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Spacious Family Home on Nantucket

After 32 years on Nantucket, a Boston couple trades a cottage that never quite fit for a new home that gathers three generations with ease

Written by Mara Boo
  • Michael Partenio

    “I never wanted a house on Nantucket,” says interior designer Nancy Serafini, recalling the way she balked at husband Joe’s suggestion they look for a weekend escape from their Boston home. “I went kicking and screaming.” That was 32 years, one renovation, one addition, one remodel, and one new house ago. All in Nantucket, of course. “It’s really quite the story,” Nancy says. 

    Architect Tom Catalano honored Nancy Serafini’s wish for a large house that would retain the feel of her family’s original cottage. “It was all about breaking the house down into smaller components,” he says. “We didn’t want the house to seem big.” 

    Photography: Michael Partenio
    Produced by Stacy Kunstel

    Architect: Thomas Catalano, associate architect: Kerri Byrne, Catalano Architects Inc., 115 Broad St., Boston, MA 02110; 617/338-7447,
    Interior designer: Nancy Serafini, Nancy Serafini Interior Design, 617/413-3388,
    Builder: Will Gorman, project manager, Les Fey Millwork, 7 Square Rigger Rd., Nantucket, MA 02554; 508/228-7073.
    Landscape designer: Patricia Dunn, Sabrina Design, Greenwich, CT, 617/417-3637,
    Landscaping: Tom Hanlon Landscaping, 2 Greglen Ave., Suite 26, Nantucket, MA 02554; 508/325-0949,
    Drapery fabrication: Christopher Robert, Architexture, 617/256-6571.

  • Michael Partenio

    Entry Hall 

    Chapter One: In 1984, the Serafini kids are four and eight. Nancy and Joe buy “a crummy little 1960 beach shack.” It turns out to be infested with mildew. “We should have torn it down right then and there,” Nancy says. “But you know—we thought we could fix it up.”

    Farrow & Ball’s “Dix Blue” distinguishes the entry hall, where an antique French laundry table settles beneath paintings by Kevin Paulsen.


    Wall paint (“Dix Blue” #82): Farrow & Ball,
    Table (French laundry table): antique.
    Wall sconces (“Baton Single Sconce” #SC-215, by Palmer Hargrave): Dessin Fournir,
    Swan; large woven basket: Nantucket Looms,
    Pair of paintings: by Kevin Paulsen,
    Area rug (#SPHY 74814A): Stark,

  • Michael Partenio

    Living Room

    Chapter Two: Two years pass. The three-bedroom, one-bath house begins to feel cramped. “My stepfather designs a family-room addition,” Nancy says. “By now the house is darling—and I’ve become sentimentally attached to it.” 

    Open to the kitchen and serving as the family’s primary hangout space, the family room evinces Nancy’s preference that this house have mostly neutral interiors augmented by judicious use of pattern. The sunrise and sunset photographs are from John Duckworth Studio. “Those water photos substitute for the view we don’t have,” Nancy jokes. The aniline-dyed wood coffee table is Nancy’s own design.

    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Chandelier (“Adams Chandelier” #MM-1108): Urban Electric Co.,
    Area rug (custom, handwoven flatweave #4518, Design SF05 in the Polish Kilim Collection): J.D. Staron,
    Photograph, left (Breach Inlet, #65259); photograph, right (Breach Inlet, #65245): by John Duckworth,
    Sofas (“Clyde”): Verellen,
    Blue-patterned pillows on sofas: owner’s collection.
    Coffee table (custom design by Nancy Serafini): fabricated by O&G Studio,
    Chinese platter on coffee table (antique): owner’s collection.
    Chinese bowl (discontinued): Tozai Home,
    Wing chair (“Carter” #425): O Henry House,
    Chair fabric (“Astasia”/Sky #FW134/04, by William Yeoward for Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Pair of benches (“Toscane Upholstered Nailhead Stool”): Restoration Hardware,
    Cashmere throw (handmade): Nantucket Looms,
    Woven basket by sofa (“S/3 Woven Basket”): Two’s Company,  

  • Michael Partenio

    Spacious Dining Room

    Chapter Three: The children grow up, continuing to share a single bathroom with their parents. “The house wasn’t functioning that well for us anymore,” Nancy says. Over lunch, a girlfriend devises a way to add a second bath, sketching ideas on a napkin. The master bedroom gets an update; a new kitchen goes in. 

