8 design tips to take from this classic New England home with its pared back style

The design of this New England family bolthole by Ursino Interiors combines Shaker minimalism, a serene palette and a relaxed and cozy feel

cream beamed kitchen with Shaker style cream cabinets, cream island and wooden bar stools
(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Calm and serene definitely sum up this second home, one of the world's best homes, on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

‘These were second time clients of ours,’ says Maureen Ursino of Ursino Interiors. ‘It’s always so enjoyable to work with clients for a second time – by then, you’ve gained each other’s trust and developed a “design rapport” so the process becomes smoother, more predictable, and is often quicker.’ 

The clients, a young family who live in the suburbs of Manhattan, had always wanted to build a second home on Martha’s Vineyard. ‘The husband spent his summers growing up there so the area is near and dear,’ says Maureen.

‘They built a traditional New England style home and wanted it to be a place they could escape to with family and friends to truly find peace and reset from their busier lives outside of NY. Given the home’s location and the family’s desires, we naturally leaned in towards the Shaker ethos of minimalist beauty and form, focusing on well executed, yet simple details that would together evoke a calming and serene sense of home.’

Maureen shares her tips for creating classic New England style:

1. Add built in alcove storage 

living room with cream armchair, gray sofa, coffee table, bench, rattan chair, fireplace, shelving and artwork

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Key to the New England look is an uncluttered, well proportioned scheme and among Maureen's living room ideas was built in storage on either side of the fireplace. The open shelves are used to display a carefully curated display, while cupboards are used for concealed storage.

neutral living room with wood clad ceiling, neutral curtains and white armchair

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

The family’s outdoor area was an important consideration in Maureen's planning. ’The pool and patio are visible from the main living areas so the outdoor furnishings needed to sing with the interior furnishings,’ she says. The focal point oversized white linen chair provides a relaxed and comfy spot to sit by the fire. It was a local find and Maureen added a swivel to it.

2. Choose clean lined dining room furniture

cream beamed dining area with glazed cabinets, wooden trestle table, ladderback chairs and round cream pendant

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

The light and airy dining room needed definition and among Maureen's dining room ideas was incorporating a classic dark wood trestle table and ladderback dining chairs to evoke the streamlined feel that's integral to New England style. The chairs came from 1stDibs while the table was custom made. A Noguchi lantern above the table injects pared back beauty. Artwork via Le Bennett adds interest.

cream dining area with wooden table and chair and glazed cabinets

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Glazed cabinets are a simple but effective element. ’The hutches in the dining nook are my favorite part. We spent a lot of time designing the millwork details in this kitchen and I love the way they all turned out,’ says Maureen.

3. Introduce Shaker kitchen cabinets

cream beamed kitchen with Shaker style cream cabinets, cream island and wooden bar stools

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Shaker style kitchen cabinets with their clean lines, edging and detailing such as tongue and groove and oval cabinet handles are a staple of New England style and are among the kitchen ideas you can use to create the look.

’The clients wanted a large kitchen in which they could easily and casually entertain,’ says Maureen. An island, with bar stools with spindle backs, provides an informal eating area. ’Lots of storage, ample cooking room, and a light overall feel were important,’ says Maureen.

4. Use a peg rail and shelf in the mudroom

mudroom with teal cladding walls and bench with striped cushion

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Maureen incorporated attractive storage in the mudroom with Shaker peg rails and shelves, and then added a streamlined bench with room underneath for shoes. She created a dramatic backdrop by painting the walls in a strong teal shade, Porch Swing by Benjamin Moore. 

5. Add shiplap to walls

powder room with wooden washstand, mirror and off white cladding

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Shiplap is a mainstay of New England style and Maureen chose shiplap walls in Benjamin Moore's Gray Mist for the powder room, teaming with a custom white oak vanity with a white countertop to keep the scheme fresh and breezy.

6. Create a calm bedroom scheme

neutral bedroom with beams and gray blue bed, striped rug and cream curtains

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Among Maureen's bedroom ideas was conjuring up a tranquil scheme with a soft muted palette and natural fabrics. The custom bed is upholstered in a relaxed linen fabric.

7. Bring in classic pattern

cream bedroom with striped bed, rust plaid blanket, rust pillows, mid century bedside tables and wooden bench

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Plaids and stripes are typical of New England style and Maureen has incorporated them in the guest bedroom with a custom bed upholstered in a Mark Alexander pinstripe linen and a cozy plaid throw.

8. Inject historic paint colors

bathroom with khaki brown washstand, marble countertop and twin mirrors

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

One of Maureen's bathroom ideas was to bring an authentic touch to the Shaker style vanity by painting it in Benjamin Moore's Norwich Brown, an earthy shade that is part of their Historical Collection of paint colors, inspired by America's historic landmarks. Maureen has used the color to ground the scheme.

Interior design/ Ursino Interiors

Photographs/ Tim Lenz

Vivienne Ayers
Houses Editor

Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.