The island of Nantucket, MA, has some of the most beautiful beaches, memorable sunsets and sunrises, amazing gardens and coastal landscapes in the US.
With its over 750 perfectly restored and preserved pre-civil war buildings, cobblestone streets, homes, and lighthouses, it has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark District.
When whaling was abandoned, the locals turned to tourism as a primary source of income and as a leading business.
Nantucket used to be known as the whaling hub of the world, and as such, the people on this small island were among the most prosperous people in the country. This allowed them to build all those beautiful buildings.
Apart from the historic captain’s mansions and grand buildings, the typical houses on Nantucket are in the highly recognizable weathered gray shingle style, with window boxes and gardens overflowing with blooming flowers, hydrangeas, and roses climbing on trellises up to the roofs.
Because of its strict historic preservation policies, building restrictions, and ongoing nature conservation programs, the number of homes in Nantucket listed for sale is scarce. Overall, finding and buying a house as a second home on the island is reserved for celebrities, politicians, entrepreneurs, and billionaires.
Luckily, a large part of the homeowners on Nantucket choose to rent out their stunning properties to travelers and vacationers as short-term accommodations.
You can rent a historic house, cottage, loft, or grand waterfront mansion in Nantucket’s historic downtown, the picturesque village of Siasconset, or any other neighborhood and area on the island.
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History of the Nantucket houses
This distinctive style is typical of the New England east coast, like Rhode Island, Cape Cod, Newport, and coastal Maine.
In Nantucket, the cedar shakes are naturally gray from the ocean breeze, air, and winds.
The idea behind these distinctive houses and cottages is for them to blend as naturally as possible with the island’s environment, the colors of the ocean, and the untouched nature. This architectural style was developed in the early colonial years and is considered one of the first steps of the Colonial Revival.
It is almost the complete opposite of the highly-detailed Victorian style, and the first shingle-style houses were built as summer and coastal homes for the affluent.
Because there are stringent restrictions and policies for building and restoring homes on the island, unlike some other fashionable resorts, the houses in Nantucket are not meant to stand out from the rest.
The shingle-style houses on Nantucket
The wood sidings used for cladding the houses on the island are called shakes and serve a protective and decorative purpose.
They are made from durable white cedar, which can withstand the harsh weather in the winter and protect homeowners from strong winds, rain, and other unfavorable conditions. It is also resistant to insects and rotting.
The shakes are split off, thick, and made of the highest quality hardwood, so they are more durable than regular shingles used for cladding.
There are strict regulations for the shapes, sizes, and colors of the shakes used for cladding the houses on the island.
Other typical elements of the local homes in Nantucket are asymmetrical forms, pitched roofs, diamond-shaped windows, large inviting verandas, and very few decorative elements.
The cedar shingles on most Nantucket homes are unpainted and left in their natural color and become that typical weathered gray color after one winter.
This color is known as Nantucket Gray and is reminiscent of the heavy fogs which often cover the island’s grassy fields and shores. This allows the houses to become more like continuations of the natural island panorama, the ocean, sand, and coastal flora.
The local authorities also have strict rules for the colors for painting the fences of the houses, the gates, the window and door frames, the trims, railings, and all other elements of the house.
The allowed colors are more subdued and muted, such as light gray, white, dark or Brewster green, gray-blue, beige, or barn red.
A local commission must approve all of them before they can be used for building or reconstructing a house in Nantucket.
Nantucket interior décor
While there are no strict rules for the interior design of the Nantucket homes, there are some typical elements that can be seen in most of them, including:
– Most indoor and outdoor furniture and other interior décor items are made of natural materials such as weathered distressed wood, linen, wool, cotton, sisal, rattan, and wicker.
– The typical colors of the upholstery and other interior elements include white, navy blue, cranberry bog red, gray, brown, and other pastel colors.
– The floors are painted in many homes, and some have patterns and effects.
– Almost every home has a name, commonly hand carved on wood signs by local artisans.
– You can see whimsical nautical carvings, paintings, and artwork outside and indoors, with whales being some of the most popular Nantucket interior and exterior decoration elements.
– Many homes are decorated with vintage and antique furniture and artwork.
The Nantucket gardens
Even though most of the houses are in the subdued weathered gray color, just about every home is surrounded by and even covered by the most colorful blooming flowers.
You can see overflowing wooden window boxes with seasonal flowers on just about any window on the island and planters and hydrangeas on every corner.
Plus, the gardens of Nantucket are gorgeous, and most locals adhere to the philosophy of the local garden club to grow local native flowers and plants organically without pesticides, insecticides, or other chemicals.
Some of the most popular flowers and plants grown in the gardens of Nantucket are hydrangeas, primroses, geraniums, asters, milkweeds, lilies, and bonesets.
Some of the most recognizable homes in Nantucket are the famous rose-covered cottages in Siasconset. There the shingle-style seaside cottages have crawling red and pink roses reaching up to the roofs.
The typical rose sorts grown by the people of Nantucket are New Dawn, Sally Holmes, American Pillar, Climbing Iceberg, Blaze, Eden, Climbing Iceberg, and Golden Showers.
The Nantucket building and renovation rules
Nantucket has more historic buildings and structures concentrated in such a small area than any other town or district in the USA.
The local authorities are dedicated to preserving them and protecting the overall architecture and panorama of the island.
This is why some rigid rules and regulations exist for building and renovating any house in Nantucket.
There is a list of 12 historic colors, the only ones that can be used for repainting houses on the island, which the Nantucket Historic District Commission has set.
Homeowners also must adhere to the rules for the shapes of the roofs, which should be pitched rather than flat, for the maximum height of the houses, and for the size, shape, and color of the cedar shakes, which should be used for cladding.
Even though some homeowners may not be happy with these regulations, thanks to them, Nantucket has retained its postcard-like English village look and vibe for centuries.