    Rustic light fixtures and an antique whirligig add coastal charm in the family's spacious dining room. 

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Banquette (“Wilkins Banquette” #D655-72): Stanford Furniture,
    Banquette fabric (“Royal Palm”/Indigo #725L59): Raoul Textiles,
    Panel above banquette (weathered antique architectural panel); swan figure on wall: Old Sprouter Gallery,
    Drapery (discontinued): Clarence House,
    Light fixtures (“Middlefield” #FR40575IRR, by Hinkley Lighting): Fergusons,
    Dining tables (“17th C. Ironbolt Trestle Rectangular Table”): Restoration Hardware,
    Dining chairs (“Seldon Dining Side Chair” #MN2500S); chair fabric (beige linen): Century Furniture,
    Wall sconces (antique, one-of-a-kind): John Rosselli Antiques,
    Wall whirligig: Sylvia Antiques, 508/228-0960. 

  • Michael Partenio

    Dining Room

    Chapter Four: The plot thickens. The children marry; grand-children are born. The young families depart Boston most weekends to join Nancy and Joe in Nantucket. “But the house is too small for us all, so every time they show up Joe and I have to leave and go to a hotel,” Nancy says. “It kind of defeats the purpose of having your grandkids come to visit.” And with that, they decide to tear the house down and build new—preserving only the addition Nancy’s step-father designed and the many memories associated with it. 

    An RH trestle table surrounded by chairs from Century Furniture furnishes the capacious dining room. 

  • Michael Partenio


    Today, the entire family congregates on weekends and holidays in an airy, six-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath house. “We have a ton of room for kids and grandkids and friends,” Nancy says. “It’s fabulous.”

    Nancy relaxes on a whimsically tall settee from Stanford Furniture. It’s covered in exuberant fabric from Raoul Textiles. 

    Banquette (“Wilkins Banquette” #D655-72): Stanford Furniture,
    Banquette fabric (“Royal Palm”/Indigo #725L59): Raoul Textiles,
    Panel above banquette (weathered antique architectural panel): Old Sprouter Gallery,

  • Michael Partenio

    Gray Kitchen

    It’s also ingenious, thanks to architect Tom Catalano’s idea to divide the house into two halves connected by a simple pocket door. One side encompasses generous rooms for cooking, dining, living, and sleeping; the other includes a five-bedroom guest wing. “The idea was to make a big house not seem big,” Catalano says. “For one thing, it had to fit within a neighborhood of mostly smaller cottages. For another, it had to work as well for two people as for the entire extended family—without feeling either too empty or too full.” And it does. 

    All the kitchen counters are topped with leathered white quartzite. The island’s counter is a chunky two inches thick, double that of the perimeter counters, providing a subtle variation in style. The rug is from Nantucket Looms, one of Nancy’s favorite local shops. An arch romances the kitchen sink, surrounded by cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore’s “White Dove.” Gray enameled pendants from Ann-Morris Antiques are suspended over an island awash in Benjamin Moore’s “Ocean Floor.” 

