Monday, July 30, 2012

Nantucket Seen Two Ways

If you have been following my blog, you know I am conflicted design-wise - warm and antique as my earliest posts demonstrate or serene and spare as Jacobsen and my latest posts demonstrate.  It's  taken me a while to resolve my conflict (actually it's still evolving), but maybe today's post will help to explain why I need at least five houses.  I fear that may be my only resolution.

Going back to a House Beautiful  from 1981, I found this antique-filled home on Nantucket.  I loved it then because the house itself was old and filled with beautiful antiques.  Today, antiques are passe; it is Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn where the design conscious find inspiration to fill their new homes.  But, in 1981, it was frequently the antique shows which helped fill both old and new homes.
Below is a fine example of a Nantucket house owned by two antique dealers.

The Maddens' Nantucket home built in 1803.

Being quintessential antique dealers, their foyer is filled with antiques both indigenous to Nantucket and treasures found in "all corners of the globe."

Their parlor; today great rooms are de rigueur, but there is something special about a sort of off-limits-to-the-children-room.   A room where adults can entertain, read, or just think.  Must every room be open to the kitchen with a large screen TV?

Half of the Maddens' dining room chuck full of beautiful, antique objects and a great corner cupboard.  Love corner cupboards.  Love this one particularly.

Other half.  I know this room looks a bit formal, but the Maddens entertained in it frequently.  (I had a great article which showed a very fun group dining in this very room, and of course I cannot find it.  I probably will 30 posts from now.)  The candlelit chandelier inspired the one in our dining room.

Below, more detailed images of their Nantucket dining room.  Keep that corner cupboard in the back of your mind.

Later, the Maddens decided to move inland to Cape Cod.  Their historic saltbox house is featured in Mary Emmerling's American Country Houses, and even though their name is never given in the book, their beautiful antiques are featured and are tellingly distinctive.

Hearth in the new-old house.

The great room in the salt box with original pine beams now oxidized - this room was once the once the original kitchen.  Note please the red wing chair and the dining chair in the foreground - both from the Nantucket house.  (I feel like one of PBS's History Detectives.)

Larger dining room with different table and chairs.

But that corner cupboard is the same one - I'd recognize it anywhere - perhaps even some of the same china pieces and crystal.

Here the same Nantucket fire bucket from their Nantucket foyer.

Collection of Canton china in a kitchen cupboard.

More Canton, more cupboard.

What a kitchen!  Please note the lovely Nantucket baskets hanging above the island and the bargello needlepoint curtain over the window.  And that refrigerator and freezer!  Can you tell they love to entertain?

The other side of the kitchen with matching window treatment.  Firkin collection next to the arm chair are from the Nantucket house.

Oh, how I loved all this antique-iness and part of me still does.  But then in House & Garden, July, 1985, this article appeared.
And stole my heart.

How clean!  How uncluttered!

How simple and serene!  An even simpler home than the Jacobsen designed renovation for Eugenie Vorhees.  I can just hear my sons, "Well, Mom, there's a compromise between antique-filled houses and sterile ones."  But is there?

This is the Nantucket home of Abbie Zabar "who can't even put out a plate of cookies without arranging them."  Note the kitchen island stylized with strawberry branches, bread and cheese.

Table scape with a berry basket and a Zabar collage.

Window seat tucked into a dormer window.  I always admired the built-in drawers here and wanted to add them to our dormers.  When my husband explained the amount of dry wall dust that would arise, I sort of lost the spirit.  Seeing it again makes me think I could stand a little dust.

The main bedroom still has the old pine floor and original fireplace.  Abbie Zabar crocheted her initials and pine trees on the pillow cases of the plain white bedding.

Fireplace and linen cupboard freshened with sprigs of lavender.  I'll bet the fireplace shovel is antique - there has to be one antique in this home somewhere.  It's Nantucket after all.

A simple honeysuckle wreath in the kitchen window.

I aways found this perspective of the kitchen a charming one.  That simple door opening onto the simple kitchen, that great cupboard with white dishes and baskets - they all spoke to me and said, "Billie, it's time to clean up your act.  Declutter, add white and be spare."  But, I still love my antiques.  And white houses seem never to have cats who throw up or children who eat on the sofa.  What to do?  What to do?

Scenes from outside the house follow.  Also serene and simple.  Very Nantucket.

Even the Nantucket landscapes near Zabar's house whisper, "Simplify, simplify, simplify."
"I'll try," I murmur back.

The Potted Herb by Abbie Zabar is a delightful book full of information on herbs and topiaries with illustrations by the author.  It is as charming as it is informative.

The following images of her terrace point out that Abbie Zabar knows whereof she speaks (or writes.)  Both are from the New York Times.

I leave you today with images of summer food from another July Gourmet pulled down from its shelf.  Food, table scapes and Gourmet are three things that never bring me conflict.

Ah, summer berries and salads on beautiful table arrangements bring only peace and contentment, never conflict.

Please stop by next post, dear readers and friends, when I promise to bring you more peace and contentment with only a splash of conflict.


  1. Billie -
    I am just as conflicted. You already know I love the Swedish Gustavian style, Jacobsen look, and English country decor. But, I also love American folk art and high country design. And now we have the Belgian style, too. What to do? Play the lottery :-)
    xo, Loi
    Gorgeous collection of Canton ware---my favorite export china!!!

    1. Hi Loi,
      Misery loves company I guess because I'm glad to hear you also feel the pull of very different styles.
      Yes, the lottery is a good idea, but I get upset when my dollar ticket doesn't win a thing.

  2. So am I!!!!!
    There are so many styles to love, each one with its own beautiness! Love the new old house and love the last house also!! Oh so difficult to choose between the antique filled interiors and the more simplified!
    Thank you for such a wonderful post Billie!

    1. Dear Greet,
      So glad you also find it difficult to choose between styles. I think as long as a style is done well, I like it.
      Except Victorian - just can't admire Victorian.

  3. Are you still there? I recently met Chris Giftos, charming Met Florist from days gone by. I fell down the rabbit hole of Abbie Zabar links and found you! I also love Nantucket..and recently returned from Norway where the spartan aesthetic called to me. I feel that I have met a long-lost sister! What did you finally decide?