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Nantucket Home with a Quiet Palette

The relaxed elegance and soft palette of a Nantucket beach house play into the island’s nickname

Written by Charlotte Safavi
  • John Bessler

    It was easy for Connecticut-based Jane and Soren Sorensen to fall for the historic island of Nantucket, a crescent-shape slip of land some 30 miles off Cape Cod. The couple strolled the island’s cobblestone streets during their courtship, summered on its sandy beaches as newlyweds, and even owned a small place there after their daughters were born.

    “Everything melts away when you hop aboard that mainland ferry and get off on Nantucket,” Jane says. “It’s a charming, magical place that exists outside our crazy daily lives. Whenever we’re there, we’re always doing something low-key as a family, whether it’s biking, scalloping, or simply picnicking at the beach.” 

    The Sorensens bought 1.4 acres on the island back in 2012 after deciding to build a compound there—a retreat large enough to accommodate their family (the girls are 12, 15, and 17) as well as host extended family and close friends.

    “We found we were spending more and more time on the island—and not just in the summer,” Jane says.

    The fairy tale that culminated in the five-bedroom beach house with pristine landscaping also had a storybook beginning, with one chapter leading to another. The Sorensens’ real-estate agent referred them to Matthew MacEachern and his architectural design firm. Through MacEachern, they met local builder Edward Toole, whose sister Cynthia Hayes is an interior designer.

    “It was kismet,” Jane says. “The team was so interconnected, with these layered relationships. They’d all worked together before, had strong ties to Nantucket, and really understood the island. It just felt right.”

    Jane and Soren Sorensen built the Shingle-style Nantucket beach house to accommodate year-round family gatherings. 

    Photography: John Bessler
    Produced by Eleanor Roper and Charlotte Safavi

    Architectural designer: Matthew R. MacEachern, Emeritus Development, 8 Williams Lane, Nantucket, MA 02554; 508/325-4995, emeritusdevelopment.com.
    Interior designer: Cynthia Hayes, Cynthia  Hayes Interior Design, 27 Gertrude Ave., Rumford, RI 02916; 401/480-5512, cynthiahayesid.com.
    Builder: Edward Toole, Altest Ventures Inc., 15 Commercial Wharf, Nantucket, MA 02554; 508/228-3603. 

    Dining table (“Wainscott Rectangular Dining Table,” 85-inch #WS85) dining chairs (“Venice Dining Armchair” #VN15);  rattan furniture by pool and by fireplace (Sag Harbor Collection, with canvas cushions) : Kingsley-Bate, kingsleybate.com

  • John Bessler

    Living Room

    That was a perfect scenario for the Sorensens, who wanted a casual yet sophisticated beach house that blended with the island’s vernacular architecture. They envisioned a contemporary airy-and-bright open floor plan that seamlessly flowed outdoors.

    When it was time to decorate, Hayes and her colleague, Pamela Manchester, conferred closely with the homeowners, beginning with the decision to choose a palette that would complement the fresh take on the home’s neoclassical architecture.

    The team chose transitional furniture with clean-lined silhouettes, ideal for informal yet stylish family life. A striéd wood coffee table sets the tone in the living room, which features a long linen-blend sofa facing two Ultrasuede armchairs that swivel so family or guests can also watch a TV on an adjacent wall. A pair of patterned X-benches with wrought-iron legs can be moved around as needed. 

    “We like to do our big pieces in neutrals but add pops of color and pattern in smaller furnishings that can be changed with time,” Hayes says. “We also favor punches of strong black to lend sharp definition to and contrast with all the lighter colors. For example, in the kitchen, the wooden bar stools are painted black, but the table is stark white.”

    A metallic light fixture sits snugly against the coffered ceiling so as not to interfere with the limestone fireplace wall. The ceiling and trim are painted in a Benjamin Moore white, which contrasts subtly against the “White Dove” used on the walls. A striated gray woven linen rug from Rustigian Rugs provides definition to the seating area. Meanwhile, a pair of French doors makes for easy passage onto the back deck. 

