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14 Cape Cod Interior Design Ideas (With Pictures)

Wicker Furniture_Pixel Shot_Shutterstock

The United States is one of the youngest countries out there, but we certainly do have our own touch on everything, including, of course, design and architecture. For example, Cape Cod is an iconic, truly American style. It originated in the UK and was brought to New England in the 17th century. In the States, it rapidly grew momentum, spreading across the nation.

Simple, minimalistic, yet with lots of heart—that’s what this style is all about. And it is, indeed, a dominant theme in US homes. So, today, we want to introduce you to the best Cape Cod interior design ideas. If you’re a bit bored by maximalist, industrial, and high-tech designs and are looking for something a bit cozier and uplifting, you’ll find plenty of that here!

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The Top 14 Cape Cod Interior Design Ideas for Your Home

1. Wicker Furniture

Let’s start the list with one of the most prominent yet simple (and cheap) elements that you can implement into your design: wicker furniture. Mainly, we’re talking about wicker chairs, of course. Even if you put them in a room with lots of gadgets, trendy wallpaper, and a layout that doesn’t necessarily fit the Cape Cod standards, they’ll still add a lovely touch.

Is this your first time trying to embrace Cape Cod? Then adding wicker furniture (like chairs and a couch) will be a great way to start. It’s safe to say that anything made from a woven material/fabric (like a table, chest, or basket) will instantly generate New England vibes.

2. Mixing Retro with Modern

This is a universal approach that works with many different styles. A contrast between vintage and retro elements always creates a beautiful atmosphere in a bedroom, living room, or even the kitchen. Again, it’s all about introducing the right accents. For example, you can install a 4K TV and brand-new furniture and cover the floor with laminate.

As for the retro part, some framed photographs, vintage accessories, and, let’s say, old-school chairs should do the trick. There’s a lot of room for experimentation here. Don’t be afraid to combine things that normally shouldn’t go well together. It might just work!

3. Rustic, Handmade Touches

What lies at the heart of a rustic design? The answer is natural, aged elements like rough, unfinished timber, simplistic furniture, and a minimalistic approach. That’s a huge part of Cape Cod as well. And you don’t have to turn the entire house into a rural building. An exposed roof with a single handmade table might be enough to create the perfect atmosphere.

A nightstand or a bookshelf crafted from wood could also be a great fit. Pushing this idea too far will probably result in the room looking more rustic than you necessarily want. Please keep this in mind and don’t do any dramatic changes to the roof or the walls unless you’re 100% sure that’s what you want.

4. Plenty of Seating

Cape Cod is all about getting the whole family together to have a nice meal or just chat and catch up on things. You could say that this is a core element here. So, do your best to have as many chairs and couches in the living room as possible. The arrangement also plays a key role in Cape Cod: try to achieve harmony and a “homey” vibe with the seating.

In this case, the material and the style don’t matter that much. True, wicker chairs and retro couches will be just right for Cape Cod, but that’s just a suggestion, not a necessity.

5. It’s All About the Fireplace

When the settlers from Great Britain arrived in New England, a fireplace was the only way they could keep the Cape Cod houses warm. That’s why they’re a hallmark of this design style. The good news is—you don’t have to install a gigantic hearth with a chimney to make this work. Even a relatively small, modernized fireplace will suffice. But what about the material, though?

Should it be made of stone, bricks, concrete, or something else? Ideally, you should go with cast iron, as that’s what the Cape Cod pioneers used. But, if you already have a fireplace installed in the living room, just stick with it. Cast iron is quite expensive and time-consuming.

6. Go with Neutral Colors

When talking about “neutral”, the primary color for that is white. More specifically, different variations of it: creamy white, ivory, vanilla, snow-white, and others. The goal is to take the focus off from the walls, the floor, and the ceiling and accentuate the furniture, art on the walls, or, let’s say, the lanterns. White is a universal color that goes with a wide range of styles.

And you can combine it with light brown (for the floor) and “generic” wallpaper. As long as the color isn’t instantly grabbing the attention, it can be called neutral.

7. What About Coastal-Style Colors?

Just like a fireplace, nautical colors are a hallmark of Cape Cod. Beige, green, and blue are the way to go here. The colors should have “oceanic vibes” and, again, be more neutral than aggressive or bold. But you can put emphasis on a coastal-style color if it’s just one element of the room. For example, only paint one of the walls blue, or even a part of it.

Alternatively, pick cushions, pillows, and a carpet that fit the whole nautical scheme.

8. Ample Natural Light

Most interior design styles rely heavily on natural light. The list includes industrial, maximalist, and, of course, Cape Cod. And the easiest way to achieve that is to install large windows. However, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend wall-tall windows with little to no frames, as they will somewhat ruin the 17th-century vibes.

Instead, follow the rule “the more windows, the better”. Put a couch right next to the windows, place a couple of wicker chairs right next to it, and there you have it: a perfect Cape Cod arrangement!

9. Lantern-Style Lighting

Hailing from the late 1600s, Cape Cod implements many features from that time, including old-school lanterns. Therefore, if you want to recreate that, consider investing in similar lighting fixtures. No, you won’t have to buy vintage chandeliers and hang them from the ceiling. The most important thing here is the design. There are lots of lamps out there that look retro but are, in fact, modern.

For example, why not try to spice things up with pendant lights? You’ll probably have to do some “digging” before you find a set that fits your room best, but it won’t cost you much.

