Creating a Ship-Shape Getaway -August 2015

by: Leslie Linsley

photography by: Jeffrey Allen

Not once, but two times, Kathleen Hay has been recognized by a distinguished international panel of judges as one of the world’s leading interior designers. Her work has been featured in numerous regional, national and international publications.

On Nantucket, Hay has designed both commercial and residential spaces and many residents here feel fortunate to live in a home she has had a hand in creating. Whether it’s a house that was built from scratch, or one that she has decorated, this designer comes to each new project in a bold but respectful manner, addressing the diverse challenges with an exciting, fresh approach. She knows the importance of collaboration: with architects, builders, contractors and especially the homeowners.

“My clients wanted a sophisticated house, not too casual or beachy, but clean and functional...” Kathleen Hay
Hay is a stickler for detail, always mindful of her ultimate goal of creating a beautiful environment that reflects the people who will live there. She is intimate with Nantucket, having put down roots here long ago and knows instinctively how to create a home that is appropriate for the area in which it is situated. Most importantly, she is a consummate professional and brings a wealth of experience to every project no matter how small or large.

I met up with Hay as she was putting the finishing touches on a recent project. It is the perfect example of creative, elegant, upscale downsizing with outstanding details, storage solutions and architectural interest that is awe-inspiring.

It’s a small gem that exemplifies, in a nutshell, why this designer is in such demand. Hay understands space, construction, building materials, size and scale in every aspect of putting together fresh, up-to-the-minute yet timeless spaces. This can only come to fruition through positive teamwork. All this, and she’s practical too.

There is nothing quite so romantic as a beachside vacation cottage. Small by today’s standards, the challenge for Hay was to create a comfortable home within approximately 1,200 square feet. “It’s the smallest project I’ve ever done,” she said.

Because of the size, the clients knew the house would require “built-in” furniture and maximum function.

The cottage has an open floor plan with a good-size kitchen, dining area, mudroom and bathroom downstairs and three efficiently-positioned bedrooms upstairs. The house also has three full bathrooms in which Hay managed to fit elegant and comfortable showers, appropriate storage for towels and bath accessories, and make the small spaces seem luxurious.

She designed the bedroom furniture to meet the size and scale of the house and had it custom-built by the general contractor, J. Brown Builders. The campaign beds – a king for the master bedroom, a queen for the guest room with a single bunk bed across the top for an occasional child (a rung ladder on the wall provides access) and twin bunk beds allow for storage drawers underneath without the need for dressers.

“You also avoid having bed skirts that can be a nuisance,” Hay pointed out. A clever detail is a center drawer

at the end of the king bed for storing suitcases. Bedside tables float from the walls to avoid legs that obstruct the ease of opening the drawers and swing-arm or hanging lamps provide lighting. All the fixtures were chosen for their nautical feeling appropriate to the area, along with the use of beadboard for the walls throughout.

The limitations of the square-footage allowed on the lot size and the needs of the family for comfortable living, required a talented architectural team, reliable and skilled contractor/builder and an interior designer who could think spatially. It would require someone who was experienced and creative enough to plan all the details and come up with interesting, exciting ideas for the interior design, specify the use of practical and good-looking materials, to solve storage problems creatively, to consider traffic flow and take into consideration how the family would be using the house.

Hay’s specialty is anticipating practical needs without sacrificing visual aesthetics.

“I loved the challenge of fitting all the required elements into the tight footprint,” she said. “I worked closely with Matthew MacEachern of Emeritus Development on the interior layout and the finishes.”

When you are in this house it’s like being inside a small, luxury yacht. Hay has instinctively made this home feel good. There’s a formal front door leading into an entry foyer, but the more user-friendly side door leads into a mudroom, although “mudroom” is too humble to describe this area. It is an unwinding space, a place to drop one’s outer gear, sit on a cushioned bench to remove running shoes or waders, and hang slickers and hats on pegs running along the wall. It’s a nice transition room.

Many designers might settle for the usual powder room for guests, but Hay always does “clever” so well. While it’s a lovely half-bath, there is one exception. Rather than a window, there’s an exterior glass door that opens into an outdoor shower. What a luxurious idea for creating another full bath.

Then there’s the floating stairway with cable wires for hand rails making this utilitarian access seem sculptural.

“My clients wanted a sophisticated house, not too casual or beachy, but clean and functional, so I chose furniture to meet their needs,” Hay said.

The neutral palette favored by Hay and her clients keeps “visual noise” to a minimum. She loves to incorporate elements of

the unexpected, and believes that a mix of materials and periods is the key to a successful room. Walnut, zebra wood, polished metal, marble, soft chenille and pickled white oak floors combine beautifully and subtly into a varied layering of textures. The overall effect is a sophisticated level of “kick-back” comfort and function appropriate for a seaside setting.

“My clients fell in love with the high-gloss walnut bar I had done at the Brick Bistro restaurant (in the Jared Coffin House) so we replicated it for their kitchen island,” Hay said. The easy transition from the entryway to the kitchen, dining area and living room makes the house feel luxurious.

“The house is always ready for a crowd of summer guests and the simple, clean furnishings are low-maintenance to ensure that the hosts can enjoy their summer days,” Hay said in summing up the space. ///

Leslie Linsley is a nationally-known author on design. Her latest book is “Nantucket Cottages and Gardens,” with photographer Terry Pommett.

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