    Wall paint  (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Stone on fireplace wall: limestone.
    Ceiling light (“Broche Ceiling Light,” by Crystorama): Nantucket Lightshop, nantucketlightshop.com.
    Area rug (“Ainsley” #21972, woven linen striated flatweave, VGR Collection): Rustigian Rugs, rustigianrugs.com.
    Sofa (#3875-03): Lee Industries, leeindustries.com.
    Sofa fabric (“Soma Sugar”): Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com.
    Pair of pillows on sofa (“Metrovia Print” #1044060993, by Travers): Zimmer + Rohde, zimmer-rohde.com.
    Throw; vase on coffee table; wooden bowl on coffee table: Nantucket Looms, nantucketlooms.com.
    End table by sofa (“Wrapped Rope Clover Stool/Table” #6269-01): Palecek, palecek.com.
    Floor lamp (“Cone Floor Lamp”): Dwell Studio, dwellstudio.com.
    Coffee table (custom): Scott Pacheco, 508/264-6563.
    Benches (“Seli Ottoman” #C843-00): The Charles Stewart Co., charlesstewartcompany.com.
    Bench fabric (“Taza”/Flint #1029-02): Kerry Joyce Textiles, kerryjoyce.com.
    Pair of lounge chairs (“Swivel Chairs” #1242-01SW): Lee Industries, leeindustries.com.
    Chair fabric (“Sahara”/Ivory by Old World Weavers): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
    Wooden chair by fireplace (“French Modernist Armchair” #W7342): Wisteria, wisteria.com

  • John Bessler

    White Kitchen

    “When you have lots of polished millwork with clean lines and sharp details, the hand-hewn rustic beams provide contrast and impart a sense of casualness and history,” MacEachern says.

    White paneled cabinetry characterizes the kitchen, along with a large island with a granite countertop. A rustic wood beam separates the eat-in nook from the rest of the kitchen. 

    Cabinetry: custom.
    Wall paint (“Horizon” #OC-53): BenjaminMoore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Flooring: custom.
    Perimeter countertop: White Thassos marble.
    Island countertop: Super White granite.
    Hanging lights over island (“Armand Pendant” #42467, discontinued; for similar, “Lily Pendant” #46653): Arteriors, arteriorshome.com.
    Bar stools: owner’s collection.
    Range: Wolf, subzero-wolf.com.
    Art to right of sink: by Julija Mostykanova, julijamostykanova.com.
    Bowl on island (product line varies): Bodega Nantucket, bodeganantucket.com.
    Bench (custom): Scott Pacheco, 508/264-6563. 
    Bench fabric (“Gillian” #GILLIAN.11): Kravet, kravet.com.

  • John Bessler

    Breakfast Area

    “I arranged all the primary living spaces—living, dining, and kitchen—in a linear assembly, with direct correlation to the backyard’s pool, pergola, and patio,” says MacEachern.

    Breezy rows of French doors open off the living and dining rooms, while the kitchen terminates in an eat-in bay where sunlight streams in through double-hung windows.

    Table (custom): Scott Pacheco, 508/264-6563.
    Dining chairs (“Criss Cross Dining Chair”/White): Zuo Mod, zuomod.com.
    Bench (custom): Scott Pacheco, 508/264-6563.
    Bench fabric (“Gillian” #GILLIAN.11): Kravet, kravet.com.
    Geometric-patterned pillow (#4006-32): Hickory Chair, hickorychair.com.
    Floral pillow (“Lotus”/Light Flax on Cream Linen): Galbraith & Paul, galbraithandpaul.com.
    Hanging light (“Kina Pendant”/Natural, by David Trubridge): Y Lighting, ylighting.com.
    Oval Nantucket basket with scallop shell details (by Bill and Judy Sayle): Four Winds Craft Guild, fourwindscraftguild.com.

  • John Bessler

    Light and Bright Dining

    “To prevent the floor plan from becoming a large, undefined space, we introduced separation via columns, half-walls, and pilasters,” MacEachern says. “There are also different ceiling treatments—like the coffered ceiling above the dining room—helping the transition from one space to the next.” 