    Cabinetry (custom): Peter Culbertson, Culbertson Woodworking, 508/325-0797.
    Wall and cabinet paint (“White Dove” #OC-17); island paint (“Ocean Floor” #1630): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring (antique reclaimed chestnut): Chestnut Specialists,
    Countertop (“Super White Quartzite” with leathered finish): TBR Marble & Granite,
    Rug (discontinued): Nantucket Looms,
    Pendant lights over island (“Rover Light”): Ann-Morris Inc.,
    Pull-down faucet (“PLP Traditional Pulldown Faucet”/Polished Nickel  #5600); filtration faucet (“Annapolis Hot and Cold Filtration Faucet”/Polished Nickel #110HC); air switch (#4010); soap/lotion dispenser (#4060): Waterstone, Through Fergusons,
    Antique pitchers on counter (white ironstone): Faustina Pace Antiques, 305/495-0784.
    Refrigerator; refrigerator drawers (by Sub-Zero); cooktop; wall ovens (by Wolf): Sub-Zero/Wolf,
    Bar stools (“Atlantic Stool”): O&G Studio,

  • Michael Partenio

    Kitchen Details

    “When the kids aren’t here, we just close the pocket door between the two sides,” Nancy says. “That way we don’t feel like we’re wandering around this big house alone.” 

    A Waterstone faucet adds timeless appeal. 

  • Michael Partenio

    Beachy Office

    Cozied not only by its layout but also its interior architecture, the house wears layer upon layer of texture. Walls are clad in wood paneling, beadboard, and shiplap; ceilings are adorned with beams, themselves embellished with hand-forged iron rods spanning rooms, delivering contrast and visually lowering the scale of 17-foot cathedral ceilings. Arches abound. Beneath it all, reclaimed chestnut floorboards anchor the house, their random widths and many knots conferring a sense of history. 

    Built in bookshelves and desk: custom.
    Area rug (custom): Stark,
    Rattan chair (discontinued): Pottery Barn,
    on rattan chair (“Royal Palm”/Indigo #725L59): Raoul Textiles,
    Chair at desk; lounge chair and ottoman: owner’s collection.
    Chair-and-ottoman fabric
    (discontinued): Scalamandré,
    over bookshelves (“Langston” #MA-1103): Urban Electric Co.,

  • Michael Partenio

    Fresh Powder Room

    Totally fresh, however, is Nancy’s approach to its decor.  “I have a reputation for that Sister Parish look with pattern on pattern on pattern,” she says. “I forced myself to tone that down. I wanted the house to feel more contemporary for my kids and not look typical Nantucket.  It’s not nautical. You won’t find seashells anywhere.” 

    Zoffany's "Verdure" wallpaper wraps the powder rooms walls in fabulous pattern.

    Wallpaper (“Verdure” #310430): Zoffany,
    Cabinet: custom.
    Wall sconces (“Cole Wall Mounted Single Arm Sconce with Glass Shade”/Polished Nickel #CCLT01); faucet (“Henry Gooseneck Three Hole Deck Mounted Lavatory Faucet with Metal Lever Handles”/Polished Nickel #HNLS30): Waterworks,
    Mirror (discontinued): West Elm,
    Mirror finish: painted by Art Applications Inc.,
    Countertop (Carrara marble): TBR Marble & Granite,

  • Michael Partenio

    Master Bedroom 

    What you will find is a sophisticated take on relaxed weekend living. Antiques—a French laundry table here, Canton china there, and folk art practically everywhere—mingle easily with overstuffed furnishings practically begging visitors to take a nap, settle in with a good book, or unleash their inner builder. “The minute my grandkids get here the first thing they do is tear the pillows and cushions off the couches and build forts,” Nancy says. “The kiddie construction that goes on in this house is incredible.” 

    The bench and the Bunny Williams-designed wing chair for Lee Jofa are dressed in a William Yeoward fabric. Nancy designed the upholstered headboard. 

