamps as well as to add touches of color.”

Erin refreshed the kitchen with resurfaced doors, beadboard and brushed nickel hardware. The mirror, chairs and table were distressed with craft paint and she repurposed an old herb drying rack as a place to hang baskets. There was an old telephone jack she couldn’t get rid of, so she painted roosters on canvases to cover the hole.

But with all her vintage finds, Erin’s home and garden never look cluttered or busy. She approaches the spaces as she does her paintings. “I like to use white as a background and achieve this with the use of white walls and slipcovers in my home and white furniture in the garden. I add character and interest by using distressed blue-painted furniture and primitive wood antiques as anchors to the white.

Even after decades of collecting secondhand items, Erin has no plans to modernize her living spaces. “I would buy vintage over new any day,” she says. “Each piece has history and adds tremendously to the warmth of the house. Every room in the house has something old. If it has a chip or crack, it just gives it a little personality. Most things I buy are vintage and will show up in a painting later on; my vintage blue bicycle has been in many of my paintings.”

A vintage-style vignette includes a wicker chair with grain-sack pillows. The small painting is from Erin’s series called “Beach Girls.”

Erin’s garage is her art studio by day, car garage by night. With high loft-like ceilings
and plenty of built-in cabinets to conceal storage, it’s big enough to have meetings with 12 people. Erin painted a flagstone design on the floor to help warm up the space and amp up the creative atmosphere.

Vintage furniture and collection turn Erin’s garage studio into a bright and vibrant space full of creative energy.

While it’s been nice to carve out extra space for her studio in the garage, she’s still mindful of space-saving tricks. Erin made the table curtain under her worktable out of an old shower curtain. She found the huge cupboard on the left in someone’s trash, and
the old shutters behind the table hide her exercise bike. The garage doors have windows for light. People can’t believe it’s the garage. “I’m very good at hiding stuff,” Erin says.

“I would buy vintage over new any day. Each piece has history and adds tremendously to the warmth of the house.”

This bedroom features a high ceiling and a built-in bookcase, original to the cottage, that goes all the way to the top, with blue-and-white china lining the shelves.

Erin believes her three-bedroom Cape Cod cottage, located a mile-and-a-half from the beach, is the perfect place to inspire her creativity and give her joy and serenity. “It’s my happy place,” Erin says. “And anybody who comes here to relax, it’s their happy place too.”

Erin’s office has a daybed perfect for lounging, with its ample pillows in classic cottage prints like buffalo check, stripes and burlap. The charming bench coffee table is from Scotland. Erin likes to include hats in her décor for their texture. “With all the light walls and furniture, I needed to add some texture,” she says.
The smallest room in the house, the dining room also has low ceilings, so Erin placed mirrors on each end to make it look bigger and brought in an old antique table and had a glass top made for it so it doesn’t appear to take up much room.

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