8 Steps to New England Cottage Style

A designer revives a small Victorian cottage in Martha's Vineyard with clever ideas and plenty of coastal artifacts.

Past, Perfected

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

Past, Perfected

Interior designer Tracey Overbeck Stead and her husband, Ethan, renovated a 900-square-foot house in the historic neighborhood in the Oaks Bluff section of Martha's Vineyard. "I love that our cottage has that raw, original look of when it was built in 1869," Tracey says. Although it needed a few repairs, plus a remodeled kitchen and new bath, she notes that their goal was "to preserve the existing architecture and rediscover its original glory."

Here's how she maintained an old cottage feel in a completely modernized home.


Pay Homage to the Past

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

1. Pay Homage to the Past

The living room celebrates the area's whaling days with the Steads' collection of flensing tools, antique harpoons, and scrimshaw pieces made from whale bones and teeth. An antique ship's wheel chandelier, along with a hanging lamp fashioned after a fishing net, adds to the nautical feel.

The sofa and pillows are from Wildflower Organics.

Follow the Rules, But Have Fun

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

2. Follow the Rules, But Have Fun

Any changes made to the home's exterior had to be approved by the association. Tracey spiced up the paint scheme with a sea green and turquoise palette, plus pomegranate orange accents on the original balustrades and gingerbread trim "to add a little whimsy," she says.

Exterior paints are Silver Leaf, Chambray, Holly Glen, Orange Vermillion, and Blue Smoke from Pittsburgh Paints.

Help a Small Room Live Larger

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

3. Help a Small Room Live Larger

To create the feeling of more space in the 100-square-foot kitchen, Tracey had new cabinetry installed in a more functional layout and added glass fronts to the upper units. She chose slender white appliances (the dishwasher is only 18 inches wide) that blend seamlessly with the cabinets, complemented by a vintage-style blue refrigerator.

The countertops are antique barnwood. The refrigerator is by Smeg.


Corner Your Collectibles

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

4. Corner Your Collectibles

In a cozy area of the kitchen, Tracey surrounded her great-grandmother's table with an eclectic mix of objects: an antique try-pots ladle, humpback and blue whale sculptures, a hand-screened print of a giant squid, whaling signs, and ocean artwork—including paintings by artist John Keyes and Tracey's goddaughter. Even the chair pads have seaside flair.

The chairs are from Wildflower Organics, the chair pads are L.L.Bean

Rethink the Floor Plan

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

5. Rethink the Floor Plan

Because the family eats most meals on the front porch or at the beach, Tracey transformed a former dining area into a sitting room. "I wanted there to be a nice transition from the living room to the kitchen without it feeling like a hallway, so I hung an overscale chandelier above two slipper chairs that have a view out to the garden," she says.

The slipcovered chairs are from Vineyard Decorators.

Apply a Soft Touch

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

6. Apply a Soft Touch

The master bedroom walls were once bright green, which only made the small room feel claustrophobic. Tracey softened the space by painting the walls pale pink, hanging silk sheers and linen drapes for privacy, and adding an elegant, shell-covered chandelier. "Now the room is light and feminine," she says. "My poor husband has to sleep in a pink bedroom—but it's a very faint pink."

The master bedroom walls are painted Love Bird by Pittsburgh Paints. The chandelier is from Currey & Co.

Design a Double-Duty Bath

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

7. Design a Double-Duty Bath

The only space Tracey made structural changes to was the cottage's one bath, which was relocated and enlarged by 40 square feet to create space for a stackable washer/dryer. She used the same 1-inch glass tiles in the shower and on the floor to make the room feel larger.

The mosaic tiles are from Hakatai.

Bunk Up

Photographer: Annie Schlechter , Styling: Elizabeth Beeler

8. Bunk Up

To make the most of the limited square footage in the boys' room, Tracey installed two twin beds—with storage drawers—just 15 inches apart. "The boys are hardly in their room because we spend so much time outside," says Tracey. "Plus, they love being together."

The beds and quilts are from Pottery Barn.

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