Cape Cod style homes have among the most distinct exteriors of any type of design, ranking right up there with gingerbread Victorian houses. But unlike Victorian homes, Cape Cod style cottages aren’t iconic because they’re highly decorative. Quite the opposite – they’re so recognizable for their stark simplicity. Cape Cod homes were built to withstand the harsh weather conditions of the eastern seaboard, and their design reflects that: with steeply gabled roofs, shingle or clapboard exteriors, and lots and lots of storm shutters. The storm shutters in particular have become iconic not only of the exterior design of Cape Cod cottages, but also of the interior design, most notably in the form of shuttered bathroom vanities.
Originally, window shutters were used for purely practical purposes. The coastal homes and lighthouses of Cape Cod were both susceptible to cold ocean winds and harsh winter storms with little protection from the sea. In colonial times, simple window shutters kept the worst of the cold waiting outside. But with better insulation, sturdier windows, and central heating, these iconic storm shutters have become more decorative than functional, and in some revival homes don’t actually function at all.
But storm shutters have surprisingly thrived inside the home. Because they’re so representative of Cape Cod design as a whole, incorporating faux shutters into furniture is a simple and popular way to add a distinct Cape Cod vibe to a space. These shuttered bathroom vanities, for example, elegantly echo the exterior of the home by mimicking one of the most important architectural elements.Though the shutters obviously aren’t functional, they help trigger the mind’s association with the style, giving even a simple or sparely decorated bathroom a great seaside cottage feel.
These shutters often replace the cabinet doors of a bathroom vanity so they open up exactly the way you’d pull open a traditional pair of shutters. But in addition to mimicking the look of the exterior of the home, these vanities also offer one distinct advantage over more traditional options like a pedestal sink or wall mounted sink: they have quite a bit of hidden storage. Though the cabinets on shuttered bathroom vanities are usually only half sized, and sometimes with an open-air base, the closeable cabinet offers private storage where more traditional options offer little, if any.
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You see, Cape Cod bathrooms are almost always on the small side, which means there isn’t a whole lot of room for additional storage. And while pedestal sinks are a very traditional (and nicely compact) choice, they never have room for more than maybe a toothbrush holder and a bar of soap. Relying on open shelves – or, worse, trying to put more stuff on a pedestal sink than it can really hold – is a great way to make your space look cluttered, a big no-no in simple, spare Cape Cod bathroom design.
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The overwhelming majority of these shuttered bathroom vanities are white, and that’s 100% because we’ve come to associate white with a simple, clean cottage style. White makes a small bathroom seem larger and tight spaces with small windows seem brighter. The finishes can be bright true-white, off white, or even done with a weathered finish for a more aged, antique style, depending on your personal taste. As a bonus, white shuttered bathroom vanities are also the easiest to match with wood bathroom floors – another important feature of traditional Cape Cod home design.
For a very traditional, colonial style Cape Cod bathroom, though, opt instead for a naturally weathered, slightly grayed vanity instead. When Cape Cod homes were first built in the 17th century, they were made entirely of local materials, notably unfinished cedar shingles. These woods would have been left to gray naturally, giving the homes a more rustic appearance than the typical red-white-and-blue we associate with the style today. Shuttered vanities made of grayed wood are a perfect way to get this slightly more historical look, and make for a nice twist on the conventional white vanity.
What do you think of this traditional seaside style? Do you like the look of white shuttered bathroom vanities, or do you prefer a wood finish? Let me know in the comments!
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