Karen Fisher has perfected the art of the pare-down.
“My design philosophy is also my life philosophy,” says the interior designer and owner of Coastal, a home furnishings shop on Nantucket. “Surround yourself with a few good things — family, friends, a pair of jeans, a cashmere sweater, your bed, the chair you write and think in, and an inspiring view.”
Fisher relocated to the island from Manhattan in 2006 after an almost 20-year career in fashion, most of it working for Calvin Klein, whom she credits with influencing her aesthetic. When she first moved to Nantucket, she lived in the four-bedroom beach house that she and her late husband had bought as a summer refuge 15 years prior. In 2012, she discovered an 800-square-foot third-floor aerie in a historic building with stunning views, and she hired architect and builder Chuck Lenhart of Sandcastle Construction to collaborate on a gut renovation. Nine months later, having sold the beach house with all its contents, she moved in, with only her clothing in tow.
The goal of the renovation was to open up the interior as much as possible, to let in light and gain square footage. “We peeled back everything we could,” Lenhart says, “and the design evolved throughout the deconstruction process.”
One ascends into the middle of the condo from a stairwell that Lenhart lightened with a trio of square windows — the three openings make the loft seem larger, too. He also removed a wall that hid dead space under the eaves. Fisher now has her dining table tucked in there — she can easily pull it out when she entertains.
The dining nook opens into a small but airy living room that wraps around the newly excavated brick chimney. The kitchen beyond it is an exercise in using every inch. Rather than installing a traditional fridge that would take up valuable full-height space, freezer and refrigeration drawers went in below the counters. Shelves were added above. For food storage, Lenhart created a pantry above the stairs, hidden by a sliding barn door.
Fisher cites the textures and colors of the island — “worn leather, linen, wrinkled cotton, beach grass, pale wood, and foggy skies” — as inspiration. Chris Connolly of Nantucket’s Connolly Woodworking made the cabinetry from rift-sawn white oak washed with a custom gray stain, also applied to the oak floorboards. Furnishings include modern pieces made from wood in natural tones, as well as upholstery in ivory, indigo, and charcoal. Smoke limestone counters top the cabinetry throughout.
French doors in the living room open onto a deck that looks across Nantucket Sound, and there’s a smaller deck off the bedroom, which is blessed with peaked ceilings and exposed beams. Every room affords a vista of boats and water. Fisher can also see three churches, all three lighthouses, the ferries, and, in wintertime, the entire town.
“Everything I own works together, from my clothing to my home design. And there’s nothing nonfunctional in my world,” she says. “It’s a lovely way to live.”
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