How to Decorate a Contemporary Small Space

Get the look of the dreamy, beach-inspired interior of the new Cocoon9 from Christopher Burch

A pair of antiquities-themed artworks from Mecox Gardens presides over the bedroom.
A pair of antiquities-themed artworks from Mecox Gardens presides over the bedroom.

If prefab homes were luxury objects, Cocoon9 would be a Cartier Tank watch: streamlined, stylish, and both timeless and totally of the moment. The new concept from entrepreneur Christopher Burch and builder Edwin Mahoney (read our previous story here) is one of the sexiest spaces we’ve seen at any size. But at 480 square feet, with expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass, the Cocoon Studio installed at Mecox Gardens in Southampton, New York, presented an intriguing challenge: how to decorate a sophisticated, multifunctional—and tiny—interior? Luckily, former Lonny editor Sarah Storms was on the case.

How to Decorate a Contemporary Small Space

THE CONCEPT

“I’ve always been fond of great design. I especially look for opportunities that combine high design with smart technology,” says Burch. “This seems natural for prefab homes.” With sustainable luxury as its central principle, the Cocoon9 concept functions particularly well as breezy guest quarters or a chic poolhouse (which, in fact, is how Burch uses his own version at his Southampton home).

For the decor of the Cocoon Studio at Mecox Gardens, stylist Sarah Storms drew upon the structure’s existing palette and the sensibility of the surrounding area. “With its bleached gray floors, glossy white walls, and all that glass, I felt strongly that the interiors should echo the transparency and airiness of the design,” she says. Then she added a more unexpected layer. “My first reaction [to the space] was minimalism and modernity, but I can’t imagine an environment without a bit of history and patina. Mecox is the perfect place to find pieces with design roots.”

The artwork informed much of the decor's palette.
The artwork informed much of the decor's palette.
An oversize mirror visually expands the space.
An oversize mirror visually expands the space.

THE INTERIORS

A compact and efficient footprint dictated the necessity for a similarly curated array of furnishings. “I wanted to highlight the volumes by keeping the foundation pieces sparse and editing to what people truly needed—a chair to sit in and put your shoes on, a place to set a glass of water by the bed,” says Storms. Because of the structure’s luminous nature, anything too heavy would immediately weigh down the space: “The palette was clearly going to be pale.”

Artworks, including a gouache on paper by Wayne Pate in the living room and a pair of reproduction 19th-century prints of antiquities above the bed, informed much of the ethereal play on colors. To layer texture into the sleek interiors, Storms brought in natural elements such as a woven stool and rattan chairs with a modern profile. An oversize floor mirror framed in carved cane is “a tried-and-true design trick to make a small space look bigger,” she says. As a graphic juxtaposition to the dreamy, washed-out hues, a contemporary rug by Brooklyn designer Aelfie helps establish the main seating area. Another surprising element? The Zig Zag Chair by Cassina, a strong linear presence in the bathroom. “For it to be there on its own,” says Storms, “allowed that super-dramatic shape to shine.”

Graphic elements from up-and-coming designers are juxtaposed wtih classic pieces in natural textures.
Graphic elements from up-and-coming designers are juxtaposed wtih classic pieces in natural textures.
How to Decorate a Contemporary Small Space
A piece with a strong profile is showcased on its own.
A piece with a strong profile is showcased on its own.
An expansive shower sets a luxurious mood.
An expansive shower sets a luxurious mood.

THE MOOD

“The essential summer crash pad” is how Storms describes her inspiration. The bed is dressed in seersucker, so sandy feet can simply be brushed off. Area rugs can be shaken off the side of the deck. “You come home from the beach, jump in the pool, and sit around in your bathing suit,” she says—perhaps with a glass of Wölffer rosé in hand. It’s this spirit of casual sophistication and spontaneous celebration that suits the Cocoon best.

The play of light throughout the various rooms served as another jumping-off point for Storms, who spent an entire day in the Cocoon during the first stage of her installation. “From the harsh angles slicing across the bedroom floor to the dappled, tree-shrouded shade on the bookshelves near the kitchen, the full spectrum of a day’s sun on the interior surfaces actually inspired some of the ensuing design decisions,” she says. “A pair of nesting tables with tinted glass tops from Brooklyn designer Bower reminded me of the intersecting shadows I saw mid-morning in the bedroom. So I put them next to the bed, hoping that the translucent pastels would look even more vibrant drenched in sun. As it happened, they did—and cast some interesting shadows of their own.” Proof positive that design with a story can flourish even in the tightest of spaces.

The Cocoon Studio looks right at home in a lushly landscaped environment with outdoor living opportunities.
The Cocoon Studio looks right at home in a lushly landscaped environment with outdoor living opportunities.
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