While Gloucester as a destination is all about maritime tradition and Colonial history, the condo chosen by Karin Howe’s client for her weekend retreat is decidedly new. Part of a complex by Giacalone Contracting Corp., sited across the street from Good Harbor Beach, the 2,500-square-foot, multilevel residence was still under construction when she purchased it in 2021.
Although the contemporary unit presented with a variety of luxury touches—tall ceilings, high-end finishes, gourmet kitchen, private balconies, and a roof deck—the new owner wanted to place her own stamp on it. She had already worked with Howe, principal of the full-service interior design firm Karin Howe Design, on her Boston condo, and turned to the expert once again to optimize the potential of her blank canvas.
“Since the condo is so close to the ocean, with water views from the main living areas and primary suite, we wanted to give it a summery, coastal feel,” says Howe of their approach. “We chose fresh, fun colors while keeping the overall feeling bright, white, and clean.”
Attaching to the project during construction allowed the designer to tweak the builder’s package selections to better suit her client’s needs, giving the condo a more custom feel.
“The kitchen, living room, and dining area are all part of one big open space,” notes Howe. “Initially, the kitchen was to have an L shape, with a peninsula bordering the living room. This would have foreshortened the living room and made furniture placement tricky. We were able to change this to a central island, allowing for better circulation and flow between the spaces,” says the 20-year design veteran, who brings to each project a creative eye as well as big-picture problem-solving strategies.
With the condo perfectly positioned to act as a home base for the owner to gather with friends after a day at the beach or an evening in town, Howe knew that cooking elaborate meals wasn’t a top priority. In response, she kept the kitchen’s cabinetry allotment on the leaner side: “She didn’t need a lot of storage so we nixed some of the upper cabinets, which would have felt heavy and unnecessary,” she explains.
This decision left room for a statement mosaic backsplash by Glazzio. “Its blues, grays, greens, and whites suggest the movement of water,” says Howe. “The tiles bring color and texture into the space and give off an aura of freshness.” Counter stools from Restoration Hardware, with sailcloth backs, and metal pendants by Regina Andrew add to the fresh coastal vibe.
Howe outfitted the dining area with an oval table, custom built by Atlanta-based furniture maker Tritter Feefer to her specifications. Dining chairs from Ballard Designs, with seat cushions upholstered in a performance fabric, are capable of withstanding sand, water, and sunblock from a day at the beach or an afternoon spent lounging on the roof deck.
Anchoring this dining set is an eye-catching triptych by LA fine art photographer Gray Malin. The subject matter is Oia, a historic village on the Greek Aegean island of Santorini, famous for its whitewashed buildings dripping down rugged terrain. “She has an affinity for travel, and the Aegeans are a favorite destination,” says Howe, who repurposed the region’s iconic bright blues and earthy pinks throughout the interior, particularly in the bedrooms.
An indoor/outdoor rug by Annie Selke anchors the living room, oriented toward the balcony and views beyond. Performance fabric on the upholstered furniture by Williams Sonoma withstands the strong sun. The coffee table by Oly Studio is “sculptural, with a chunky coral feel and great texture,” says Howe. A kitty-corner gas fireplace lends extra coziness in the shoulder seasons.
White dominates as a neutral in the main living areas; however, with her client’s blessing, Howe increased the prevalence of color and pattern in the condo’s more private spaces. “As you can see, she is not afraid of color—she really enjoys it,” observes the designer.
Purple makes its debut in the third-floor primary bedroom suite. “This room was essentially a white box, so we gave it some personality but still kept it soothing,” says Howe, who sourced both the patterned wallcovering and floral accent pillow fabric from Quadrille, known for its whimsical, hand screen-printed motifs. Meanwhile, the canopy bed from Restoration Hardware matches the cathedral ceiling’s dramatic scale.
In the primary bathroom, a vinyl grass cloth wallcovering by Philip Jeffries echoes the bedroom’s purple theme but in a softer lilac. Here, framed pop art collages by Stephen Wilson draw the eye above the mirrored makeup vanity from Made Goods.
Aegean-inspired blues, pinks, and tangerine enliven the lower-level guest bedrooms. Each has a distinct personality anchored by an accent wall: coral wallpaper by Lee Jofa in one and a soft-blue patterned wallpaper by Quadrille in the other. Although they are equal in size, roughly 12 by 12 feet, the former bedroom is furnished with a queen bed and the latter with twins for versatility when friends stay over.
“Ultimately, we wanted a coastal feel without too much coastal, a beachy feel without too much beach, and touches of the Greek Islands without overdosing,” says Howe of the balance achieved between vibrancy and restraint. “This client has North Shore roots, and it’s fitting that she finally found her happy place on the Gloucester coast.”