To strengthen the newly constructed house's historical, contextual roots, the Angles sought out both vintage and local goods. The nearest town—Cheticamp—is famous for its handmade rugs. So Alexandra commissioned a design of her own from the "hookers" (as the artisans at the co-op jokingly call themselves), bringing a piece of that tradition to the floor of the master bedroom. With each detail, Eliot and Alexandra were determined that "authentic" would not mean "rustic"—as design professionals, their aesthetic incorporates iconic country elements in a subtle and sophisticated way. Industrial hardware and bayberry paint give humble beadboard kitchen cabinets a very modern swagger. A maple farmhouse table is surrounded by chairs with cane seats—albeit chairs by Gio Ponti. And while the living room's rattan thrones hint at homey wicker, their swoopy shape reads as avant-garde.
If the interior seems at all spare, it is because, Alexandra says, "We won't bring things here unless we love them." And in contrast to the work the Angles do for clients, there are no deadlines for completing their own interiors, so the couple chooses instead to add and subtract as the mood strikes them. Which may also account for the different, more idealized versions of themselves they become when they're here.
In Nova Scotia, the Angles have developed new priorities and take pleasure in the simplest tasks. They opted not to install a dishwasher because, Alexandra says, "it's fun to do them by hand." Although they set up a satellite dish to help them keep up with office projects, Alexandra can be found elbow-deep in flour several days a week, baking bread, which, she says, "I don't even eat when I am in Los Angeles!" She spends day after day in clogs or sneakers (the L.A. freeway a faint, impossible memory), taking long runs and pressing flowers. Or reading, as most afternoons find her curled up on the expansive window seat like a cat, exploring design theory or the biography of another designer couple, Charles and Ray Eames. Meanwhile, Eliot relishes working with his hands—building furniture, clearing underbrush, and sometimes combining the two. He made the couple's bedside table out of bleached driftwood that he found on the property. "As a Manhattan boy, it's a total romantic fantasy for me," he says. There were still deeper changes to come.
Last March, after a complicated two-year process, the Angles flew to Ethiopia and adopted a baby daughter, Elefe (Eliot says the name means "she who is great and surpasses everything" in Amharic). Returning to America, they recognized how much their lives had changed and were grateful. They still live much of the year in Los Angeles; they still travel frequently; and they still work on demanding projects for demanding clients. But now they have a family, a home—"a forever house," as Alexandra calls it. This past summer, the Angles spent nearly three months on Cape Breton, hosting relatives from Maine. While Elefe met her cousins and explored her surroundings, her parents learned, while doing, how to enjoy the moment. The house on a hill had taught them a better way to live.
We Hear You!