    A mix of materials, including a limestone feature wall in the living room, salvaged ceiling beams, and white oak floors, adds textural interest against pale white walls.

    The designers made practical choices in dining room furnishings, both for traffic flow and casual seaside living. The placement and shape of the round dining room table, which comfortably seats eight, leaves plenty of room for someone on the way to the kitchen or backyard. They chose stain-repellent upholstery in the dining room and vinyl seating at the kitchen’s banquette, helping to create an overall setting that welcomes damp bathing suits, sandy feet, and even wet and muddy dogs—especially Teddy, the family’s Wheaten terrier.

    Tufted chairs by Charles Stewart Company gather around a custom-designed dining room table with a dramatic black  X-base. A hammered-iron light pendant finished in white paint keeps things airy and bright. 

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17); ceiling paint (“Horizon” #OC-53): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Dining table (custom): Scott Pacheco, 508/264-6563.
    Dining chairs (“Seefeld Chairs” #C497-00) The Charles Stewart Company, charlesstewartcompany.com.
    Chair fabric (“Lux”/Glacier #29619.15): Kravet, kravet.com.
    Hanging light (“Ziggy Pendant” #46806): Arteriors, arteriorshome.com.
    Vase and flowers: Flowers on Chestnut, flowersonchestnut.com.

  • John Bessler

    Window Seat

    “We didn’t want the typical nautical blue, white, and yellow look,” Hayes says. “We wanted to choose a scheme that reflected something of Nantucket, so we chose a lot of gray. It can be very gray on Nantucket.” Hayes notes that the island’s nickname is the “Gray Lady of the Sea” because of the thick fog that often rolls in and swathes the scenery. “We went with those soft gray and sand hues like you’d find at the beach, with pops of purple—Jane’s favorite color.”

    Those lovely gray hues make an appearance on the cozy window seat.

    Daybed (built-in): custom.
    Daybed cushion (“Latitude”/White #16234.1): Kravet, kravet.com.
    Wall light (“Boston Functional Single Arm Library Light” #SL2922): Circa Lighting, circalighting.com

  • John Bessler

    Family Room

    “The Sorensens wanted a sophisticated look, but we wanted to make sure it wasn’t so sophisticated that it felt like city living,” Hayes says. “We deliberately mixed in warmer, rustic, natural elements to balance the cool palette and crisp furnishings.”

    Sisal and jute rugs achieve that look, along with accent pieces like the living room’s handwoven abaca chair and the kitchen’s sculptural bamboo light pendant.

    Steel cable stair rails lead into the family room, which tucks under the eaves on the second floor landing. A roomy Lee Industries sectional and a pair of linen ottomans with wave stitching from V Rugs and Home provide plentiful room for lounging. 

    Wall paint above chair rail (“Mountain Peak White”); wall paint below chair rail (white): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Sectional sofa (“One Arm Cornering Sofa” and “One Arm Right Facing Chaise” from Sectional Series 5392); sofa fabric (“Jefferson Cream”): Lee Industries, leeindustries.com.
    Vine pillows on sofa (“Warfield”/Lavender #FM 1105): Ferrick Mason, ferrickmason.com.
    Striped pillow (“Kelly Stripe”/Violet, Natural #2034-06): Kerry Joyce Textiles, kerryjoyce.com.
    Area rug (“Kamali”/Luna Pearl, jute): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
    Coffee table (“Molecule Coffee Table”): Worlds Away, worlds-away.com.
    Ottomans (“Wave Cubes”); fabric (“Old Fig” #9734): V Rugs and Home, vrugsandhome.com.
    Sofa end table (“Wrapped Rope Clover Stool/Table” #6269-01): Palecek, palecek.com.
    Hanging light over stairwell (“Leonardo Pendant Light,” by Antoni Arola, from Santa & Cole Lighting): PureModern, puremodern.com.

  • John Bessler

    Family Room

    When not in use, the ottomans slide beneath a console from Noire. The rustic bench adds organic warmth, as does the small wooden stool. 

