Charming as they are, the antique houses that make the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, an architectural treasure also have their quirks. Low ceilings, small rooms, and floor plans designed for another era tend to make them incompatible with the life of a bustling modern family. After renting a few such idiosyncratic houses over the years, a Midwestern couple with three teenage sons knew what they did — and didn’t — want when they set about building an island getaway of their own.
“The house had to be traditional,” says Jeff Spoelker, the architect whom the owners tapped to design their retreat, “but without the creaks and cracks.” The place also had to have what he calls a “beachy functionality.” That meant making it durable, comfortable, and suited for entertaining a steady stream of overnight guests. “We wanted the house to be a place where we could create memories,” says the homeowner, who attended college in Boston. Her husband, an avid sailor with great affinity for the ocean, is a New England native.
Located a short stroll from town and afforded with views of the harbor, the gray-shingled four-bay Colonial with ells that look as though they have been added over time has a relaxed ambiance inside and out. Clean sightlines connect rooms and create an open, airy feel. Ceilings are high, and abundant windows bathe the interior with sunlight. The sprawling kitchen, which revolves around a sitting area with cushy furniture centered between the island and a dining nook, is the family gathering place. “Someone can be planted on a chair chatting with someone who is prepping a meal; it’s intended for hanging out,” says Spoelker, who worked for Lyman Perry Architects of Nantucket and Berwyn, Pennsylvania, when he designed the 4,500-square-foot house but has since established his own firm, JMS Architecture in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
The dining nook is reminiscent of an old screened porch with windows on three sides — two banks on exterior walls and one overlooking the living room. The cozy space has a U-shaped banquette that wraps around a custom trestle table. Overhead, the blue-painted beadboard ceiling is just one of the traditional details found throughout the house, including crown moulding, ample fireplace mantels, and beadboard wainscot. And yet, says Spoelker, “nothing is too crisp and clean.” The interior design was a collaborative effort by Janet Shensa DeBevoise, Kristyn Meech Brenner, and Megan Baratka Rogaris, who together make up JKM Interior Design in Lexington, Massachusetts. Colors were inspired by hues found along the nearby beach. Blues and greens mix with tints ranging from sand to brown. “To create an easy, simple vibe, everything is a little washed out,” says DeBevoise. The weathered antique French oak extension table in the dining room was one of the first purchases made for the new house. “This place is all about the family and how they live,” says DeBevoise, “and we envisioned big lobster dinners around the table.”
Other antiques, inexpensive estate-sale finds, and off -the-shelf accents such as the kitchen stools from Pottery Barn and the schoolhouse light fixtures from RH combine to create the home’s collected aesthetic. Framed artwork made by the boys hangs as prominently as landscapes by notable local artists. Comfort was the prevailing design objective. “Furniture was made for lying down and curling up,” says DeBevoise. Upholstered pieces such as the sand-colored tight-back sofa in the family room are covered with indoor/outdoor fabric. Natural woven blinds add to the dressed-down appeal. Wide-plank heart-pine floors in living areas are softened with sisal rugs; bedrooms have large rag rugs. “They’re full of color with a hint of nostalgia,” says DeBevoise. “The best thing about them is that they have two lives, because you can flip them over.”
A roof walk accessible from the third-floor bunk room offers a vantage point to take in the harbor view. “It’s not a huge house, but it holds a crowd really well and everyone has their privacy,” says the homeowner, pointing out that her teenagers have the run of the finished basement. Not only is every square inch of living space utilized, Spoelker also created storage by taking advantage of nooks and crannies with built-in shelving and drawers.
While the lot on which the house sits is compact, it is a private enclave beside the wraparound porch off the kitchen. “We spend a lot of time outside. The boys play Wiffle ball in the side yard,” says the homeowner. “On a pretty night, there is nothing more beautiful than to sit up on the roof walk and watch the ferries coming in.”