The Rest is History
A Boston couple transforms a centuries-old Nantucket cottage into a serene family retreat.
The Colonial-era homeâ€™s exterior and roof are clad with cedar-shake shingles.Â
Peter and Elizabeth Georgantas desperately needed an escape. As the owners of PEG Properties?&?Design, the couple had gotten used to working together around the clock in their Boston home. â€śIt was difficult for us to disconnect,â€ť says Elizabeth, an interior designer who collaborates with her husband, a developer, on residential renovation projects.
In 2008, Elizabeth, now 38, and Peter, 41, purchased the perfect family hideaway: an antique, cedar-shingle-clad NanÂtucket abode situated on a quiet lane just a couple of blocks from the center of town. As much as the Georgantases loved their new homeâ€™s secluded location, they were even more entranced by its origins. Constructed in 1739 by the Macy family â€” relatives of the folks who would go on to open the famed department store â€” the building was among the islandâ€™s first residential structures.
Over time, the two-room dwelling, originally designed as a fishermanâ€™s shack, was expanded and embellished with architectural details (a Greek Revivalâ€“style front door, a raised roof). In 1790 â€” rolled on logs drawn by horses â€” it was moved a few miles from its original location. Eventually used as a rental property, the home was showing signs of extreme neglect when the Georgantases took ownership four years ago. The horsehair-plaster walls were crumbling, the floors were warped and scratched, and the exterior trim hadnâ€™t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades. And when the couple began renovating in the fall, they discovered other, more-alarming issues.
â€śWhen construction started, our contractor told us the only thing holding the house together was plaster and paint,â€ť Elizabeth recalls. â€śAll the joists and beams had separated internally. One serious storm, and the place would have literally fallen apart.â€ť
To create a structurally sound home, the contractor, Nantucketâ€™s Castle Group, had to take it down to the studs and rebuild. â€śIt was an intense process, particularly because it was very important to us that as many of the homeâ€™s original materials be reused as possible,â€ť Elizabeth says. â€śOur goal was to preserve it, to reinstate its original character while making it a comfortable family home with modern conveniences.â€ť
In keeping with the Nantucket Historic District Commissionâ€™s strict regulations, the couple maintained the houseâ€™s original footprint, save for a small addition that accommodates an enlarged kitchen and an expanded master suite above. On the buildingâ€™s two main levels, the original wide-plank floors and beamed ceilings were reinstalled wherever possible. When new material was needed, reclaimed wood was used. â€śWe had simulated horsehair-plaster work done by hand on the walls so they would have the same textured look of the original walls,â€ť Elizabeth says.
To ensure the new elements spoke to the houseâ€™s origins, Elizabeth pored over books on Nantucketâ€™s history, scouring them for information on the interiors of early settlersâ€™ homes. â€śI wanted to know what the closets and cabinetry looked like â€” doors were inset, drawers were full overlay, everything was square-edged,â€ť she says. She designed the simple, sturdy kitchen cabinets accordingly, fitting them with strap-hinge hardware.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth gave the attic a more playful look, turning it into a whimsical bedroom for the coupleâ€™s daughters, five-year-old Zoe and three-and-a-half-year-old Isabella. To create the feel of a shipâ€™s sleeping quarters, she anchored trundle beds to the ceiling and floor with hefty nautical rope knotted by a local fisherman.
The Georgantases are about to embark on the third summer in their home, and they couldnâ€™t be happier. â€śWe feel like weâ€™re in our own little corner of the world. Weeks can go by when we donâ€™t see a soul,â€ť Elizabeth says. While creating the perfect haven was more work than the couple imagined it would be, it was something their careers had prepared them for. â€śWhen you open up a house like we had to do, you never know what youâ€™re going to get,â€ť Elizabeth says.
Thankfully, the extensive renovation also resulted in a few nice surprises â€” like the discovery of the dining roomâ€™s original cooking hearth, which had been walled over. The restored beehive stove functions as a pizza oven. â€śWe have pizza parties all summer long,â€ť Elizabeth says. â€śItâ€™s become our favorite thing to do.â€ť
A view of the house from the road.
During the renovation the Georgantases had a new door â€” made of antique lumber â€” installed at the front of the house.
A La Cornue range and hood offer old-fashioned appeal.
Anchoring the kitchen is a large island, pieced together by Elizabeth, who found the reclaimed-wood legs at a shop in Maine â€” the top is made from thick antique lumber coated in a high-gloss lacquer.
The same wood from the island was used to craft the custom dining room table, which is paired with Kartellâ€™s Ghost Chairs, the sole modern furnishings in the house.
Dishes and glasses are arranged in open shelves, echoing the storage style of 18th-century kitchens.
Elizabeth acquired many of the homeâ€™s furnishings and marine-inspired antique accessories for a song at the Brimfield Antique Show. Opposite, glass vessels contain shells collected by the family. Underneath an Asian console table lies an antique trunk â€” one of many in the home â€” which stores blankets for chilly evenings.
Above, glass vessels contain shells collected by the family. Underneath an Asian console table lies an antique trunk â€” one of many in the home â€” which stores blankets for chilly evenings.
Elizabeth thought the attic, which has unusually high ceilings for an antique house, called for a swing for daughters Zoe and Isabella.
Above, in the new master bedroom closet, a window seat, upholstered in a slate-blue cable stripe by Greeff, providesÂ a pretty perch.
The Nantucket Historic District Commission allowed the family to replace a decrepit lean-to gardening shed with a garage that has guest quarters above and space for a gym below.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/06/rest-history/