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House Tour: A Laid-Back Cape Cod Colonial with Playful Details

Designer Helen Bergin revamped the home in less than a month.


Welcome to House Tours, where we peek inside creatively designed dwellings around town. Want to invite us into your home or one you’ve designed? Tell us about it here.

Photo by Michael J. Lee

The Snapshot
Town: Harwich Port
Type of home: Cape Cod Colonial
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2
Size: 2,118 square feet
• • •

Designer Helen Bergin had recently completed a renovation for a young couple in Hingham when the clients reached out to enlist her help once again. The task this time? Revamping a drab and dated 1967 Cape Cod Colonial, which the couple purchased after selling their beach house in Yarmouth. There was just one catch: Bergin would have less than a month to do it. “They wanted a quick reboot before they started entertaining for the summer season,” the designer recalls. “Luckily, because I’d worked with [them] on their Hingham home, I knew their aesthetic, which helped with the very abbreviated timeline.”

The couple requested a laid-back look with a beachy color palette, and Bergin stepped things up a notch by incorporating playful, surprising details (think: a sailboat-shaped kite above the dining table). “I really love doing things that are somewhat unexpected: layering small-scale patterns or adding interesting fixtures you wouldn’t otherwise think of,” she says.

Ahead, Bergin dishes on her approach to design.

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The dining room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

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The dining room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Describe your design style in three words.
Playful, unexpected, and customized.

Where do you find your design inspiration?
Oh my gosh, everywhere. I always have my phone on me, so I can take pictures of anything, and I’m constantly taking notes. [I find inspiration] wherever you don’t even expect it—someone’s front door or a piece of art. A lot of times I use [clients’] art as a starting point for their homes. In this case I didn’t do that because they were starting from scratch. [Most] people, if they’re moving to a new house, bring something with them and it’s usually art: That’s what people collect, and it’s not something they’re going to get rid of. A lot of my inspiration also comes from travel and from Instagram.

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The kitchen. Photo by Michael J. Lee

Name your top three favorite places to shop.
I love to shop on 1stdibs, Etsy, and—for any client—at the Connecticut Antiques Center. You can get stuff from the 1800s. They have art deco, they have ‘70s glam. It’s always fun to go there when you’re [beginning] a project to find not only inspiration, but also maybe even a starting piece. All of [the pieces] tell a really good story and they’re all one-of-a-kind. I always aim for that. In this house, we needed stuff that was ready to ship out next-day, so a lot of it was retail purchases. I won’t normally do that for clients.

What was your favorite room to work on in this project?
I think the sunroom. It kind of epitomizes the goal of the house, which was just to make it open, bright, clean, and airy. I think it really shows that overall look.

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The entryway. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

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The sunroom. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

What was one challenge you faced?
The timeline! There were a couple of sleepless nights. If you come to me and you’re like, “We need an overall house design,” it takes at least six months. So we couldn’t do any custom furniture. Where it got tricky was the custom tile [because we had to get] the installers over there and scheduled one after another. I had to beg for favors. On top of it, I was newly pregnant and had really bad morning sickness, so that was definitely a struggle. But it all worked out.

What’s the best piece of design advice you’ve ever received?
Buy what you love. Just keep collecting the things you love and the purging things you don’t. Then, in the end, you’re looking around at everything in your space, and each piece has a story.

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The master bedroom. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

helen bergin

The master bedroom. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

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The guest bedroom. / Photo by Michael J. Lee