    Console table (discontinued): Noir, noirfurniturela.com.
    Ottomans (“Wave Cubes”); fabric (“Old Fig” #9734): V Rugs and Home, vrugsandhome.com.
    Wooden bench: Coastal Nantucket, coastalnantucket.com.
    Small wooden stool: owner’s collection.
    Art above console, left (Folded Dreams, Recif.); art above console, right (Folded Dreams, Eden): Natural Curiosities, naturalcuriosities.com.
    Art on console: by Joan P. Albaugh, joanalbaugh.com.

  • John Bessler

    Master Bedroom

    An antique mirrored headboard by Made Goods adds sparkle while lacquered grass-cloth bedside tables by Bungalow 5 and a seascape by Nantucket photographer Daniel Sutherland nod to the serene beach setting. 

    Wall paint (“Alaskan Husky” #1479): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Area rug (“Richard” #23802, woven wool striated flatweave, VGR Collection): Rustigian Rugs, rustigianrugs.com.
    Headboard (“Mia”): Made Goods, madegoods.com.
    Embroidered pillow shams: Romo, romo.com.
    Lumbar pillow (“Ballet”/Argent #32060164): Casamance, casamance.com.
    Photograph behind bed (by Daniel Sutherland): Gráficas, graficasgallery.com.
    Bench at end of bed  (“Cody”): Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com.
    Bedside table (“Valentina 1-Drawer Side Table”/White #VAL-110-59-TB): Bungalow 5, bungalow5.com.
    Table lamps (“Nova”): Made Goods, madegoods.com.
    Flowers and vase: Flowers on Chestnut, flowersonchestnut.com.
    Window shades (“Dieu White Woven Shade”): Lafayette Venetian Blind, lafvb.com

  • John Bessler

    Daybed

    A daybed from Hickory Chair sits in a reading nook in one corner of the bedroom—offering the ideal spot for an afternoon daydream.  

    Wall paint (“Alaskan Husky” #1479): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Area rug (“Richard” #23802, woven wool striated flatweave, VGR Collection): Rustigian Rugs, rustigianrugs.com.
    Headboard (“Mia”): Made Goods, madegoods.com.
    Embroidered pillow shams: Romo, romo.com.
    Lumbar pillow (“Ballet”/Argent #32060164): Casamance, casamance.com.
    Photograph behind bed (by Daniel Sutherland): Gráficas, graficasgallery.com.
    Bench at end of bed  (“Cody”): Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com.
    Bedside table (“Valentina 1-Drawer Side Table”/White #VAL-110-59-TB): Bungalow 5, bungalow5.com.
    Table lamps (“Nova”): Made Goods, madegoods.com.
    Flowers and vase: Flowers on Chestnut, flowersonchestnut.com.
    Window shades (“Dieu White Woven Shade”): Lafayette Venetian Blind, lafvb.com

  • John Bessler

    Master Bath

    A chevron-pattern marble floor leads to a deep tub. 

    Paint (white): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Window shades (“Dieu White Woven Shade”): Lafayette Venetian Blind, lafvb.com.
    Towels: Nantucket Looms, nantucketlooms.com.

  • John Bessler

    Guest Bedroom

    A pillow from John Robshaw adds a punch of pattern to the gray-and-white palette. The “Nantucket” print is by Liz Roache. 

    Wall paint (“Oystershell” #864): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
    Bed (custom): K.C. Upholsterers, 508/748-2851.
    Bed fabric (“Darwin”/Silver #J624F-07, by Jane Churchill): Cowtan & Tout, cowtan.com.
    Bolster pillow (“Nadole Bolster”): John Robshaw, johnrobshaw.com.
    “Nantucket” art: Liz Roache, lizroache.com

  • John Bessler

    Homeowners

    “We love it and are here all the time,” Jane says. “Thanksgiving on the island is our latest tradition. We invite family, out-of-town and local friends. We even start the morning with the Nantucket ‘turkey plunge’ in the ocean—whoever’s up for it,” she adds with a laugh. “Usually, it’s just the kids!”

    Jane and Soren enjoy a bicycle built for two. 

  • Eric Roth