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Living Small On The River In Mystic

An exquisite example of grace and elegance in limited square footage on the Mystic River.

The days of living large may be behind most of us, but on the Mystic River there's an exquisite example of grace and elegance in limited square footage.

A small cottage, less than 800-square feet, perches on an outcropping of River Road across from . It might be the most well-known residence on the river. Mary Jobe Ackeley originally built the cottage for her mother; she lived on the cliff above during the summers. Ackeley ran the Camp Mystic for young women.

Today, the property is part of the managed by the Ackeley Trust. For decades, the dreary cottage was hidden behind a shabby fence and overgrown brush. Then three years ago, Jude Malone had a vision for the property and transformed it into an idyllic haven. 

Limited space forces one to take the time to determine the essential value of every object. The accumulation of stuff becomes simply impossible. As such, Malone is an excellent curator. Her theme of bringing nature inside gives structure to her decorating.

The walls and floors are painted white, with white slip covered upholstered furniture. Natural woven hemp rugs, honey-toned wood and warm wicker are the only colors. The lack of window treatments and even wall art serve to make the windows, with their dramatic water views, the real art that is cherished.

A primitive 19-century drop leaf table with bold turned legs was Malone's earliest antique purchase and has survived many moves. The warm wooden table becomes a canvas for a natural still life, combining pottery vessels, natural boughs and mercury glass candlesticks.

In the kitchen, a green metal bistro table in front of a rustic bookcase with baubles creates a vignette. While Malone admits to finding inspiration from the shelter catalogs Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, locally she found many items at , with owner Marcia Jamerson as hands-on consultant.

The deck off the kitchen is another room with a gorgeous view of the Mystic River. Here too, brown wicker is simply combined with white duck cushions and starfish pillows. The house almost seems transparent to the many that use this section of River Road as their athletic arena.

The front of the house is enhanced with 18 -century solid panel shutters painted periwinkle lavender matching the front door. Paul Coutu, of Kentford Farm, created flanking window boxes stacked on stone foundations with pink geraniums and climbing vines. The front yard has a rectangular herb garden with pebble field, moss and random slate tiles.

Upstairs, there are two small bedrooms and a bath. With the help of contractor Mark Switalski, Malone is tackling the bathroom renovation. Naturally, the full pebble stone floor was the right choice, once again bringing the outside in.

Observers stop to engage Malone and want to explore her creation further. In many ways, the home fulfills an idyllic dream of simplicity, living in close harmony with nature. It offers the healing respite of uncluttered space from hectic lives.

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