Erik & Maaike’s Tranquil Country Cottage

published Sep 26, 2013
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Name: Maaike, Erik and Harper Bernstrom
Location: Middletown, Rhode Island
Size: 2500 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years; owned

It’s hard not to fall in love with the bucolic land along Aquidneck Island’s Eastern shore. Stone walls line winding roads covered by canopies of green. It’s the perfect place for a lazy Sunday afternoon joy ride along roads like Paradise Avenue or a hike through the Norman Bird Sanctuary woods to the top of Hanging Rock, which overlooks Sachuest Beach. It’s no surprise that Maaike, a photographer, and Erik, an avid surfer and mountain biker who works in the sailing industry, have always dreamed of building a life together here.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

This dream began to unfold when the couple was living in Valencia, Spain. They spotted the property online while planning a move back to Rhode Island. “It was on a street we had always loved,” Maaike says with a smile. Tucked away at the end of a leafy driveway on an acre-and-a-half of land, the location offered a country setting just ten minutes outside of downtown Newport, where they had previously lived for five years.

While the location was ideal, the house itself was not. The 1980s contemporary style was a far cry from the country cottage of Maaike and Erik’s dreams. “We had to have some serious vision,” Maaike explains. The couple gutted the house down to the studs and opened it up without expanding the original footprint. They used wasted attic space to create vaulted ceilings with skylights, which flood the house with light. Dark wood paneling and cold floor tiles were replaced by clean white walls and hardwood. They added red cedar shingles to soften the exterior and allow the structure to blend in with the natural surroundings.

From the kitchen, there is a clear view into the living, dining, and family rooms, but each one still remains separate. The home manages to feel airy and open without sacrificing warmth.

Many of the wood furnishings that fill the house are inherited family heirlooms – a coffee table made from the floors of Erik’s grandfathers’ office in Paris and Maaike’s dresser that was her changing table when she was a baby. Sentimental artwork and items big and small were inherited from their grandparents in Sweden and Holland, and add to the comfortable, lived-in feeling of the home. New pieces, several of which are made from reclaimed wood, mix effortlessly with antiques and create an organic feeling that mirrors the lush surroundings. Naked windows offer a clear view of the outdoors in every room and add to the overall feeling of tranquility. The peaceful surroundings, after all, are what drew the couple here from the start.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Country, farm, industrial

Inspiration: Mixing old with new… Country Living magazine

Favorite Element: Reclaimed sliding barn door in kitchen

Biggest Challenge: Making a 1982 “dated” contemporary into a seaside country cottage!

What Friends Say: Our house has a good “vibe” the minute you walk in.

Biggest Embarrassment: Trusting our contractor.

Proudest DIY: Mixing old inherited furniture with newer pieces and making it our own.

Biggest Indulgence: All 52 new windows in the entire home

Best Advice: It sounds cliché but when doing an entire home renovation, stick to your budget. It can get out of control so fast.

Dream Sources: UK Country Living Magazine, ABC Carpet and Home, Amsterdam, London, Stockholm and Paris

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Resources of Note:


  • Entire Interior: Sherwin Williams Alabaster White
  • Interior Trim: Sherwin Williams Bright White
  • Exterior Trim: Sherwin Williams Custom Color to Match Exterior Windows


  • Teak Side Table: Wickford Antique Liquidators.
  • Rug: Inherited from Erik’s father
  • Camper Jack Lamp: Brimfield Antique Fair
  • Jacques Croquet Set: Wedding present from Erik’s British cousins


  • Lacquered Blue Lamp “The Madaket” by Henri and Co.
  • Blue Egg Pillows: WillyWaw
  • Rattan Chairs: Pier One Imports
  • Sea Grass Rug: Ikea
  • Coffee Table: Made from the old floors of Erik’s grandfather’s office in Paris.
  • Desk: Swedish Inheritance from Erik’s grandmother.
  • Bust sculpture on top of desk: Bust of Erik as a child done in London
  • Marine painting above desk: Erik’s Swedish great grandfather’s ship that he owned and toured in the Baltic, both for trading and fishing. An interesting fact is that Erik is the 6th generation holding a captain’s license from his mother’s side of the family.


