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A Shelter Island Weekend Retreat That's Relaxed by Design

Toss out any preconceived notions of what a comfortable, put-your-feet-on-the-couch home looks like. Disregard, too, any thoughts of what constitutes plush. Here’s how a family with three small children created a weekend escape on Shelter Island, New York, that’s as stylish as it is sensible.


By Catherine Hong


Mishaps occur in any home with young children. Furniture gets roughed up. Fixtures get clipped. “When you have kids, you have to expect that,” says Harriet Maxwell Macdonald. She and her husband, Andrew Corrie, have three: Ivo, 7, and twins Celia and Alie, 5. “We don’t keep anything too precious that we have to worry about. Anyway,” she says, “this is a beach house.”


Still, it’s hard to imagine one as simultaneously laid-back and chic as theirs. The trick? A calming design that invites lounging, hides clutter, and holds its own against spirited child’s play. “We wanted a house that felt unpretentious,” says Corrie, who founded Canvas Home, an artisanal home-goods business in New York City. “It’s a place where you arrive and breathe a sigh of relief.”


Built on Shelter Island, a stretch of wetlands in Long Island’s Peconic Bay, the retreat is three hours from Manhattan. Its natural surroundings dictated a muted palette and simple furnishings, says Macdonald, who founded and co-owns Ochre, a London-based home-furnishings line. “There’s so much going on out there,” she says, pointing to the swirling blue-greens of sky and sea through the glass doors. “You want to keep the inside subtle.” The décor is raw and earthy, dominated by shades of gray, with hints of blues and pinks. The illusion is of a room extending seamlessly onto the deck and indefinitely outdoors.


After buying the property, the couple started to rebuild what had originally been a 1970s-style ranch with architects, but then went on their own. “We had so many specific ideas,” says Corrie. “It was easier to design it ourselves.” Three years later, they got their wish list: A loftlike room for dining, lounging, and Legos. (“You keep an eye on everyone this way,” says Macdonald.) A walkin larder. Large windows with far-reaching views.


The couple, both from London, have few rules: no drawing on the walls and no shoes (usually). Most fixtures are resilient—e.g., a fabric-covered lampshade, which fell off one day when Ivo poked at it with a rake. (It was easily reattached.) “We believe sofas are for jumping on,” says Corrie. “And pianos are for bashing and exploring.”


Besides, they practically live outside in summer— swimming, gardening, entertaining, relaxing. A favorite spot is the teak chaise on the deck. “The kids and I cram in under a blanket while I read to them,” says Macdonald. “It’s heaven.”


Tour a Summer Home on Shelter Island That's Relaxed by Design