None Too Big -July 2015
by: Leslie Linsley
photography by: Terry Pommett
No one knows exactly when this house was named, but its owner thinks “None Too Big” suits it just fine.
This iconic Sconset cottage in the Pump Square section of the village has a colorful history. Built in the 1700s, it is believed to have been moved to its current site from near Sankaty Light. In the 1860s, it was home to the lighthouse keeper and later became the Burgess General Market. In the 1800s, a two-story addition was built across the gable end facing Broadway. That side of the house now comprises the downstairs kitchen and the second-floor living room, which is reached by a winding wooden stairway. The kitchen, once the store, had a front porch, which was removed. This room is now the hub of the house.
When it was purchased in 1987, the cottage was a dilapidated structure. But the buyers were discerning enough to see beyond its shabby state. They were excited to meet the challenge of reclaiming and renovating it into a family summer home. It took a great deal of creative insight and an abundance of energy to achieve their vision. With the help of island architect J. Gwynne Thorsen, the couple did extensive restoration and redesign. Today the house is a little gem, nestled between other early structures that make up the heart of the village, where the same families have occupied many of the houses for generations.
Because the owners and Thorsen had built boats, they decided the interior should be designed for efficient use of space. It would be neat and organized and shipshape, with lots of built-ins, like the bunk beds in the living room, reminiscent of their family’s boathouse. They followed their excellent instincts with impressive results. The combination of white walls, pickled floors, scrubbed pine furniture (mostly Danish), uncluttered windows, almost always open, and the use of white canvas with touches of blue, gives the house a clean, fresh feeling. No shades or draperies interfere with the relationship of the interior to the outside environment. Surprisingly, the sheer curtains on the front bedroom windows lend enough privacy while allowing light to filter through.
The house sits sideways between Broadway and Center Street. Entering by way of a trellised archway, one finds a perfectly-tended cottage garden and pocket-sized front yard. It is quite magical and an oasis from the bustle of summertime activities in the village. As avid gardeners, the homeowners carefully designed every area of the yard in such a delightfully uncontrived manner that it appears always to have been this way. The old-fashioned charm of the low flowerbeds is reminiscent of that found in an English cottage garden filled with surprises. Over the years, weather such as we had this winter has played havoc with the garden. Much loving care has gone into its rejuvenation, however. It continues to provide new challenges for planting appropriate flowers and shrubs in keeping with the scale of the house and the village of Sconset. This year’s color scheme is shades of lavender and pink. Large containers of flowering plants flank both sides of the steps and can be moved about at whim. At the back door, just as the early Nantucket settlers had, pots of herbs are readily accessible for cooking.
No creative opportunity has been overlooked. For example, the shrubs and flowers, nestled against the house, are visually contained by a gently-curving border created with clusters of stones gathered from Coatue, the arm of the island that juts out into Nantucket Sound. The deliberately-irregular stone steps leading to the front door were made to look as though an old Sconset resident laid them a very long time ago. Before the cement could dry, seashells were imbedded between the stones in just the right places.
The deliberate and responsible attention to detail that has gone into both the interior and exterior spaces of this cottage make it visually interesting, in keeping with the area, and respectful of the surrounding houses. The furnishings have a comfortable, country feeling that is appropriate for a carefree cottage lifestyle. Now there are three generations coming and going all summer long and the house seems to accommodate perfectly the activities of this busy family.
Leslie Linsley is a nationally-known author on decor and design. She is a regular contributor to Nantucket Today.