Cottage Living -July 2015

by: Lindsay Pykosz

The cottages in Leslie Linsley’s new book may be small, but they have big personalities.

In “Nantucket Cottages & Gardens: Charming Spaces on the Faraway Isle,” Linsley, who partnered with island photographer Terry Pommett, shows off some of Nantucket’s best quaint spaces, from Madaket to Sconset.

“I tried to find houses that represent different parts of the island, because I like to tie in the architecture with the history of the island,” Linsley said. “So you get a sense of what was going on in the 1600s when they built the whaling cottages, but also what’s going on when they built the new houses. The houses have to have personality, and personality comes from the homeowners. So I’m partial to houses where people have infused themselves into it and their lifestyle is apparent.”

The book, which took two years to create, includes photos and descriptions of each of the cottages Linsley chose, and also provides tips for readers on how to downsize in an upscale way. A major message highlighted throughout the more than 200 pages is quality over quantity.

Linsley and Pommett’s intent was to think of a way to switch the focus from the island’s current trend toward large-scale homes.

“We were looking at all of the big house-building on the island, and we wanted to write about how the small houses and the cottages are important for the fabric of the island and that it’s important to recognize that it is a part of the island that is so charming,” Linsley said.

A few of the pointers Linsley describes to design a home in the perfect “Nantucket cottage style” are to keep windows open to allow fresh air in; create a comfortable space to relax; decorate with local artwork or lightship baskets, boat models, pottery and antique tins, objects closely associated with Nantucket; and place Nantucket books on a small stool or chair.

Everything must serve a purpose.

“A good rule of thumb: If it needs a lot of care, if it doesn’t look right, if it makes you uncomfortable, if it’s ‘wrong’ but you don’t know why, toss it,” Linsley writes. “Nantucket cottage style is all about feeling good in your own home. It should be a peaceful oasis, like the island itself.”

When houses are chosen, Linsley will scout the location and Pommett will decide whether it’s photogenic. Linsley said the two know instantly whether or not a house will work.

“The house has to have a lot of elements. It can’t just be architecturally interesting,” she added.

The two also look for variety, as the island is home to a diversity of homes and people.

“We had a variety of uses, also: people who use their homes for summer vacation homes, people who live here year-round, people who are in a small house because they’ve downsized from a big family house to something smaller, people just starting out, single people of all different ages, and families who are just starting and have a small child,” Linsley said. “So each house has a different lifestyle, and that’s kind of fun because you can relate to people.

“There is a story to be told, and the story is who built these small spaces, cottages, and why, and what was going on on the island at the time and did it influence the building.”

In addition to photographing and describing the interior of the cottages, Linsley and Pommett also took into account the gardens in the yards that surround them.

“A cottage garden is a distinct style of garden that uses an informal design, often dense plantings and traditional materials,” Linsley writes. “It is never grand or formal, but rather casual, with a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. When we think of a cottage garden, we might imagine a little structure in the English countryside and, in fact, this is its origin.”

Linsley further described these outdoor spaces as looking like “they happened by accident or they’ve been there forever.”

“Most of the gardens are interesting because a lot of cottage gardens have a little walkway through it or a little fountain or found objects, and they’re more interesting than formal gardens,” she said.

Planning a Nantucket cottage-style garden? Follow Linsley’s eight tips:

  • Choose plantings for their old-fashioned appeal.
  • Arbors give a casual appearance.
  • Something old can lend an air of charm.
  • Use native plants and those adapted to the local climate. • Plant roses, climbing roses in particular.
  • Cottage-garden flowers include: lavender, hollyhocks, carnations, sweet William, marigolds, lilies, peonies, evening primrose, daisies, lily-of-the-valley and cowslips.
  • Herbs with household uses: lavender, sweet woodruff, thyme, sage, basil, parsley, catnip and soapwart.
  • Typical fruits might be raspberries, apples for cider, and pear trees. A modern garden might include a dogwood or crab-apple tree.

The book also gives readers pointers on how to renovate a cottage to incorporate the Nantucket style.

“I have tips from builders and architects on how to take on a small project because the desire is always to do it bigger,” Linsley said.

Once all the pages of the book have been turned, Linsley hopes that readers will take away a new appreciation and desire to live small.

“My goal would be to have people look at these houses and become turned on by the idea of building small,” she said. “And I think that makes sense on Nantucket. It really makes sense.” ///

Lindsay Pykosz is a Nantucket native and staff writer for The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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