Gary McBournie Designs a Classic Nantucket Boathouse

June 4, 2024

Is it a boathouse or a sailor’s Happiest Place on Earth? Gary McBournie designed it to be both.

Text by Erika Ayn Finch    Photography by Annie Schlechter    Produced by Howard Christian

After a day spent plying the waters of Nantucket Sound—sometimes in a heated race with a full crew, other times at a leisurely pace with family and friends—one sailor ties up to her dock and unlocks the door to her happy place. Whether you call it a boathouse or a summer playground is up to you.

Located at the end of Old North Wharf and originally constructed as a fisherman’s cottage sometime in the late 1770s, the shingled structure has been built and rebuilt numerous times, most recently, according to real estate records, in the 1940s. Its current owner occupied it for a few years before reaching out to Gary McBournie to design an interior suitable for entertaining her crew during the summer—“Picture sailors drinking beer and eating steamed lobsters,” says Bill Richards, McBournie’s partner in business and in life—and for storing boat supplies in the winter.

The 800-square-foot house, built on stilts above the Atlantic, includes a living area (complete with a wood-burning stove), dining nook, kitchen, full-size bath, and a sitting room with a bunk-like twin bed for midday naps. A loft stores sailing gear, while glossy mahogany built-ins conceal a bar and linen storage. “She wanted to treat the interiors like a boat and use every square inch of space,” says McBournie.

Decor leans heavily nautical but forgoes kitsch in favor of dynamic yachting photographs, paintings by Nantucket artist Elle Foley, caged bulkhead lights, and porthole windows. McBournie even managed to tuck in some location-appropriate antiques, like a framed model-ship diorama near the entrance and, his personal favorite, a small leather whale-shaped purse on the shelf above the bunk. Pennants won in sailing regattas hang from one end of the gabled ceiling to the other.

As with any structure that hovers above—or level with, depending on the tide—the ocean, and even more so with one that shelters salty boat gear half the year, annual refreshes are a must. That said, nothing is treated too precious: witness the indoor-outdoor fabrics and the lack of frangible appliances like a dishwasher.

And at the end of a day on the water, garden stools are hauled indoors for additional places to perch, china emerges from inside the banquette seats, Nantucket baskets are filled with cutlery, and sundowners are poured. “There’s absolutely no sense of formality,” says Richards. Adds McBournie, “It’s like Disneyland for grown-ups.”

Project Team
Interior design: Gary McBournie
Renovation Builder: Daily Construction

Find A Resource

Search from hundreds of home services, products, destinations, and real estate opportunities.

View All Resources