A weekly column by Catherine Dugan. This week: The Sixth Annual Designer Show House
If you are a millennial beachgoer with a fondness for air conditioning and wi-fi, you may be skeptical about modern life in Victorian Cape May. It is easy to focus on the challenges – the lack of wiring and insulation, the plaster walls, the non-standard windows and doors. How comfortable can these quaint houses be? Very. Let the Cape May Designer Show House convince you.
This year’s show house is the Fairthorne Cottage, a bed and breakfast on Ocean Street. Because it will continue to operate as a B&B until the show house ends its run on January 2, only the first floor and grounds are included. Admission is $10, and proceeds benefit the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Cape May’s heritage. The tour is self-guided, but it’s hard to take a step without a well-informed volunteer on hand to answer questions. Admission includes a program book full of information about the designers.
The house has been brought into the 21st century. Only the porch would be recognized by a Victorian visitor, offering comfortable seating and a view that allows you to watch the world wake up. The foyer and hallway are modern and sensible, and the efficient use of the “cupboard under the stairs” makes Harry Potter seem like a whiner – the powder room uses glass and mirrors to create a spacious feeling.
The parlor and dining room conjure sophisticated banter more suggestive of Noel Coward than Queen Victoria. The “keeping room” is a gathering place for family. The kitchen feels like two rooms: a breakfast area with all the basics at the ready fronts a larger, working kitchen complete with pastry station.
The den tucked behind the kitchen is equipped with a cozy reading space as suited to a Kindle download as a Dickens first edition. Another bathroom, complete with shower, occupies an alcove with maritime efficiency. Outside the kitchen is a jewel-like garden and gazebo.
This year’s show house is a short stroll from the Merion Inn, where you can gather to share your impressions, enjoy great music, and listen to visitors from Miami to Maine praise the town you love. Finish with a toast to the most popular artisan involved in the project – Polar Bear Mechanical Services, installers of the air conditioning that keeps the heat at bay. Modern life can be delightful in Victorian Cape May.
Next week: I Hate Hamlet
at Cape May Stage