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Headboard (custom design by Nancy Serafini): fabricated by Partners in Design, 617/965-1950.
    Headboard and bed-skirt fabric (“Ufra”/Rose #FW140/01, by William Yeoward for Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    White bed cover (custom); navy bed cover (custom); monogrammed pillow shams (custom): High Cottom, 843/522-1405.
    Nightstands (“QS Oxford 2-Drawer S/Table” #GTAB246WH): Noir,
    Lamps on nightstands (“Double Gourd” #40): Stephen Gerould,
    Carpet: Stark,
    Art behind bed: by Nancy Simonds,
    Bench: custom.
    Bench fabric (“Saphia”/Steel #FW135/04, by William Yeoward for Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Throw: Nantucket Looms,

  • Michael Partenio

    Bright Ikat

    Hence Nancy’s penchant for what she terms “indestructible” furnishings, many of which are covered with indoor-outdoor fabrics that shrug off peanut-butter-and-jelly fingers. What isn’t easily washable or wipeable is cloaked in pattern—think florals, stripes, and damasks—in a range of unexpected blues. “You see a lot of blue and white on Nantucket, but most of it is crisp or beachy,” Nancy says.  “These colors are more like a mix of aqua and teal.”

    The Toulouse-Lautrec poster inspired the room’s palette. 

    Drapery (“Cobian”/Lapis #P0258): Pindler,
    Carpet: Stark,
    Dresser (“Easton Chest-Large”/Creme); lamp on dresser (“Charleston Lamp”/Navy): Oomph,
    Mirror over dresser (product line varies): Two’s Company,
    Wing chair (“Westcott Wingback Chair” #BLH-UPH-21, Bunny Williams Home): Lee Jofa,
    Chair fabric (“Saphia”/Steel #FW135/04, by William Yeoward for Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Red lacquer table (unavailable): Contract Sources Ltd.,
    Toulouse Lautrec print: owner’s collection.
    Lounge chair: Brunschwig & Fils,
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Juti”/Chambray #15445-157, John Robshaw Collection): Duralee,

  • Michael Partenio

    Master Bathroom

    Master bath artwork by Mellie Cooper coordinates with the upholshered seat of the vanity stool. 

    Wall paint (“Ammonite” #274): Farrow & Ball,
    Vanity (custom): Charles Stewart, Hooked on Wood, 508/228-9217.
    Vanity stool: Partners in Design, 617/965-1950.
    Seat-cushion fabric on stool (“Ufra”/Rose #FW140/01, by William Yeoward for Designers Guild): Osborne & Little,
    Art (by Mellie Cooper): Janis Aldridge Inc.,
    Vanity in bath area (custom): Partners in Design, 617/965-1950.
    Floor tiles in bathroom (“Lines Silver Wood Grey, #L101200001-100110504, Mosaics Collection): Porcelanosa,
    Bathtub (“Taylor 67-inch Acrylic Rectangular Tub” #ATCRECN67F-WH): Barclay,

  • Michael Partenio

    Guest Room

    They’re also reminiscent of the sea—a good thing, Nancy says, since her home lacks a view of the Atlantic Ocean. “In hindsight, we should have probably skipped all those years of renovation and remodeling and just bought a home by the beach.” She pauses. “But then we wouldn’t be living here. This house tells our family history. It’s the story of our lives.” With a happy ending, of course. 

    A Pindler fabric on the headboard, bedskirt, and draperies brings cohesive pattern to the guest room.

    Wall paint (“Pointing” #2003): Farrow & Ball,
    Ceiling and trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Headboard (custom design by Nancy Serafini): fabricated by Partners in Design, 617/965-1950.
    Drapery, headboard, and bed-skirt (“Tarino”/Copen #P0106): Pindler,
    Bed linens, duvet, and pillows (discontinued): West Elm,
    Art behind bed (by Mellie Cooper): Janis Aldridge Inc.,
    Wall sconces (“Griffith Swing Arm” #SK2109, by Suzanne Kasler for Visual Comfort): Circa Lighting,
    Bedside table: antique.
    Carpet (“Perrico”): Stark,
    Bird collage: Lussier Lajoie Framing,
    Ceiling fan: Casablanca Fan Co.,

  • Michael Partenio


    Nancy and Joe Serafini with their family: son John and his wife, Daniele, with kids Vivie, baby Teddy, and Jack (front); daughter Kate and her husband, Peter, with son Charlie (daughter Samantha was born soon after this photo).  

  • Bruce Buck