Tour Kristin Paton’s Nantucket Home

May 29, 2024

The interior designer and her family are the happy stewards of a 260-year-old captain’s home on Nantucket.

Text by Erika Ayn Finch    Photography by Read McKendree/JBSA

When the shingled saltbox home was built on Nantucket’s Orange Street in 1760, tree trunks and boulders comprised its floor joists and foundation and a welder’s shed in the back served sea captains who needed ship parts repaired before or after their voyage. Over the course of 200-plus years, five captains and their families would call the cottage home. But in 2016, it was interior designer Kristin Paton’s turn at the helm.

Paton and her husband purchased their first home on island in 1997, when the family of five lived in London and needed a U.S. base. But when the Nantucket Historical Association decided to sell the landmark Captain Robert Wyer House eight years ago, the Patons took advantage of the opportunity to own a piece of their beloved island’s history, even if the planning process wound up taking five years. (It is, after all, Nantucket.)

To get the original house back in ship shape and rebuild an outdated addition, Dwyer Maloney and the team at Main Street Construction would tunnel under the saltbox to add support around those tree trunks and boulders—“enough to make it last another 300 years,” says

Maloney. The original building still houses a living room and family room on the first floor, while a narrow staircase leads to a primary suite on the second floor, and an attic serves as a bunk room. The saltbox connects to the rebuilt addition, which includes the kitchen, dining room, and four bedrooms, via a mudroom. As for the welder’s shed, it’s home port for game nights, rainy-day binge-watching, and beachy cocktail parties.

Paton found ways to repurpose elements from the addition that had to be rebuilt. Interior doors, for example, became a dining room banquette. Leftover pine sheathing clads that room’s ceiling and the ceiling and walls in a powder room. “Our goal was to honor the history of the house and even enhance it with the appropriate furnishings and interior details without making it feel like a museum,” says Paton. “We wanted to celebrate what is and what was.”

For instance, take the chimney that helps support the entire structure. Seen from the foyer, its barrel shape and plaster texture were, frankly, an eyesore. Paton saw it as a creative challenge and solved it by printing a whaling mural by local artist and designer Audrey Sterk
on sisal; it wraps the chimney and acts as an instantaneous conversation starter when guests walk into the home.

As for the decor, Paton let her imagination run wild when it came to the home’s previous seafaring occupants. The kitchen’s showstopping campaign-style breakfront houses everything the family needs to entertain. The campaign theme continues with the kitchen island’s counter stools and a chest that sits on the second-floor landing in the new part of the home.

Much of the furniture came from Paton’s existing collection, some purchased while the family lived overseas, others when the designer owned a home-goods store in Harvard Square (witness the larger-than-life teak mushrooms in the backyard).

Paton, who’s primary residence is in Boston, is reluctant to call the island house a vacation home because the family uses it year-round, every chance they get. It’s open to family and college roommates in the summer. Come October, friends make the trek for scalloping season. The following month, sixteen-plus snuggle into the dining room for Thanksgiving. “We call it ‘Happy House,’ ” Paton says, sounding slightly wistful she’s not chatting from there right now. “It’s really an extension of our family. It just feels like home.”

Project Team
Renovation architecture: Gotham, Niche Architecture + Interiors
Interior design: Kristin Paton Interiors
Renovation builder: Main Street Construction

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