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Design Ideas
Christmas in a Charming Cape Cod
This do-it-yourself family worked their magic wooing a Charming Cape Cod fixer-upper
Ethel is 78 years old and lives in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. She’s charming, timeless, welcoming—and Ethel is a house. When Londen Huffman and her family bought a 1,200-square-foot charming Cape Cod home in 2014 and immediately started renovations, the house didn’t seem willing. Things weren’t going the way Londen planned,... Keep Scrolling
Written by Rebekah Wahlberg
Photography by Chris Bradley
Styling by Londen Huffman

Ethel is 78 years old and lives in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. She’s charming, timeless, welcoming—and Ethel is a house. When Londen Huffman and her family bought a 1,200-square-foot charming Cape Cod home in 2014 and immediately started renovations, the house didn’t seem willing. Things weren’t going the way Londen planned, until a friend gave her some unconventional advice.

Charming cape cod styled home with a dormers and Christmas wreaths hanging on the front door and in front of each window.
Wreaths add Christmas cheer to Ethel and brighten up each window and dormer.

“My friend said, ‘You really need to name the house. Tell her about your family,’” Londen says. “So we named her, told her we wanted to make her pretty, and things started working after that.”

Since then, it’s been a labor of love for Londen to bring Ethel to life and make a home for her family: husband Mark, their 12-year-old daughter and a cat.

Charming Cape Cod Renovation

Londen chronicled some of the renovation progress on her blog, Sixty-Fifth Avenue. As with all good construction, they started with the base by uncovering and restoring the hardwood floor—and, in the case of the kitchen and living room, by laying new oak hardwood floor and sanding and staining throughout to match.

Farmhouse styled hallway looking down at the Christmas tree passed the front door.
AU NATUREL. Londen says she prefers a palette of natural, earthy tones: creams, browns and grays. Seasonal plants—pine trees, for instance, during winter—add color, liveliness and comfort.

The first room to get a makeover was the kitchen. White, Shaker-style cabinetry, wood countertops and a farm sink replaced bland, outdated hardware, and they installed a dishwasher for the first time in the almost 80 years since Ethel’s construction. Subway tile from the countertops to the ceiling polished off the look. In all, from start to finish, the Huffmans spent two years renovating the kitchen, from the early steps of replacing the floor and new drywall ceiling, to the finishing touches of crown molding and subway tile.

Modern farmhouse styled kitchen in white with bamboo window coverings and Christmas greenery over the window with poinsettia accents.
Swags frame the kitchen window with gorgeous poinsettia accents placed underneath.

Another bit of makeover magic was the dining room. When the Huffmans moved in, the room’s busy, red, floral wallpaper was a major eyesore. “I really couldn’t handle being in this room for very long,” Londen recalls on her blog. So about six months in, once some larger projects were handled, they tackled the dining room.

Wicker chairs in gray surround the dining table while a black and crystal chandelier centered above it. Real greenery in the form of a garland and a Christmas tree add color to the room.
Wicker chairs make the dining room playful, while a black and crystal chandelier brings an elegant balance. Real greenery in the form of a garland and a second Christmas tree provide freshness throughout the season.

They painted the room a soothing oatmeal color, and Londen couldn’t resist adding a section of chalkboard paint above their buffet. The Huffmans had chalkboard paint walls in their old house, and Londen writes that she knew she’d miss it, so it was a must in the dining room.

Light blue-gray buffet with a framed window mirror sitting upon it with lit tapered candles and greenery draped around the window.
MAKE IT NEW. The shabby-chic buffet in the dining room is an antique piece that has seen some sprucing up with gray paint and new brass hardware. It anchors a section of chalkboard paint, for when the temptation to draw on the walls strikes.

Once the paint was taken care of, the rest of the dining renovation was relatively simple—just a matter of choosing the right chairs. After some experimentation, Londen went with a set of four large, comfortable wicker chairs.

In Tune with Nature

For her, plants certainly don’t just belong outdoors. They’re a major element in making this charming cape cod feel like a home. “Always have plants,” Londen says. “I really think that makes the space feel cozy and brings it to life.”

Two large windows let in bright light to this cozy living room with dark walls and light furniture and a bright green fiddle leaf fig tree in the corner.
COZY UP. The living room is cozy and welcoming and warm wood and bamboo accents complete the room.

In a home with a neutral palette, like Londen’s, the greenery of plants and their brightly colored flowers shine all the more. There’s no shortage of choice either; house plants come in all shapes and sizes, from fiddle leaf figs that can grow taller than the windows, to hanging ferns that spill over pots to drape down from the ceiling, to tiny succulents that grace side tables.

Light and bright bedroom with a mini Christmas tree in the corner and a wreath placed above the bed.
HELPING HANDS. The headboard is a handmade DIY piece Londen and her husband, Mark, worked on together. She created the design and shopped for the fabric, and he did the work to put it together. Londen says many of their projects go that way—she’ll have an idea, and he’ll bring it to life.

“I always bring in different things from the seasons,” Londen says. During spring, for example, she’ll decorate with tulips. And during the holidays, greenery fills the home with color and freshness.

An entryway with a small grey bench next to green Hunter boot and fresh greenery with knitted cream colored stockings hanging overhead.
With no formal mudroom or foyer, Londen says she had to carve out a functional space to welcome guests into the home. A small bench and coat hooks create the perfect space for folks to land and take their shoes off before coming in.

They have two Christmas trees this year, one in the dining room and one in the living room, and go with fresh, real trees every year. It’s a family tradition to go out the day after Thanksgiving to pick out a tree, cut it down and bring it home to decorate. “It makes the house smell so good,” Londen says.

Wide shot into a simply lovely family room with light gray couch placed across from a candle-filled fireplace with a lighted Tree in the background and white stockings hung by the front door.
ROYAL BEAUTY BRIGHT. Londen’s tip to make a Christmas tree feel fuller and brighter is to clump clear glass balls on the inner branches. The ornaments catch the light from every angle and make the tree irresistibly sparkly.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Homemaking is a team effort in the Huffman household. Londen, the designer, says she comes up with the ideas, and Mark does the heavy lifting. “He’s the one who makes all my ideas come to life,” she says.

Small improvements that give the home character are everywhere; in particular, the kitchen banquette. Mark cut a hole in the door leading to the basement for the cat, since that’s where the litter box is. The banquette itself was one of their larger projects. Mark constructed the built-in bench himself, using plywood from Home Depot to create a shiplap look. The bench includes some much-needed storage space, and the seat has a generous lip to create room for feet, so sitting feels more natural than just perching on a flat bench.

A white kitchen banquette with a wooden dining table and handmade paper snowflakes hanging on the wall.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. The kitchen banquette is another of those hangout spots for Londen’s family. They eat meals here and her daughter often posts up on the bench to do homework or read.

Outside of the family room, Londen says the kitchen banquette is one of their favorite spots in the house. “We do spend a lot of time there,” she says. “We play a lot of games on that table, and my daughter does her homework there.”

An antique and ornate wooden dresser with a mirror and a fox lamp on top accented with fresh greenery.
Some of Londen’s favorite finds have been treasures from her travels, like this Parisian mirror stationed above an antique dresser. A fox lamp from Target looks right at home with the vintage pieces.

While Ethel may have been hesitant at first, the love and devotion the Huffman family has poured into this charming cape cod has paid off over the years.

Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on A Christmasy Bungalow.

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