A Historic Island Home Goes Back to Its Roots

A venerable Nantucket home gets a well-considered update.
Rewriting History Kitchen

The repainted kitchen is bright and breezy. Photography Jane Beiles

In 1846 a great fire roared through the central business district of Nantucket, burning nearly every dwelling in its path. Few were spared. This stunning four-story captain’s house, which commands an enviable harbor view, was one.

Dating back to 1835, the historic property has lived several lives, including as a bed-and-breakfast inn. Now, the lovely, light-filled dwelling has returned to its roots, serving as a spacious and welcoming summer home for a family of five.

The homeowners had vacationed on the island for several years before deciding to buy. When it came time to tackle the interiors, they turned to Christina Roughan of Roughan Interiors, with whom they had worked on several previous projects. “We have a very good rapport,” says the designer, “And they were very specific about what they wanted the house to be.”

First and foremost, they wanted to preserve the home’s historic integrity. At the same time, they aimed to make it feel modern and relaxed. “It’s Nantucket and they wanted it to be relevant to the island,” says Roughan. “Not fancy, but comfortable.” That vision was right up Roughan’s alley. “I love going into older homes and putting a bit of a modern touch to them, so they don’t look like everybody else’s home.”


Structurally the house was in great shape. Local contractor Josiah Newman, whose family has been on Nantucket for many generations, took down a wall between the family room and kitchen and added a powder room in the process.

He refinished all the wood floors, millwork, and front staircase, painted the walls inside and out, renovated the bathrooms, and redid the lighting. He also removed the wall covering in the kitchen and painted everything a bright white, refaced all the cabinets, and changed out the hardware.

The feel throughout is bright and airy, thanks in part to the high ceilings and large windows. “It was a very grand home for its time,” says Roughan. “And the details are incredible. I used those influences to create a nice juxtaposition of modern and traditional.” She mixed period antiques with midcentury and custom furnishings and incorporated a palette of blues and greens. “We wanted it to be Nantucket but without shouting beach house.”

Nantucket Living Room

A Jonathan Adler vase tops the Maison Gerard 1960s coffee table from Greenwich Living Design, the skirted Decker sofa is through Motif Designs, and the custom ottoman sports a Kravet linen in the living room. A pair of Hackney floor lamps are from Circa Lighting. Photography Jane Beiles

In the living room, the blue and white rug is formal but not stuffy. An antique bookcase serves as a stage for an ocean-themed curio collection. A navy Kravet outdoor velvet tops the client’s own chairs in the formal dining room,  while the table sports a collection of colonial-era candlesticks and glass hurricanes.

Roughan spent hours searching for just the right decorative piece to finish every room. When the client said she wanted a bust for the office study that said “Americana,” Roughan played with several ideas before settling on George Washington. “How much more ‘Americana’ can you get than George Washington?” she says. “The pedestal had to have a European influence, and I found the perfect one on a website in Holland. Add in the fresh black-and-white image of the ocean above the fireplace, and it’s modern, clean-lined, and works really well.”

On the second-floor landing, cast-resin cameos of Roman emperors grace one blue wall. Originally commissioned for a New York City club in the 1970s, they were an antique store find. Another whimsical pairing: a faux turtle shell above a vintage rattan chest in the master bedroom. As for the black-and-white striped concrete floor in the lower level? “We wanted to do something fun,” says Roughan. “It’s unexpected to walk down to a basement and find that even the mudroom is so well thought out.”

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Rewriting History.
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