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Light, bright and breathtakingly pretty, this island home just outside of Nantucket, Massachusetts, is every bit the classic beach house retreat. With its stunning views and outside spaces from which to enjoy the expanse of water, and its calm interiors, it truly is one of the world's best homes. It embraces a traditional coastal palette of blues and whites in a way that suggests its been like this for decades, but there's a contemporary freshness to the interiors, too, that brings it right up to date.
It hasn't always looked this good. The shingle-style home was built in the early 2000s and its interiors were full of natural and dark stained wood paneling and heavy iron fixtures. Its new owner envisaged more of a seaside retreat and in just six months, Boston-based interior designer Gary McBournie transformed the interiors from wintery mountain lodge-style into the uplifting seaside home we see today.
'Without doing construction, the easiest solution was to use a lot of white paint and to infuse the décor with soothing ocean-inspired colors and textures,' explains McBournie. 'The client wanted to incorporate elements reflecting the rich history of the island but to keep it comfortable and not turn it into a museum.'
True beach house décor always starts with the views of the water, so outside spaces are important here. 'The patio is all about the view, so we made sure we incorporated plenty of seating from Janus et Cie with side tables for the requisite sunset cocktails,' says designer McBournie.
Staying with the views, this sunroom provides a cozy sheltered space to appreciate the seascape on cooler days. Sunroom ideas embrace basket and rattan furniture, with ocean blue upholstery and scatter pillows.
'The client and I referred to this space as a bonus room as it had been used as a very large mudroom cum storage room,' says designer McBournie. 'The drapery treatment at the doorways helps to maintain a sense of balance and also serves to make the sunroom feel like more of a nook where one can escape to read a few pages of a favorite book. The locally-produced woven rag rug by Hillary Anepole not only adds some charm but is also a nod to the island’s weaving history.'
The Bielecky Brothers sofa is from Todd Hase Furniture.
The kitchen required quite some transformation to bring it in line with the new coastal look in the rest of the home. Painting the vaulted ceiling white to cover up the oppressive dark wood paneling was the first task. The working section of the kitchen had a very commercial feel, so the key kitchen ideas involved rebuilding the island and adding 'feet' to give it the appearance of freestanding residential furniture before painting it a cheery seaside blue (Blue Jean, Benjamin Moore). 'We also replaced the counters with sparkling white quartz, evocative of sand and ocean foam,' says McBournie. The sconces are from Soane Britain and the pendant is from Guinevere. The Roman shades are in blue and white cotton from Peter Fasano, and, says McBournie, 'add some softness without being too sweet'. The counter stools are Chevron Riviera from Serena & Lily.
One of the main design considerations for McBournie's living room ideas was the imposing stone fireplace which dominated the space. 'It presented a challenge as it strongly read as “mountain house”,' he explains. 'We found our solution in a pair of Scabetti fish chandeliers in glazed and unglazed bone china, and used them to fill the space in front of the fireplace. We then hung a large round mirror on the stones to reflect the shimmering fish and the light.'
The living room is open plan, simply separated from the kitchen and dining area by an antique English oak sideboard, bought at a local auction house. 'To help define the sense of place, we topped it with an oversized glass cylinder filled with native grasses and a large whale vertebra,' says McBournie. It's the simple, atmospheric touches like these that make this redesign so successful.
Designer Gary McBournie decided the living room furnishings needed to be 'gutsy' but also 'light enough in spirit to evoke the desired seaside feel'. His solution was to upholster a large sofa in a light blue tweed, and add a pair of smaller sofas in a deep blue to reinforce the overall color scheme. 'The Bielecky Brothers lounge chairs, upholstered in the same fabric as the window treatments, not only keep things light but also play to the summer house vibe,' McBournie explains.
Of all the rooms in the property, none says coastal style quite so clearly as the dining room. The jaunty chair cushions ensure that the dining room ideas are fresh and contemporary, all the while referencing traditional nautical colors and themes.
The large custom white dining table and blue and white upholstered bamboo chairs, provide a sense of a beach house, and a pair of mid-century consoles reinforce the theme, with a hand-painted shell motif and wave detail added by local artist Diedre Mannix around the top edges.
The Anglo-Indian lanterns were sourced in London and are grouped at staggered heights to add interest.
The primary bedroom has commanding views of the harbor, and designer Gary McBournie explains that his bedroom ideas for this second-floor room were all about keeping it light and breezy. 'We wrapped the room in Lockhart wallpaper from Peter Fasano and used a pale blue linen for the window treatments,' he says. The checked fabric on the chair, accent pillows and window seat is from Schumacher. The desk is from Oomph Home; glass lamp, Nantucket Looms; and Roman shade fabric from Norbar.
As McBournie considered guest bedroom ideas for this second bedroom, he felt it was important to mark a change in mood. 'The views from this bedroom are pastoral and I decided to bring various shades of green into the room,' he says. 'The room seemed to have an English feel to me so the antique campaign chest was a nice addition. A series of nautical engravings, all in simple white frames, adorn the walls.' The walls were painted in Fresh Dew by Benjamin Moore and Soane Britain’s Scrolling Fern Frond fabric was custom-colored for use on the headboard and window treatments.
The third bedroom has both harbor and pastoral views and so presented the perfect opportunity for the client and McBournie to come up with a scheme based on their mutual love of old summer houses and vintage floral prints.
'The impressionist beach scene depicted in the painting over the bed, became our color inspiration,' explains McBournie. 'I wanted the background to be very soft so I wallpapered the room in a pink strie from Farrow & Ball and paired it with a vintage Brunschwig & Fils floral.'
Crisp white sheeting from Leontine Linens embroidered with a fanciful pink vine and leaf pattern, and a pink single gourd lamp from Christopher Spitzmiller, with a lamp shade from Blanche Field, complete the look.
The painting that inspired the colors is entitled Playing on the Beach, by Dutch artist Niek van der Plas, and was bought from Doyle’s Auctions
Back outside, to the true focus of this redesigned ocean-front home. The large terrace includes a lounge space and a dining area, and a porch lawn with lounge chairs facing the ocean. Basket chairs from Janus et Cie's Arbor collection with ocean blue cushion fabrics are the perfect choices for the island setting.
Gary McBournie's transformation of this special property has been remarkable. All trace of mountain-lodge style has disappeared, and in its wake fresh, calm and uplifting coastal interiors have given the home a stunning new lease of life. While the interiors reference traditional old island hotels, particularly in the bedrooms, there are sensitive touches of contemporary seaside themes mixed in, ensuring that with all the comforts of familiarity there is just the right mix of refreshingly new design.
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Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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