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Oyster Harbors: Bunny Mellon’s Cape Cod House

by habituallychic

07 . 30 . 18

I knew that Bunny Mellon had designed the White House Rose Garden but I didn’t know how close she was to Jackie and President Kennedy. I’ve just finished the chapters that delve into this friendship in the book Bunny Mellon: Life of an American Style Legend. Bunny and Paul Mellon had a house in the Oyster Harbors area of Osterville, Massachusetts and the Kennedys would sail to their house in the summer. While reading this, I realized that I had never remembered seeing this house on Cape Cod. A deep dive into the internet and Sotheby’s catalogs from 2014 enlightened me.

Bunny had a definite style and it takes a careful eye to differentiate the Cape house from the Mellon beach house on Antigua. They both feature her minimal design aesthetic of painted floors, rustic antiques, and blue and white palette. Paul Mellon described her decorating in his book. “Bunny’s quest for comfort and informality has been nurtured with care; a little natural shabbiness is sometimes purposely overlooked. The result . . . is that the houses feel lived in and loved. More important to me than anything else, they are cheerful.”

Part of the property was sold to William Koch who had the main house redecorated and now rents it out for $25,000 a week. The result can be seen in House Beautiful and the rental website where it’s missing Bunny’s touch that gave the house soul. Cape Cod Life Publications has a great feature on the property and gardens for more insight. My favorite antidote is how security cameras were hidden in old bird houses.

I also found photos of when the Kennedys visited the house in August 1961. Everyone looked relaxed and happy enjoying the sun and ocean. Saturday would have been the 89th birthday of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and these photos are a lovely reminder of her and their wonderful friendship. In the book, Caroline Kennedy is quoted as saying, “I could always tell when Mummy was talking to Bunny on the phone because her voice sounded so happy.”

A look at how the entry looks now. Some elements of Bunny Mellon remain including her signature painted floors.

The redecorate living room from House Beautiful.

The same living room from the real estate rental website.