10. Finding Beauty in Symmetry

This might not be an obvious feature, but symmetry is one of the key components of a Cape Cod design. We’re not talking about perfect symmetry here. If you’ve got a pair of chairs, have them face each other. The same is true for lamps, nightstands, cupboards, and other elements of décor. The couch should sit right in the middle (as opposed to putting it in the left or right corner).

The more symmetry you achieve with the arrangement, the more the room will look like it’s organized in a Cape Cod style.

11. Putting the Focus on the Ceiling

When the English pioneers made it to Massachusetts and built their homes to withstand the cold, they chose to make the ceilings as low as possible. The reason: it’s much easier to keep a house/room warm when it’s only 1.5–1.7-meters tall. However, over the years, Cape Cod has changed a lot. Today, it’s actually more associated with tall ceilings.

They also give the setup a rustic, rural appeal, especially if you hang lanterns from the ceiling like we just discussed.

12. The Power of Wall Art

Yes, photographs and pictures are also a part of the Cape Cod interior design. Now, in contrast to the maximalist and luxury styles, you don’t have to invest in any expensive art pieces. Instead, go with something simpler. Family photos, beautiful landscapes, and hand-drawn pictures will be perfect for this. Where do you hang these photos and pictures? Wherever you want!

That’s right; there are no strict rules. A piece of wall art in the living room, bedroom, and even the basement won’t cost a fortune but will, most definitely, look and feel Cape Cod. If you’re an artist yourself, don’t hesitate to hang some of your work on the walls!

13. Making Small Spaces Work

What if you don’t have a large living room in the house? Does that mean Cape Cod is not an option? On the contrary! In many ways, this style is about making something out of nothing, so if you have a small room (even an attic), it will be a perfect “testing ground” for it. As long as there’s enough space to hang a lamp, install a desktop, and at least one chair, Cape Cod is very much possible.

Don’t add any fancy elements to compensate for the lack of room. On the contrary: use simplicity to your advantage.

14. An Old-School Staircase

Cape Cod has always been a 2-story house. And to get to the second floor, you had to build a staircase. But what about the design, you might ask? To play it safe, build a classic straight staircase (unless you already have one). L-shaped and U-shaped types will also fit this style. However, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend spiral or curved stairs.

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What are the Key Elements of Cape Cod?

It’s easy to mistake Cape Cod with rustic and rural designs, as they do have a lot in common and are often mixed. However, CC has its unique features. Clean-lined, straightforward, and without a single luxurious feature—that’s the best way to describe it. You won’t see exposed pipes, raw elements, or any crazy color or texture combinations. A Cape Cod house aims at being efficient, not fancy.

That’s why the ceilings tend to be low while the rooms have a square shape. However, these days, Cape Cod is also associated with tall ceilings. Speaking of core elements, if you have a fireplace, it will instantly create just the right “homey” vibe. And with vintage, wicker couches and chairs, ample seating, and a staircase, you’ll “nail it” with this interior design style.

Less is More? Learning Our Way Around Cape Cod

Simplicity is at the very heart of Cape Cod—it’s the hallmark of this style. You won’t need to invest in any expensive accessories, pricey wall prints, or anything like that. And it doesn’t take much to embrace CC and turn a modern-day room into an abode from the 1700s. As long as it’s cozy, makes you feel at home, and follows minimalism in colors, furniture, and the overall design, then it’s safe to say that it’s Cape Cod!

When Did This Interior Design Style Emerge?

woods near chimney
Image Credit: Piqsels

Cape Cod dates back to the 17th century (1690–1850) and is named after a hook-like peninsula, a geographic cape located in Massachusetts. First, it was introduced to New England (six US states located in the Northern parts of the country). The biggest “selling points” of this new design was usability and affordability. Cape Cod houses were built using cheap materials, which allowed settlers from the UK to weather the storm.

Initially, this style was all about the exterior. We’re talking about single- or double-story frame buildings with almost no ornaments, multi-paned windows, a big chimney sitting in the middle, and a steep roof. Three centuries later (in the 1930s–1950s), Cape Cod was reintroduced to the public through the Colonial Revival style as an economical and practical home. Around that same time, Cape Cod elements made their way into the interior.

Can I Implement Cape Cod Elements in a Modern-Day House?

The answer is yes, you most certainly can. But what if the apartment/house is built from bricks and doesn’t have a chimney or any other elements of the traditional cottage-style English houses? Well, that shouldn’t stop you from going with Cape Cod in the interior! True, it will look more authentic if you use CC in a low-ceiling, square-shaped house built from oak, pine, and cedar.

However, that’s not a strict requirement. Just like maximalist, industrial, rustic, chic, coastal, and all the other design styles, the interior doesn’t have to match the exterior. After all, there are lots of “canonical” Cape Cod houses in the US with interior décor that doesn’t match it in any way.

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Cape Cod isn’t fancy, bold, or chaotic. It’s all about comfort, modesty, elegance, and a “feel good” atmosphere that most of us are looking for. At the same time, it’s quite diverse and intricate, and there’s plenty of room for maneuvers. And with the help of our top picks, you’ll definitely be able to find that one and only Cape Cod design that fits your vibe.

Even if you’re on a limited budget and want to give your house an overhaul, that can be very well done with Cape Cod. It is more about experimenting and bringing creative ideas to life than anything else. A little bit of vintage design, cozy furniture, matching colors, and large windows is all it will take to master this style!

Featured Image Credit: Pixel Shot, Shutterstock

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