Cape Cod Decorating Ideas For The Dining Room

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The Cape Cod style developed in New England, with the feel of coastal waters, foggy mornings, seagulls and lighthouses. First designed in colonial times to provide protection from extreme New England winters, the Cape Cod home traditionally had chimneys in each room, faced south for maximum sunlight, and blocked out winter storms with shuttered windows.

Still characterized by an exterior with a steep, pitched roof, large central chimney and little ornamentation, the traditional Cape Cod home has a brightly colored front door with windows on either side, wooden shutters painted to match the front door and unpainted shingles weathered to gray.

The simple, relaxed Cape Cod style has been very popular in the eastern United States, and especially New England for centuries, but has caught on over time across the rest of the country, and especially in other coastal communities.

Cape Cod Decorating Colors 

Set the stage for your Cape Cod dining room with walls painted in cheerful, bright colors like ocean blue, sunset red or yellowy beige. To keep the bright colors from becoming overwhelming, the style calls for white trim on doors, cabinet fronts, baseboards, and windowsills. You can go even more authentic with white wainscoting and white crown molding.

  • If bright walls don't suit your style, you can still stay on the Cape with pastel versions of blue, yellow or red. Stick with the white trim, however, which is an important component of the style.
  • Hardwood floors are customary for this decorating theme. Soften the look in your dining room with a bright rug to complement the walls. Cheerful and unfussy rug patterns will tie in nicely with your seaside look.
  • Cover your windows with simple curtains with small floral designs, stripes, or nautical elements. Sheer curtains will work well if privacy is not an issue, or back up the curtains with a roll-up shade.
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Cape Cod Decorating Furniture Styles

Give your dining room Cape Cod style with wooden furniture that is simple in design. Casual and unfussy is the look you are aiming for, with a big table perfect for sharing home cooked meals, and comfortable chairs for sitting and talking.

  • White painted wood looks especially authentic, and complements the bright colors nicely. White wicker is also a great choice, and gives your home a more casual, cottage feel.
  • For a more rugged look straight from the Cape, cedar or teak furniture can be left unfinished, and has a sturdy, slatted design that brings the feel of the beach inside.
  • Don't feel you have to have matching dining room chairs; the shabby chic look of mismatched but compatible chairs is very at home in a Cape Cod dining room. Just paint the chairs white, and they will be perfect.
  • Chair cushions in bright colors, or with nautical themes such as anchors, lighthouses or seashells are a natural for a beach theme like Cape Cod, and make your wooden chairs more comfortable.
  • A hutch or china cabinet with simple lines and glass doors is perfect for holding your dishes and glassware. Look for white, or paint an old hutch to give it a shabby, distressed look.
  • Set a Cape Cod table with dishware that has seashell or nautical designs. Solid colors or white dishes are best complemented with brightly colored table runners, place mats and napkins to add cheer to your table.
  • Light your dining room with a glass and metal chandelier. Designs that look like ship's lanterns, or that have electric candles are just right for adding that nautical touch to your room.

Cape Cod Accessories

Continue the beach and ocean theme with your accessories and collectibles. Anything that makes you feel like you spent the day at the beach will be at home in your Cape Cod dining room.

  • Pictures and artwork featuring the ocean, boats, seagulls, or lighthouses are perfect for your walls.
  • Seashell covered picture frames, vases, or lamps have a beach house, retro flair that is fun and perfectly suited for your room.
  • A floor-stand spyglass or binoculars near a window will make you feel like you could look out to sea, even if you are miles from the ocean.
  • Nautical items such as compasses, sextants, ship's lanterns, life preservers or portholes make an interesting collection for display in a cabinet or mounted on the wall.
  • A whimsical collection of ceramic or glass lobsters, crabs, fish or ocean birds are a wonderful addition to your hutch or dining room cabinets.
  • Wind a string of lighted lobsters, lighthouses or other ocean themed lights around your curtain rods for a festive look at night.

Your Cape Cod home should be casual in feel, with a welcoming, summer vacation style that makes visitors want to slow down and stay awhile. The dining room is the natural choice for lingering, and with your cheerful, comfortable and interesting decor, guests will always be glad for an invitation to dinner at your place.

For more Cape Cod design ideas, see:

Last Updated: April 3, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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