Nantucket has made its name as one of the ultimate summer vacation spots, defined by its shingle-covered homes and beautiful coastal views. Over time, Nantucket has developed its own interior design style composed of a pitch-perfect combination of historical elegance and nautical whimsy. Smitten as we are with the look, we turned to our favorite Nantucket-loving designers Tharon Anderson, Kevin Isbell and Audrey Sterk and asked them to share some of the elements they use on repeat when decorating Nantucket homes. If you’re looking to recreate Nantucket’s classic beauty, here are five easy ways to add some classic down-by-the-seashore appeal to your home, ocean-front or not!
1. Incorporate Rattan & Natural Fiber
Rattan and other natural fibers always remind us of the textures of the beach (if you’ve ever taken a walk barefoot along the shore, you’ll know what we’re talking about). As the ultimate symbol of island life, rattan furniture creates a calming environment to kick back and relax. Above, designer Kevin Isbell used woven pendants to balance a window topped in a rattan shade. Both lend a casual contrast to the bright white walls, while working to simultaneously evoke a casual beach feeling. Another way to achieve this effect is through classic wicker furniture, such as wicker bar stools or barrel chairs. Or, add a sisal rug to the room to show your feet some love!
2. Layer in Linen Upholstery
Linen has found a revered place in Nantucket design. Its natural texture perfectly complements the light, beachside atmosphere of island homes. Here, in Tharon Anderson’s pretty pool room, a linen upholstered daybed and linen accent pillows provide an inviting (yet cooling) place to take a nap. Since linen is a highly breathable material, it helps to maintain an optimal skin temperature and never feels stuffy. There’s no need to stick with white linens, either! Blue, gray, and other pastels can also offer the same beloved fresh linen look. Feel free to play around with stripes and patterns on upholstery throughout the home.
3. Factor in a Painted Floor
A painted floor is not only cost-effective, but can be a transformational element for your room. Often found in seaside cottages, painted floors are much loved for their practicality. Conceal summer debris or wear with a fresh coat of paint, or embrace the lived-in look of a distressed patina. Colors can play an optical illusion as well, with lighter colors opening up a space and darker colors grounding it and lending drama. The best part? Painted floors are completely customizable, so you’re not limited to solid colors. Take it up a notch with splatter-painted floors, or use stencils to create mesmerizing patterns.
4. Introduce Nautical Elements
As a seaport town, fishing has long been integral to Nantucket’s culture; a fact that that’s clearly reflected in the interior designs of its homes. Contrary to popular belief, nautical elements don’t have to be all starfish, anchors, and buoys, though! Many designers use more subtle repurposed fisherman elements, such as these casually elegant caged chandeliers designer Audrey Sterk selected for a Nantucket dining room. A webbed netting exterior lends these pendants the feel of crab traps, yet refrains from the kitsch of actual crab traps. For more understated fisherman accents, try Japanese glass buoys as tabletop décor, or an oversized clam shell repurposed as a catchall bowl. If you’re still wary of treading into theme park territory, take a note from Audrey’s room and limit yourself to just one or two fisherman-inspired elements in a room.
5. Pepper in Portuguese & Dutch Antiques
Nantucket has a rich history as a prominent trading port in the 18th century. Its strategic location brought many foreign influences into its style mix, embedding them into its own signature style. Designer Kevin Isbell shares, “It’s not uncommon to find English, Portuguese or Dutch antiques and their use of color and pattern on the island. This frees you from having to subscribe to the all blue and white theme that has become so cliché in today’s coastal interiors.” And we totally agree! Kevin’s bedroom above makes ample use of European antiques. Most notably, a minimalist Danish-inspire wall sconce and European artwork work to capture a multi-cultural elegance. When picking out Dutch and Portuguese antiques, stick to ones that still have an inherent nautical vibe. Blue and white delft pottery, wood chests, and barley leg furniture are all examples that stay true to Nantucket style.
Lead photo by Read McKendree