Nantucket Style Defined

Get inspired by the nautical decor motifs of Nantucket.

By Lisa Frederick

Nantucket style is grounded entirely in its namesake island's unique sense of place. Just off the Massachusetts coast, Nantucket has a rugged natural beauty as well as a storied whaling and seafaring history. Nantucket combines the romance of its culture with a foundation of New England practicality.

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The Basics

Homey Country/Rustic Bedroom by Carter Kay
Carter Kay

American coastal elements get a decidedly local spin in this style. The signature pale hues, natural materials, and airy feel of the coastal look are overlapped by a timeworn sensibility and a suggestion of change and growth through the years. Nantucket design is well-edited, with a fundamental spareness that harks back to the days when necessity trumped aesthetics.

These designer rooms employ Nantucket style beautifully:

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Urchin Eco Art Throw Pillows
Wabisabi Green
If you're smitten by Nantucket style, try these tactics for adding a little New England flavor.

Shore-inspired colors. The creamy tones of seashells and whalebone, grays of wind-kissed wood, blues of the sea, and rich browns of the earth and sand make up the classic Nantucket palette. White, in particular, predominates, from walls and floors to fabrics and furniture. Hints of cozy, homespun colors such as cardinal red and marigold yellow brighten the scheme.

Traditional crafts. Nantucket clings to its customs, including the decorative arts: scrimshaw (carved whalebone), basketry, weaving, whittling, and more. It's natural that these crafts still crop up in the décor. Although too many of them together can read as kitschy, a few well-chosen examples imbue a Nantucket-style interior with a sense of place. 
SantÂ’Andrea Closeness Armchair

Comfortable, sturdy furniture.
 No fussy fabrics or spindly forms—furniture on the New England coast needs to stand up to sandy feet and salty air. Slipcover upholstered pieces in durable linen or cotton twill and choose case goods and tables with heft. Traditional detailing, such as spooled rails or turned finials, enhances the look. 

Weathered woods. Wood in Nantucket design looks most appropriate with a hint of age and patina (imagine a piece of driftwood washed up on the sand). If you choose to paint furnishings or surfaces such as flooring, distress the paint slightly to avoid the feel of shiny newness.  

Nautical accents. 
Anchors, shells, rope knots, nautical flags—the iconic motifs of life on the ocean are pitch-perfect for Nantucket style. As with the crafts described above, it's best to use them with a restrained hand. Consider grouping a few sculptural finds together on a shelf or mantel or displaying them in a graphic grid rather than scattering them around the room.  

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