It was easy for Connecticut-based Jane and Soren Sorensen to fall for the historic island of Nantucket, a crescent-shape slip of land some 30 miles off Cape Cod. The couple strolled the island’s cobblestone streets during their courtship, summered on its sandy beaches as newlyweds, and even owned a small place there after their daughters were born.
The Sorensens bought 1.4 acres on the island back in 2012 after deciding to build a compound there—a retreat large enough to accommodate their family (the girls are 12, 15, and 17) as well as host extended family and close friends.
The Sorensen's fairy tale, which culminated in the five-bedroom beach house with pristine landscaping, also had a storybook beginning, with one chapter leading to another. The Sorensens’ real-estate agent referred them to Matthew MacEachern and his architectural design firm. Through MacEachern, they met local builder Edward Toole, whose sister Cynthia Hayes is an interior designer.
“It was kismet,” Jane says. “The team was so interconnected, with these layered relationships. They’d all worked together before, had strong ties to Nantucket, and really understood the island. It just felt right.”
When it was time to decorate, Hayes and her colleague, Pamela Manchester, conferred closely with the homeowners, beginning with the decision to choose a palette that would complement the fresh take on the home’s neoclassical architecture.
The team chose transitional furniture with clean-lined silhouettes, ideal for informal yet stylish family life. A striéd wood coffee table sets the tone in the living room, which features a long linen-blend sofa facing two Ultrasuede armchairs that swivel so family or guests can also watch a TV on an adjacent wall. A pair of patterned X-benches with wrought-iron legs can be moved around as needed.
“When you have lots of polished millwork with clean lines and sharp details, the hand-hewn rustic beams provide contrast and impart a sense of casualness and history,” MacEachern says.
White paneled cabinetry characterizes the kitchen, along with a large island with a granite countertop. A rustic wood beam separates the eat-in nook from the rest of the kitchen.
“I arranged all the primary living spaces—living, dining, and kitchen—in a linear assembly, with direct correlation to the backyard’s pool, pergola, and patio,” says MacEachern.
Breezy rows of French doors open off the living and dining rooms, while the kitchen terminates in an eat-in bay where sunlight streams in through double-hung windows.
“To prevent the floor plan from becoming a large, undefined space, we introduced separation via columns, half-walls, and pilasters,” MacEachern says. “There are also different ceiling treatments—like the coffered ceiling above the dining room—helping the transition from one space to the next.”
The designers made practical choices in dining room furnishings, both for traffic flow and casual seaside living. The placement and shape of the round dining room table, which comfortably seats eight, leaves plenty of room for someone on the way to the kitchen or backyard. They chose stain-repellent upholstery in the dining room and vinyl seating at the kitchen’s banquette, helping to create an overall setting that welcomes damp bathing suits, sandy feet, and even wet and muddy dogs—especially Teddy, the family’s Wheaten terrier.
“The Sorensens wanted a sophisticated look, but we wanted to make sure it wasn’t so sophisticated that it felt like city living,” Hayes says. “We deliberately mixed in warmer, rustic, natural elements to balance the cool palette and crisp furnishings.”
Steel cable stair rails lead into the family room, which tucks under the eaves on the second floor landing. A roomy Lee Industries sectional and a pair of linen ottomans with wave stitching from V Rugs and Home provide plentiful room for lounging.