A Colorful Coastal Cottage

Text by Lisa H. Speidel Photography by Jared Kuzia

Little Neck in Ipswich, Massachusetts, holds special meaning for Gerry Donovan and his family—and has since long before he was born. In 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, his grandfather bought a 660-square-foot cottage in the quaint coastal community for $800 as a place to retreat with his wife and two girls for a dose of salt air and swimming. One of those daughters, Gerry’s mom, eventually took over the cottage, which later passed to her son.

Time had taken its toll on the tiny summer house built on pillars and posts, and in 2017, Gerry and his wife, Lyndie, decided to start fresh. They enlisted architect Ben Nutter, who came up with a clever split-level design as he skillfully navigated the choppy waters of lot-size limitations, view restrictions, and a sloped site. And to realize their aesthetic vision, the couple brought in designer Kristina Crestin. “Our [primary] house is old, built in 1900, a colonial, and very traditional,” says Lyndie. “I wanted the exact opposite for down at The Neck.”

Crestin delivered with what she calls “a modern cottage—sleek and a touch industrial… but that doesn’t lose the by-the-water feel.” For a contemporary vibe, she embraced the spiral ductwork “as part of the cool factor” and incorporated concrete counters in the kitchen and bathroom. She also left the floors concrete on the lower level. To reference the waterfront location, an open, airy living plan is coupled with a judicious use of shiplap and jolts of blue and—Lyndie’s favorite—turquoise.

Space was, of course, an issue—but, for Crestin, it was also an opportunity for creativity. Since the Donovans have three kids, maximizing square footage—and seating—was key. An extra-long sectional anchors the main room, the dining nook sports a custom oversize table and banquette seating, and the kitchen’s efficient U-shape design incorporates plenty of storage as well as counter stools for casual dining. Downstairs, a chic bunkroom (complete with rope ladders and bunk curtains for privacy) is the ultimate-space saver, as restrictions allowed for only two bedrooms.

The bunkroom, like the rest of the house, is a delightfully far cry from what once was. But, says Gerry, the connection to the past still felt strong. “I memorialized my grandparents and parents with the view and the location,” he says. “It’s very soothing for me to be here.”

Project Team
Architecture: Benjamin Nutter, Benjamin Nutter Architects
Interior design: Kristina Crestin, Kristina Crestin Design
Builder: Premier Builders

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