An Artist's Beach Cottage
Published: 02/21/2010
photo by Robin Laws

A color palette filled with light; soft, inviting furniture and vintage pieces both decorative and functional are showcased in this perfect Cannon Beach cottage.

Attention to detail is the first thing a visitor notices at Leah Anderson and Steve Brown's Cannon Beach home. The stairs leading to the front door are round, not rectangular; the front door has a rounded arch and the architectural theme is repeated in the entry to the living room. Another repeated detail is molding found in the original cottage. Leah and Steve made a stencil of the pattern and recreated it in the new cottage above the windows. Nothing happens by accident in this distinctive, personal and absolutely beautiful home. The surroundings, color, furniture and feeling are all light-filled, airy and welcoming. Indeed, there is even a welcoming committee: George, a white standard poodle; Simon, a black toy poodle; and Marco, a pug; a trio of well-behaved, non-jumping, non-licking observers. The animal kingdom also includes two cats: Basil and Tiger. As with most cats, however, they keep to themselves, choosing not to mingle with the bipeds.

Leah and Steve and their 15-year-old son, Spencer, live in Lake Oswego most of the time, but visit the beach whenever possible. Leah has lived all over the world: British Guiana (now Guyana), Jamaica, Burma (now Myanmar) and finally, Canada. She and Steve still have a home and horse farm in Minneapolis, where Steve owns a plumbing and heating business. They started looking for a place on the west coast about eight years ago, exploring areas from San Diego to Vancouver, looking for the perfect getaway. Their search ended in Cannon Beach.

They found a small cottage, set back from the road, in the peaceful and quiet north end of town and decided that the lot was big enough to accommodate what they had envisioned. The property also had a one-room cabin closer to the front of the property which they put on a foundation and moved back, near to the cottage. Then, they built their new home in front of both. Now, the three pieces fit together as if they were planned that way.

Clearly, her artist's eye and appreciation for calm and serenity are reflected in the decorating style she chose for her comfortable cottage. It is the perfect space for her and her husband and their guests to enjoy the relaxing tranquility Leah has created. The new cedar shake cottage looks as though it's been there forever. The spacious, open interior has a definite cottage feel, accented by copious use of wood boards floors, walls and ceilings along with a soft, easy on the eyes color scheme and creatively placed vintage pieces that fill every nook and cranny. The two "extra" buildings serve as guest quarters for visitors and are furnished and decorated in the same theme as the main house.

The cottage has the feeling of elegance without pretentiousness; it is cozy and inviting and never cloying or "cutesy." Says Leah, "It always annoys me when I see magazines about home décor showing ideas, furnishings and accessories that cost a fortune, designs and ideas that have no budget. Most people don't live that way; we certainly don't. We planned everything on a strict budget, had the cottage framed, roofed and sided and then we did the rest." A visitor would never know that the budget was not open-ended; everything fits in size, color and placement. "Good taste is affordable," continued Leah, "we have found pieces everywhere, refinished, refurbished, re-purposed them until they were right for our cottage."

In this climate, finding enough light is always a consideration. Leah and Steve have solved it neatly by the use of skylights everywhere and by painting all surfaces, including the floor, either white or a soft blue-gray. Those color choices gather light, creating a bright, airy feeling on the gloomiest day. The furniture is white and overstuffed, simply designed for comfort and beckoning a visitor to sit still and savor the moment, enjoy the real fireplace, or perhaps to stop for a nap!

The artist in Leah is visible everywhere. She speaks eloquently of what she does in her painting. "I try to create a place where the viewer is invited to experience the painting. We are so busy we forget to stop and reflect. We rarely spend time alone; walking through a museum; going for a quiet walk, looking and listening, not realizing the importance these times of reflections can be. I want to take people to a place that helps them feel." Her work is on exhibit at several galleries along the Oregon coast and continues to grow in popularity among collectors and designers. Her style and use of color make her pieces highly desirable accessories for any cottage décor. Of course, there are several of Leah's paintings in the cottage: children on a beach, seabirds, a woman in a white dress with a big sun hat and a rooster. Perhaps best of all, Leah has a fondness for white cows and there is a gorgeous white cow framed above the fireplace. Shades of Tuscany!

In addition to the backdrop created by the colors, furniture and paintings, Leah has chosen unique vintage pieces to add to the décor. There are clocks, antique mirrors, pediments and several columns, cut glass chandeliers, hats, whisk brooms and even driftwood hooks in the bathroom. "Yes, we found them," says Leah. "They are just right for hanging towels." Another lovely touch is the use of white curtains throughout the cottage. They look like tulle, drifting gracefully around the bed evoking nighttime on the Serengeti Plain, or simply hanging on a rod, hiding the dryer. They c­ontribute to the softness felt throughout the entire cottage: plump couches, pillows on chairs, great fluffy duvets and pillows in the bedrooms, soft white towels in the bathrooms and swaying curtains.

Leave your cares at the door and step into Steve and Leah's world of white and light, carefully and creatively furnished and decorated to welcome all who enter into a place of serenity, beauty and tranquility.
An Artist's Beach Cottage