"Unpretentious." "Comfortable." That’s how admirers of Tom Scheerer—one of the most esteemed interior designers in America, whose latest book, More Decorating, is out this fall—often describe his work. For his own summer home on Swan’s Island in Maine, a place Scheerer fondly describes as “dead quiet,” the industry vet took adjectives like these to the extreme.
"It’s a hedge against our summer life in East Hampton, which is frenetic and hectic and expensive," Scheerer tells House Beautiful of the circa-1850 farmhouse, which he and his sister bought, then renovated and redecorated in a manner utterly unlike what you might expect from a high-end designer.
The furniture is mostly Ikea, unfussy antique, or hand-built, with art by houseguests adorning the walls. “We made an intentional decision to not make it feel too precious,” says Scheerer. Oh, and they furnished the home in just days.
It’s an apt backdrop for a place where days are spent "walking, dog-walking, collecting stones," Scheerer says. "And everyone usually finds some kind of art project."
These are punctuated, of course, by lobster dinners, and Scheerer’s famous lobster soup the next day (Scheerer is a chef with a designer's eye—he fondly notes the dish's lovely pink hue).
"Everyone is initially kind of shocked that there’s no Wi-Fi or television, but then they realize there are no planes flying overhead, there’s no traffic," he says of the remote getaway. "It’s a different kind of experience, a cooldown from life elsewhere. It’s really just about feeding yourself and getting to bed early."
So how did he do it? Read on for learnings from Scheerer's shockingly simple renovation.
Don't Overthink the Furniture
“It was done very easily, very cheaply. We didn’t take anything too seriously,” Scheerer says of the design. Aside from a custom table and pieces from storage, the furniture is store-bought. Ikea sofas and a Pottery Barn rug get an upgrade with colorful pillows.
Double Your Living Space
The ocean-facing porch was Scheerer’s first modification. When furnished like a living room, it becomes a go-to hangout for houseguests, extending the home’s usable footprint outdoors.
Build in a Bed Frame
Scheerer’s bedroom resulted from splitting one ocean-facing room into two. The designer has an ingeniously simple alternative to a bed frame: “It’s just a wall-to-wall shelf with a mattress on it,” he explains. Bonus: It leaves space for luggage underneath.
Roll out a New Floor
Checkerboard linoleum flooring is a durable surface that doesn’t look brand-new. “Before we settled on Swan’s Island, we’d rented another house in Maine that had this incredible red Formica kitchen,” designer Tom Scheerer says of his inspiration for the color palette.
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