  • Viking Harvest Table: Jeff Soderbergh
  • Black Washed Cabinets: Wickford Antique Liquidators
  • 1934 Dining Room Chairs by Tolix: Sundance Catalog
  • Side Board: Locally made from The Wickford Collection
  • Rug: Inherited from one of Erik’s father’s travels.
  • Painting of Wine Cellar: Swedish Artist Lennart Jirlow
  • Books: Listing of all of the royal families of Sweden (Erik’s grandmother is mentioned.)


  • Lamps: “Boston Library Lamp” from Visual Comfort
  • Sliding Barn Door: Jeff Soderbergh
  • Reclaimed Kitchen Island: Steven Staples Woodworking.
  • Appliances: Gill’s Appliances in Bristol, RI
  • Anchor Diaper Bag: Sea Bags, a baby shower gift from a great friend
  • Dishes: All of the white tableware are family heirlooms from Swedish manufacturer Rorstrand
  • Dala Horse Figurine: Souvenir from a trip to Sweden
  • Dutch Clogs Figurine: Souvenir from a trip to Holland
  • Mini Land Rover Figurine: Cake topper for Erik’s 40th birthday cake; what he realized soon after was that the real thing was parked outside!
  • Metal Baskets: Old gym baskets: A Brimfield Score!


  • Reclaimed Hanging Shelf: Jeff Soderbergh
  • Built-in Bench: Fabric by Fabric Connection
  • Photography on Wall: All taken by Maaike
  • Blue Stone Floor: The stones were the original walk -way into the house.
  • Reclaimed Mirror: eBay


  • Couch: Pottery Barn
  • Book Cases: Taken from Erik’s mother’s old bookstore
  • Rug: Inherited from Erik’s father
  • Naked Lady Painting: Swedish Artist Lennart Jirlow
  • Coffee Table: English Country Antique handed down from Erik’s mom
  • Leather Chair: Old English Club Chair Erik’s mother scored at an estate sale in London
  • Owl To Bin: 3 Sprouts Organic, gift from friend


• “Sail Ho” Woodcut Print from 3rd and Elm Press by Ilse Nesbitt
• Red Side Table: Brimfield
• Green Mirror: Brimfield
• Mirror: Antique mirror given by Maaike’s parents.
• Rug: Inherited from Erik’s father


  • Painting: Handed down from Erik’s father.
  • Striped Rug: Ikea


  • Bedspread: Sundance Catalog
  • Sheets: Garnet Hill
  • Rug: Inherited from Erik’s father
  • Dresser with Town Names: Wickford Antique Liquidators
  • Hanging Lights: Barn Light Electric Co.
  • Dresser with Scarves on Top: Maaike’s changing table as a baby
  • Wooden chair: From Erik’s father
  • Glass Cow Skull Belt Buckle: eBay
  • Black and White Artwork: Made by a family member of Maaike
  • Wood cabinet next to bathroom: Old English Antique Pine Cupboard from London



  • Paint: Benjamin Moore’s York Harbor Yellow
  • Crib: Restoration Hardware
  • Dresser/Changing Table: Restoration Hardware
  • Rug: Dash and Albert
  • Wire Rack: Ballard Designs
  • Rocking Chair: On loan from Maaike’s Parents
  • Elephant Print: Sugarboo Designs
  • Driftwood Nameplate: Made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was a gift from my sister-in-law Jen.
  • Raccoon toy basket: 3 Sprouts Organic
  • Hanging Banner: This was hanging at my shower for Harper. It was made by my dear friend Sarah.
  • Hanging Banner near Door: From Kreatelier in Providence


  • Twin Beds: Knock On Wood, Lincoln RI
  • Bed Spreads and Pillows: Ikea
  • Fish Painting in Gold Frame: Swedish Artist
  • English Pine Armoire: Gift from Erik’s mother. She got it at an estate sale in London
  • Bust: Erik’s Grandmother
  • Gold Mirror: Swedish Heirloom from Erik’s grandmother
  • Dala Horse from Sweden and Dutch clogs from Holland – representing both of our cultures.
  • Cape Cod Blue Lamp: Wedding present

Thanks, Erik & Maaike!

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