Coastal Decorating Ideas from a Nantucket Cottage
As an anthropologist, Linda Zarrella has long been smitten with Nantucket's rich history; as a budding decorator, she adored its tidy little cottages, clad in that faded cedar shake. For the better part of three decades, she and her husband, Ron, and, later, their two daughters vacationed there, at the historic Wauwinet Inn. Eventually, in 1999, Linda wanted to make a commitment.
After three home-buying attempts went south, she finally nabbed the former honeymoon cottage at the Inn as her family's own.
In this photo: Linda Zarrella found her dining room's late-1800s farm table and reproduction Windsor chairs at Nantucket House Antiques. The verdigris chandelier is by Richard Mulligan.
The Zarrellas, who live most of the year in Rochester, New York, basically camped out in the rustic structure for a summer before embarking on a two-year-long renovation. "It was a labor of love, with the sea by my side," Linda says. She also had an ace up her sleeve. Along with architect Luke Thornewill, she hired interior designer Janet Kielley, whose firm had worked on the 1998 renovation of the Wauwinet Inn.
In this photo: A custom linen cabinet and a ship's ladder—both crafted locally—make the most of an upstairs hall corner.
In Kielley, Linda found the perfect decorating partner. Together, the two added a widow's walk to the cottage's new roof, a romantic nod to the watchful waiting of sailors' wives. They decided to move the kitchen to a corner with spectacular harbor views, installing a stretch of mullioned windows above the sink.
In this photo: The kitchen's paneled walls and hood wear Benjamin Moore's Morning Dew, while the cabinets are clad in the brand's Vale Mist. Local decorative painter Christina Wiggins transformed the fir floor.
Bright Idea: A piece of found driftwood functions as a handle for the door concealing the fridge.
There is one provincial custom Linda was adamant about not following: "I didn't want the expected white interiors," she explains. Instead, coastal blues and greens enliven antique quilts and period chests, apothecary bottles and stacked footstools. For the walls and floors, Linda chose paints with names that include the words mist and dew. "People walk in and ask, 'What is it?' " she says of the effect. "After being outside in the bright sun, those tones calm everything. You feel like you're wrapped inside a fog."
In this photo: Century-old quilts in Pinwheel (left) and Bear's Paw patterns dress the antique wrought-iron beds. The new rag rug was handwoven by area artisans at the Weaving Room, and the demijohn lamp hails from a nearby antiques shop.
Bright Idea: Loosen up a traditional bedroom with mismatched quilts.
This former pantry morphed into the "Ship's Room," where a built-in berth beckons guests to curl up with a good book. A wooden barrel top and a nautical buoy combine to make timeworn wall art.
The stair landing doubles as a mini museum of regional tools, including a cranberry rake, a wire lobster trap, and glass floats. The caged pendant light was discovered at Val Maitino Antiques; the cabinets' strap hinges are by Whitechapel.
Ron Zarrella's home office reflects his love of sailing through a vintage nautical lamp, a Nantucket Alerion Fleet racing pennant, and hats from sailing clubs around the world. The weathered pine desk was once a tavern table.
"Design is an anthropological field for me," says Linda, who imbued the house with a strong sense of regional history. Whenever possible, she and Kielley selected furniture from the turn of the century—around the period when the cottage was built—buying much of it from island antiques dealers. They also commissioned local artisans to produce area rugs and paint patterns on many of the floors.
In this photo: A document box from the late 19th century now serves as a trunk for extra blankets in a guest bedroom. Old pharmacy bottles and a Shaker box echo the blue hue.
In the living room, an early-20th-century iron whale doorstop sits atop stacked stools from the same period.
An outdoor shower boasts driftwood wall hooks by artist Daniel Mack and a custom whale-shaped door latch.