SONG OF SCANDINAVIA
A historic cottage in the Hamptons is decorated with Nordic charm.
Discover the keys to decorating your cottage with the simple beauty of northern Europe.
PASSPORT TO EUROPE. The tray table in the living room was fashioned from an old black tray on top of a suitcase stand. The candlestick holder is from France, the footstool is from Sweden and the clay pot is from Norway. Bernt and William designed the chairs and had them upholstered in a cream-colored fabric for a
soft look that blends with the walls and draperies.
|ABOVE| SCENIC SEATING. This terrace above the dining room features a garden view with comfortable seating. The furniture was constructed to be
used year round. “It dries in seconds, and there’s no hassle of taking it in and out,” Bernt says. The upholstery is made with durable Sunbrella fabric,
which affords comfortable, all-weather seating. |BELOW| Cast-iron framing around the doors and windows complements the original red-brick patio. The antique table with plants and pottery is used as a breakfast area. Wicker chairs withstand the weather.
Avast ocean and nearly 4,000 miles separate Sag Harbor from Scandinavia, but one cottage brings the simple beauty of the Northern Europe region to the Long Island, New York, coastal village. If your dream cottage is a soulful harmony of furniture with clean lines, subtle color schemes and curated art and antiques, then you would feel right at home here, no matter where you live. Bernt Heiberg and William Cummings, of Heiberg Cummings Design based in New York and Oslo, Norway, were the interior designers and owners of this simplified Victorian cottage. Upon first inspecting it, Bernt instantly knew he had found his dream cottage.
“It was built around the turn of the century and was likely a ship owner or captain’s house in this old whaling town,” Bernt says. “Our primary home is in Manhattan, and we knew this cottage would be the perfect location for our secondary ‘country’ home.” Bernt and William were fortunate in that the cottage had not been given an inappropriate midcentury-style remodel as many other period homes they toured had undergone.
“We didn’t use too
many patterns. We like to let the furniture and art
speak for themselves.”
A RESPECTFUL RENOVATION
“We wanted to give the house a respectful renovation to bring it up to code with upscale facilities and a neoclassical Scandinavian décor,” Bernt says. “It had good bones and personality but lacked its original grandeur. We wanted it to have some formality, like a townhouse.”
Sag Harbor is in the Hamptons, and the upscale village is very authentic, so Bernt and William wanted the interior to maintain the look of a historical home, which informed their choices of paint, furniture, fabrics, lighting, art and accessories. They installed bathrooms with heated floors, air conditioning and other modern conveniences, but kept the charm of the cottage intact.
COZY CHARM. This view of the living room facing the dining room features dark floors connecting both rooms. Another attractive feature is that the fireplace can be viewed from both rooms. “We discussed dividing the main formal living room into two rooms but decided against it because the openness was perfect for the house,” Bernt says. The designers painted the walls gray in the dining room and white in the living room for an interesting dimensional look. In the living room, the windows were at different heights, but they kept the drapery rods at the same levels to trick the eye so you can’t tell the difference. The farm table is American vintage, and the chair is Swedish as is the small tray table with carafes.
Use antique frames—even on modern art—for a cohesive look in a
historic home. FOCUS ON FAMILY. This area of the guestroom displays personal mementos. A small French oak table features family photographs. Above the table is a collection of old and vintage photographs showing Bernt and William’s families, including a framed illustration of Bernt’s family tree from Norway.
HISTORIC EYE, CAREFUL EDITING
Bernt had lived in Europe for many years and brought his antiques—along with his Gustavian/Nordic aesthetic—from Scandinavia to the States. “We collect antiques and aged things. Every item has a soul,” he says. “I feel like an artist working on his canvas when I mix antiques with newer items and surprising objects.” He reframed most of the art with antique frames, even the modern art, to give them a cohesive look for the time period.
High-gloss paint was used throughout the cottage. “In the old days they used high-gloss paint in homes, so we painted the ceilings and kitchen cabinets in high-gloss because it gives the appearance of a clean, older home,” Bernt explains. “We set the table with cream or white china.” He calls the look country minimalism. “We didn’t use too many patterns. We like to let the furniture and art speak for themselves.”
The home’s lighting was also carefully considered. “The source of lighting is so important. It can even change the look of textures,” Bernt says. “When we do renovations, we love using light that belonged to that time period, so we avoid using too many halogens. Natural light and candles are best for lighting a historic home. They give you a connection to the past and an appreciation for it. We use a lot of candles in Norway. We did not use any blue halogens in this house; instead, we lit the candles and the fireplace. We like to use Edison bulbs because they make everything glow at night.”
Color played a major role in defining the spaces. “We wanted a contrast between light and dark for the color palette, so in the dining room we selected white and charcoal gray, which we repeated throughout the home. The dining-room floor was a honeymustard color, which we knew needed to be dark for contrast.”
COUNTRY-COTTAGE KITCHEN. The designers opened up the kitchen to the courtyard with black-trimmed French doors. They added lots of open shelves for a country-cottage look. “It was too restrictive to have cabinets all the way around,” Bernt says. The ceiling was painted with high-gloss paint. Classic subway tiles adorn the walls, and a heated floor was added for comfort. The cast-iron butcher-block in the foreground is part of a railing that leads downstairs. A large farm sink is the perfect fit for the country-cottage look.
Bernt is partial to the dining room for several reasons, including its location. “The dining room is my favorite room in the cottage because it’s the closest to the fireplace. The darkness of the floor against the white linen draperies is very beautiful, and the location is wonderful,” he says. “It is connected to the courtyard and close to the kitchen. We didn’t use the living room as much as the dining room.”
The exterior was inspired by another European region. “We created a courtyard in the garden that looks like it’s in the Mediterranean,” Bernt says. “We used gravel on the ground instead of grass, and kept the old brick and stone patios, which gave the gardens an Italian feel.”
Bernt and William’s coastal cottage fulfilled their dream of having a place to unwind and refresh from their week in the concrete jungle. “In Scandinavia, we always have cottages in the mountains and by the ocean, so cottages mean comfort to me,” Bernt says. “The change of scenery from the city to country appeals to me. It adds something new and different to your lifestyle, and challenges how you live day to day.”
“We collect antiques and aged things.
Every item has a soul.”
FABULOUS FIREPLACE. The dining room, Bernt’s favorite area of the home, features an ornate marble fireplace as its focal point. The green tone of the walls is the only dark color in the house. The original honey-mustard color floor is now ebony-stained...