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Summer Living

With their kids grown, a couple makes big changes to an old Nantucket cottage

They had the house redesigned for their empty-nest lifestyle. “We updated this historic house so it can last another 100-plus years,” their architect says.

In the entry, double doors to the back patio are on axis with the front door, allowing ocean breezes to sweep through the house.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey

One minute, you have three young children; the next, they’re all grown up and you’ve relocated from Connecticut to Wyoming. The one constant in the last three decades? Island life for the summer. The empty-nester owners of this refurbished Nantucket home wanted to preserve the sense of refuge and togetherness their nuclear family had experienced in Siasconset, but realized their longtime summer home on the eastern end of the island no longer worked for them. The kids outgrew the bunk room that they had previously piled into, and the house felt more formal than how they now live.

With change on their mind, the couple would end up selling — and falling in love with a nearby shingled house across the street from 15 acres of protected beach. Along with the dreamy location, they were drawn to the 1910 house’s old-timey cottage interior despite it needing attention. “This wasn’t their first rodeo,” says interior designer Emily Janak. “They knew to put a team together early.” They also called local architect Lisa Botticelli, whom they’d worked with on the island 20-plus years earlier.


Botticelli consulted with landscape architect Elisabeth O’Rourke about re-siting the house since it was very close to the road, and discussed how the family would navigate the property and its outdoor living spaces. These included new covered porches and a back patio. “You design a house based on the way you live,” Botticelli says. “We think about where you park, where you enter, and where the best views are.”

There’s outdoor dining space on the covered porch at the back of the house, along with an additional seating area on the patio with a fire table.jacob_SNAVELY/photo styling by Frances Bailey

As island life dictates, the family enters through the mudroom around back. The front door, however, feeds into the central living space, which sets the tone of the home. To preserve the home’s beach cottage character while winterizing it, Botticelli made some key swaps. Most significantly, after replacing the original studs and floor joists and adding insulation, the architect applied the old studs to the new shiplap walls and ceilings. Then, the team whitewashed the heck out of it all.


When it came to the furnishings, Janak began by choosing from what the couple already had. In addition to items that made the move from their prior home, there were pieces they had in storage, as well as midcentury modern pieces that they collected over the years. “It feels good to reuse things, and makes the house more personal, so it didn’t look like it was put together overnight,” the designer says. She filled in with some new components, such as the comfortable sofas upholstered in beach-friendly performance fabric, and a coffee table from a Wyoming maker.

The family considers a dining porch a crucial aspect of their island experience.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey

To achieve an open floor plan, Botticelli relocated the staircase to a back hall on the south end of the house near a guest suite. A cozy maple-lined study with an ocean view is tucked in front of it. The kitchen is on the north side of the house, along with an enclosed dining porch addition that was a top priority for the family. This quintessential New England feature boasts an ocean view and a reclaimed wood ceiling. Below the rustic-meets-contemporary chandelier, Janak paired the couple’s vintage rosewood table with their traditional English chairs, channeling a generations-old vibe.

The owners asked Botticelli to go more modern in the kitchen. Here, steel doors and dark bronze hardware accent rift-sawn oak cabinetry, while a mobile-style Ochre chandelier hangs over the island. The baths skew modern, too. “Their interiors are a hybrid of old Nantucket beach houses and a more contemporary aesthetic,” she says.


Botticelli reworked the second floor to include three bedroom suites, plus a sitting room at the top of the stairs with a plush rose-colored sofa and an oft-used record player. To imbue airiness and history, Botticelli performed more architectural maneuvers. “We reproportioned the interior volumes of the bedrooms to create cathedral ceilings,” she says. “Some follow the rooflines, others are false slopes.” Like the ceiling in the dining room, they are lined with reclaimed wood.

The owners are happily ensconced in their new old home on Nantucket, enjoying summertime rituals with longtime friends and their three grown-and-flown children who revisit the nest. “Buildings need to make sense for today’s lifestyle,” Botticelli says. “We updated this historic house so it can last another 100-plus years.”


Architect: Botticelli & Pohl Architects, botticelliandpohl.com

Interior Designer: Emily Janak Interiors, emilyjanak.com

Contractor: O’Connor Custom Builders, oconnorcustombuilders.com

Landscape Architect: Jardins International, jardinsintl.com


Architect Lisa Botticelli included an X-brace detail as part of the faux open-stud treatment in the living room. The rug is by Connecticut maker Elizabeth Eakins, a favorite of the homeowner.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey
In the kitchen, Fairfield County Millwork crafted the custom cabinetry, which is paired with quartzite for the backsplash and countertops.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey
In a sitting area next to the kitchen, designer Emily Janak paired midcentury modern chairs with a beachy sisal rug and the family’s favorite sofa from their previous home.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey
Reclaimed wood on the bedroom ceilings helps retain the old cottage feel.jacob snavely/photo styling by Frances Bailey

Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.