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Redefining Coastal in Nantucket

Designing rental properties on Nantucket is challenging. You want to give them that classic New England coastal vibe, but seashells and wicker just don’t cut it anymore for today’s discriminating vacation rental clients—particularly in areas like Nantucket where families booking summers on the island expect a level of modern luxury they are familiar with at home. So, when Justin Schaeffer, principal at High Tide Homes, decided with his wife and partner Claire to build vacation rental properties for their boutique vacation rental company on Nantucket, they knew they were going to have to think outside the box.

Designing for the Modern World

While his wife was born into a real estate and construction family, Schaeffer came to the industry after 12 years in the tech industry. “I’m by no means a GC,” says Schaeffer. But his tech experience, it turns out, makes him pretty good at being a hands-on developer, problem-solving and finding the right people to get the job done. He applied his tech knowledge to creating his first speculative homes via renderings. From there, he assembled the team. Unlike the old fashioned approach to hiring one local guy through which, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Schaeffer called on Dorothy Weise, trade design senior lead at Form Kitchens, to design kitchens and bathrooms for both homes. Because both new construction homes were being designed as open concept, Schaeffer says, the kitchens very much set the tone for the whole living space. He wanted them to be luxurious, but he also wanted them to be durable and he didn’t want to spend a fortune on custom cabinetry. The online-first company with show spaces in New York, San Francisco and Denver, provides cabinetry from one of Germany’s oldest and most sophisticated manufacturers direct to consumers, says Weise. While cabinets are not custom, Form “has an extensive assortment of about 3,000 different cabinets in various widths and depths so we’re able to design into a space without really needing to customize, using minimal amounts of fillers in key strategic places,” she adds. The process enabled Schaeffer, as a client, to “feel like everything is custom.” 

Setting the Mood

“Beachy and timeless” says Schaeffer when asked to describe the aesthetic he wanted for both homes. Given the properties border Bartlett’s Farm in the surfing and beach community of Cisco, he wanted both to have a natural, organic look. Both exteriors have that classic natural shaker siding typical along New England’s coast, but with a hint of modern that clients look for today. Inside, the Sunset Sessions house has a decidedly modern feel with clean lines and minimalist architecture. But natural wood cabinets, vaulted ceilings, natural oak floors and warm neutrals give a cozy New England feel.  For the Party Wave kitchen, they wanted something white and modern but not too slick, given the location of the house. Instead of a “Miami high-gloss,” says Weise, they chose an ultra-matte finish, which they balanced with a rustic white oak “that has a nice texture and grain pattern.” An organic chandelier over a modern wooden table completes the aesthetic. 

“When you walk in, you feel like you’re on vacation,” says Schaeffer of both properties. “The homes have huge windows and they overlook Bartlett’s Farm. I almost wanted the outside to be brought in.”

Form also helped design the bathroom vanities, pantries and laundry rooms of both homes. Continuity in the millwork and cabinets was key for the design. “That is a really nice add on,” says Weise. Both homes maximize space and storage with the right shelving and cabinets and continue that modern but classic New England coastal aesthetic set in the main living spaces.

Today’s renters want to spend more time at their rental property in the summer, says Schaeffer. They want a kitchen that is easy to clean so they can eat and entertain at home, and they want counters and appliances that wipe down but also look beautiful. The designs he chose for both properties meet those practical needs of a family on vacation. Both kitchens, says Schaeffer, are “designed to feel like a living space as much as a kitchen because people like to cook, and we all use our kitchens to congregate. The kitchen [of both houses] is the heart and the true hangout of the home.” 


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