Home by the sea
For interior designer Jackie Higgins and her family, finding a vacation home in Nantucket just made sense. Jackie and her husband, Bob, and their teenagers, Sarah and Brendan, have been summering there for almost two decades. So, five years ago Bob decided it was time to buy, and the family bid on a house. Unfortunately, the deal fell through. “We were disappointed,” says Jackie, “but we shrugged and said it wasn’t meant to be.” Then Sarah went online and found a vacant lot for sale in Nantucket’s historic district. This time, the deal went through. “Naturally,” says Jackie, “we decided Meant to Be would be the perfect name for our new home.”
And new it is—from the ground up, which is unusual in an area filled with 200-year-old structures. To ensure that the house would blend into the historic neighborhood, Jackie, whose interior design firm Beach Glass Designs is located in Huntington Bay, New York, did meticulous research and worked carefully with town officials, creating a classic cedar-shake home with a widow’s walk atop the roof, which offers broad views of Nantucket Harbor. “The nicest accolade we receive is that people think our house is as old as the neighboring homes,” says Jackie.
The home’s interior is as respectful of the area’s history as its exterior, with flooring and architectural features, such as paneling and trim, that suggest the look of old Nantucket. Also appropriate are the subtle shell motifs that appear in the decor—”I’ve always lived near the water so I’m drawn to shells,” Jackie says. Her personal style is spare and edited: “I like crisp colors, sand and sea colors—blue, green, beige and gray—and artwork with clean lines.”
In spite of its historic look, the house is “decidedly casual,” says Jackie. “Every surface can be used—nothing is off-limits.” To create just the interior she wanted, Jackie began gathering pieces as the house was under construction, storing items in one place so the family could move everything in quickly. True to her style, she combined comfortable new pieces with well-loved old items, many gathered on antiquing trips. “I was almost always with someone,” says Jackie. “It’s meaningful to look around and recall who you were with when you bought something.” Among her favorite collectibles are old silver pieces, particularly if they’re inscribed. Because Nantucket is an area with a lot of artists, she also collects artwork, baskets and accessories from local craftspeople, showcasing a few items in each room.
Jackie suggests minding details to create a home that blends with historic neighbors. Here’s how:
» Study old photos for ideas. Jackie had the living room paneling replicated from a photo she found of an old Nantucket interior. On the kitchen ceiling, beadboard adds period-appropriate texture.
» Pay attention to the windows. The 12-over-12- pane windows suit the home’s exterior, and transom windows over interior doors add a period look.
» Don’t overlook the floors. To conform to Nantucket style, Jackie had wide-plank pine floors installed and fastened them with antique nails.
» Make a statement with hardware. Throughout the house, Jackie specified oil-rubbed finishes on knobs, faucets, and hinges, so the hardware will gracefully acquire a patina over time.
» Add an appropriate personal touch. For the window and door trim, Jackie added carved scallop shells to the corner molding squares, a signature touch that expresses her style.
The living room’s slightly formal look belies its use as a family gathering space and game room. No television here, Jackie notes—this space is strictly for reading, chatting and playing games. The TV was relegated to the comfortable family room, another popular gathering spot. The dining area and kitchen are separate but still flow into each other, says Jackie. “Adults tend to gather in the dining room and kids around the kitchen table, but everyone’s visible to everyone else.”
Throughout the house, Jackie kept walls “quiet,” to provide a neutral background for the family’s artwork. She also kept window treatments restrained, letting the views make the main design statement. In public areas, wool sisal area rugs add easy-care softness underfoot, but in the bedrooms Jackie left floors bare. “It’s an airy, uncomplicated look, plus I love the feel of wood floors on bare feet in summertime,” she says.
“The house really is a blend of how we live and local Nantucket style,” Jackie says. “It’s just a matter of keeping it edited so it’s always as comfortable and welcoming as it was meant to be.”
Designer Jackie Higgins offers these ideas for creating lively, personality-filled spaces:
» Mingle old with new. “One adds history, the other freshness,” says Jackie. “Too much ‘old’ feels stale, while too much ‘new’ doesn’t feel lived in.”
» Choose materials with different textures and surfaces. In her home, Higgins juxtaposes mellow silver with woven baskets.
» Add instant pedigree to any room with carefully chosen works of art. Hang an oil painting, old or new, Jackie advises. For extra spark, find a piece that fits a room’s theme.
» Inject unexpected touches. Not everything has to fit perfectly into a scheme. If there’s something you’re drawn to (in Jackie’s case, a bronze mermaid sculpture she found at an auction displayed in the dining room), find a way to work it into a room.
» Incorporate meaningful items. “For me, it’s shells,” says Higgins. “Even for my urban clients, I always tuck a shell somewhere into the design.”