The key to getting an antique cottage vacation-ready in weeks flat: A few coats of paint and the good sense to leave well enough alone. Designer Kevin Isbell took on this historic Nantucket home, and the results are stunning.
Surrounded by a leafy lawn, the cottage is located in the island’s historic 'Sconset village.
A lattice creates a grid of greenery on the roof of the 1880s wood-shingle cottage.
Before Isbell came into the equation, the kitchen was dark and outdated.
In the formerly dark-wood kitchen, Isbell whitewashed the walls and original cabinetry in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove but left the ceiling untouched. “The whole house had a wonderfully distressed patina,” he says. “I wanted to maintain as much of that as possible.”
The dining space was formerly covered in yellow paint from floor to ceiling.
A onetime living room became a space for dining. The vintage T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings dining chairs are topped with cushions covered in African textiles from New York’s Chelsea flea market on 25th Street. Matchstick shades, The Mine.
“I call this the morning room because of the light it gets at that time of day,” says Isbell. Upon seeing this space, the designer's goal was to make the loft ceilings feel even loftier.
Faced with a ceiling height of just under seven feet throughout the house, he employed visual tricks to make this peaked-ceiling space feel loftier: Art is hung high, and roller shades are installed above the window frames. With no time to rewire, swag lights, including this 1960s one from Stamford, Connecticut’s Antique and Artisan Gallery, were used throughout the house.
The narrow stairs leading to the cottage’s second floor are, in Isbell’s words, “inconveniently charming.”
By painting the entire staircase in Benjamin Moore’s Champion Cobalt to match the living room floor, he turned an architecturally awkward feature into a striking design element.
The former dining room has been transformed into the living room.
The living room’s Serena & Lily sofa was too wide to fit through the narrow front door, so Isbell had the legs shortened right on the front lawn. “And it was raining,” he says. “I’m a get-’er-done kind of guy.”
Just like the rest of the house, the master bedroom was dull and dark.
Isbell anointed the master bedroom “the captain’s quarters.” John Stuart rosewood campaign chests from Hamptons Antique Galleries in Stamford, Connecticut, frame a West Elm bed. Bed linens, Yves Delorme. Isbell added to the homeowner’s collection of needlepoint pillows and artworks — many by her mother — with vintage versions from Chairish.
The entrance to the ground-floor master bedroom is now decorated with blue and white coastal-inspired decor.
A needlepoint pillow made by the owner’s late mother adds a nautical note to a diminutive guest bedroom; the Biedermeier table is from the 19th century.
In another guest room, an 1860s British campaign chest, which separates into two sections, replaced a makeshift closet. Victorian bamboo-and-cane side chair, Hamptons Antique Galleries.
"For me, this is the best room in the house,” Isbell says. “Once you brave the steep stairs, you’re rewarded with windows on all sides. Architecturally, it’s called a ‘wart’ — a room that ‘grew’ on the original structure. A fresh coat of paint makes it a gleaming oasis.” A vintage Danish swing-arm sconce is from the Antique and Artisan Gallery. Bench, Selamat Designs. Jute rug, Birch Lane.
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This story originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of CQ.