A Nantucket Summer Playhouse

June 22, 2021

On Nantucket, a happy coincidence yields the ultimate summer playhouse.

Text by Alyssa Bird    Photography by Joseph Keller    Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

It’s not often that an architect gets a second take on the same house, so it must have been kismet when Chip Webster was tapped for the renovation of a Nantucket spec home he had originally designed in the 1990s. Kismet, and a little push from designer Kathleen Hay, that is: the new homeowners hired Hay to decorate the 5,600-square-foot five-bedroom space upon the recommendation of their real estate broker, and Hay, in turn, threw Webster’s name in the hat for the renovation.

“Chip and I have worked together on a number of projects, but when I suggested him, I had no idea that he had actually built the house,” says Hay, who, like Webster, has lived on Nantucket for decades. Webster couldn’t wait to get his hands on the former commission, which all parties admit was a bit dated by this point. “When I first walked in, I thought, Well, I guess I’ve learned a lot in the past twenty years,” says Webster with a laugh. “I immediately saw it as an opportunity for improvement and also to explore some things that we didn’t have the budget for initially.”

One such addition was the front porch, which had appeared in Webster’s previous plans but was never constructed. In collaboration with Hay and local builder Ron Winters, Webster tackled other exterior modifications including removing the widow’s walk, adding a balcony off the main bedroom, and building a three-season porch. Inside, the design team entirely reconfigured the first floor, with the biggest change being the relocation of the kitchen from the front of the house to the back, where it’s open to both the living and dining areas. “The way people are living is different than it was three decades ago,” explains Webster. “Now, the kitchen is the heart and soul of a house and is connected to everything else.”

The team also expanded the main bedroom and bath, reworked the lower level to accommodate a wine cellar, gym, and home theater, carved out space for a home office on the main floor, and renovated the guest studio above the garage. “I love following the lead of strong architects and decorators,” says Winters, whose favorite room turned out to be the living area, thanks to an eighteen-foot glass-door system that creates a seamless transition to the new outdoor kitchen, dining area, pool, and cabana.

A firepit, pergola-covered Ping-Pong table, half basketball court, and an in-ground trampoline round out the outdoor oasis fit for an active family (the clients have three teenage boys). “The program was driven by recreation and entertainment,” notes local landscape designer David Troast, who also imagined an entirely new planting scheme with privacy in mind.

With construction out of the way, Hay could finally focus on the finishes, conceiving a clean backdrop of white oak flooring, shiplap accents, and textural wallcoverings. She chose a streamlined mix of new furnishings in a neutral palette with touches of blue, while contemporary artworks and vintage objects lend warmth. Hay focused on keeping the mood “airy and light” and the surfaces indestructible.

“With houseguests, three boys, and a dog, durability is key,” says the designer. “The home is still beautiful and sophisticated, but it can hold up to sandy feet and wet bottoms.”

Architecture: Chip Webster, Chip Webster Architecture
Interior design: Kathleen Hay, Kathleen Hay Designs
Builder: Ron Winters, Thirty Acre Wood
Landscape design: David Troast, Ernst Land Design