Text by Tovah Martin
Once a week for a year, Kerry Vaughan took a detour down a road that led absolutely nowhere in search of a “For Sale” sign. The fact that the road had no real destination was key, because she was seeking solitude. The moment she spotted a realtor’s sign she pounced, even though the home had a considerably larger footprint than the downsized cottage of her dreams. Although the previous architect/owner had bulked up the cozy dimensions of what was originally a clam shack, as an interior designer and shopkeeper, Kerry knew exactly how to warm it up.
Kerry, a self-proclaimed Francophile, has taken numerous trips to Paris and surrounding villages trawling for everything from textiles to toiletries that speak of the craftsmanship and simplicity she associates with Europe. “I love things [that have been] made with authenticity and care for centuries,” she says. Most of what she snags finds its way into Red Bird Trading Co. and WishBasket, her two shops on the bustling waterfront of Newburyport, Massachusetts. The shops display a wide variety of gift and design items—bed linens, Fleur de Sel lollipops, Mad et Len and Astier de Villatte candles, French travel books, and Lipault Paris luggage—to name but a few. You will always find French milled milk soaps, but you might also happen upon a console crafted from a repurposed French balcony.
In her home, she surrounds herself with a serene, contemplative mood in counterpoint to the flurry of the in-town shops. “I lead a whole and busy life,” she admits, “and I’m communicating with clients all the time. I love every minute of it. When I return home, I enjoy the quiet.”
To create a cocoon of quiet, Kerry swaddled her home in layers of nubbly vintage French and Belgian linens. Every sofa is upholstered and piled in soft homespun cushions that beg her to sit down, pull her feet up, and relax. Originally, the house had wonderful tannery wood on the walls, which she loves. But so much wood needed lightening, so she painted and whitewashed her floors white. Although textiles are everywhere—from tea towels draped over bistro chairs to swatches of French ticking enlisted as tablecloths—she hushes the color palette by using natural creams and white. In that airy frame, the occasional French blue antique piece stands out, Kerry says, “but that’s a lot of color for me.” She prefers instead to use calming watercolors as accents. Sleepy seaside towns and botanicals are frequent motifs. Beyond that artwork, her adornments of choice include handmade soaps, faded transferware ceramics, the sleek lines of hand-blown glass, and other treasures from her trips abroad. And while her circuit of French antiques and crafts fairs is primarily to feed her shops, there’s always a wonderful find that never leaves her home.
The constant theme in Kerry’s home is the prevailing lack of distractions. Simplicity is her personal mantra. “I spend my days with paint swatches,” she explains. “And I’m always thinking about my clients and their homes. At the end of the day, I crave a visually calm interior.” Her choice of fabrics and fibers mutes the sights and sounds of a noisy, busy world and makes her larger-than-planned house a peaceful haven. “I’ve been here over twenty years now, and it’s perfect,” she says. In her own nest, you’ll find Kerry wrapped in the vintage linens of her hushed surroundings—in quietness.