IT’S AN ESCAPE from city life. It’s a retreat that celebrates the changing light and shifting tides of long summer days. It’s a newly built cottage that’s meant to ramble, as if constructed over the years. But most of all, it’s a family home, a place where beach trips, grilling, and spending time together top the daily to-do list.
The seed for this Boston couple’s second home was planted 25 years ago, when the husband first introduced his wife to Nantucket’s charms. Each summer thereafter, they rented homes and stayed in hotels on different parts of the island. That’s how they discovered Surfside. Just 15 minutes from Nantucket Town, the community boasts seemingly endless dunes that meet the roar of the ocean.
In 2001, the couple found the perfect Surfside property for their family of four. With a front walk that leads directly to a beach path, “the sand was like an extension of our front yard,” the wife says.
Though the plot came with a simple Cape house, the couple decided that building from scratch would allow them to take full advantage of the amazing ocean views. But it was also important that their home look like it had always been there. Together with a team of Nantucket-based design firms — BPC Architecture, Cross Rip Development, and Donna Elle Interior Design — they set out to create a casual vacation retreat with a sophisticated vibe.
To capture the look of a beach cottage that had evolved over time, Joe Paul of BPC Architecture divided the home into three parts — the main entry and bedroom wing; the living room; and the kitchen, dining room, and master suite. This approach makes it look smaller from the outside, he says, while creating plenty of opportunities for gorgeous water vistas.
To give the living room an aged appearance, he detailed the interior with exposed studs and rough-hewn oak rafters, all hand-rubbed with pigment stain to make them look timeworn. In lieu of drywall, which the owners requested he avoid, Paul re-created the look of a classic beach cottage by using horizontal wood shiplap painted with Benjamin Moore Harbor Haze. This paneling varies in width throughout the first floor, creating the illusion that the house transitions from one era to another, Paul says.
For the interiors, the wife imagined “something beachy and comfortable that was at the same time contemporary and upscale.” Interior designer Donna Elle took inspiration from colors in the surrounding landscape for her palette of white, soft blue, and gray, and selected elegant but hardy furnishings. “Any finish or fabric had to pass a litmus test in my eyes: Will it hold up to bathing suits and sandy feet just as well as to cocktail parties?” says Elle.
Statement pieces in the living room include a coffee table with a driftwood base by Florida artist James Duncan, topped with extra-thick beveled glass that was custom crafted to Elle’s dimensions. Twin chandeliers, made from vintage Belgian wine barrels, were sourced from BoBo Intriguing Objects in Atlanta, Georgia. In the formal dining room, Elle placed contemporary Philippe Starck Lucite chairs and upholstered armchairs over a luxurious wool and silk Soumak rug from Stark Carpet. Because the owners love having guests, Paul decided to create an entertaining focal point to separate the kitchen from the dining and living rooms. His boat-shaped, uplit bar accommodates eight stools and features a contemporary stainless steel base that contrasts with the wood interiors. Above, Elle grouped Belgian wine jugs that she had retrofitted as pendant lights by BoBo Intriguing Objects. “I chose different sizes and hung them at varying heights so it wouldn’t be redundant,” she says. Less formal than the dining room table, but a little more elegant than a kitchen island, this is where everyone gathers first. “Most of our guests don’t want to leave,” the wife says with a laugh.
Visitors can stay in either the first-floor guest suite or the guest house above the garage. The couple’s two grown children have their own bedrooms in a wing on the second level, separate from the main living areas. Above the screened-in porch off the dining room is the secluded master suite, which faces the ocean and features plenty of southern light as well as a private balcony. “There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of waves at night,” the wife says.
With or without visitors, the family typically finishes off a beach day with a home-cooked dinner. But it’s not just summer living that draws them to Nantucket. They typically return for Daffodil Weekend in April and the Christmas Stroll in December, as well as quieter weekends in between. “We enjoy the buzz of people in-season, but also like the peace of the off-season,” the wife says. “We just like everything about the island.”
Architecture BPC Architecture, Nantucket. Interiors Donna Elle Interior Design, Nantucket. Contractor Cross Rip Development, Nantucket
Photos by Nat Rea
The living room, a rhapsody in white, opens to the front lawn and, just beyond, the ocean.
A custom boat-shaped bar offers a space for informal entertaining.
Mosaic tiles create a majestic back wall in the country kitchen, which features a French Provincial range hood.
A detail of the bar top, handpainted by Nantucket artist Mary Emery.
A stately dining table and chandelier from Atlanta’s BoBo Intriguing Objects add a sophisticated touch to the dining room.
In the foyer, a closet door made of driftwood contrasts with bright turquoise accents.
Donna Elle found armchairs in London and surprised the owners by having them monogrammed.
The white palette continues into the master bath, which features Venetian mirrors from Bethel International.