Blue Shutters

All of a sudden, here we are rushing into the golden days of August — a season brimming with delights here in New England. After 16 years here, I’m still exhilarated by the beauty that unfolds before us each summer.  It commands a pause.

Beach at Blue Shutters, Provincetown

And thank goodness for that, because these last couple months have been intense. Between Ryan’s travel, our various personal and professional projects, Vivienne at home full time all summer, and teething, toddling, rambunctious Hugh, we are in need of reasons – and opportunities – to pause.

For centuries, people have built beautiful spaces here, along the coast – it’s one of my favorite things about New England. Our friends’ boat house is one such place, and we happily drove down to Provincetown last week to spend a few days there.


Blue Shutters, as it’s affectionately called, seems to exist in a slightly different dimension. Within minutes of arriving, we begin to shed our go-go-go mentality. (No small feat for Ryan McDonnell.) There is blueberry cake. We settle in with mugs of coffee. We adopt a very loose sense of time, keeping track mostly by the tide creeping up under the house, then drifting back out, leaving the flat expanse of sand peppered with little treasures.


Stephen (a folk art dealer) and Eleanor (a painter) are lovers of art and beauty, and Blue Shutters is a reflection of it. Every view, every surface is part of the experience, whether it’s “serious” art or the particular way paint is peeling on the old beams.

Blue Shutters Guest Window

Still waving at anyone whose eye he can catch.

Months after our first visit, I was reading bedtime Bible stories to then-toddler Vivi, and she interrupted with, “Momma, is heaven jus like Blue Shuddahs?” I forget who said this, but it seems relevant… that any good and perfect moment of joy is a foretaste of heaven. If so, Blue Shutters is right up there.

On this last visit, I somehow spent nearly a whole, perfect day painting up in Eleanor’s studio. Not one interruption, except for the occasional hollar from the deck below… We’re heading out for a walk – see you later! BLISS.

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Looking down from the 3rd floor studio – it really feels like being on a boat!

At one point, Eleanor came up and, after some very kind encouragement, did tell me to just loosen up.  I could probably do with that reminder on a more regular basis.

Version 2, after the “loosen up” talk

Vivienne got her painting lesson in, too.


I think she and Eleanor are kindred spirits. One morning, I woke early to the sound of their voices drifting up from the beach and spotted them traipsing around with buckets in the pre-dawn light, hunting for sea glass and old bits of pottery for a collage. Nothing could have made Vivi happier in that moment. Something about Eleanor’s whimsical way of moving through the world is deeply appealing to her.

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So, thank you, Eleanor and Stephen, for your hospitality and encouragement, for sharing your creative space, and particularly for humoring Vivienne’s boundless enthusiasm. She was delighted from start to finish, as we all were.


In a fun turn of events, Blue Shutters was featured in Country Living earlier this summer, so you can read more about the house and its history here, if you’d like.

4 thoughts on “Blue Shutters

  1. The glory of a New England summer and the charm of an old Cape Cod home on the water . . . Reading this post again in February will lift our spirits . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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