If Miss Havisham Had Gotten the Decorating Bug

You all know how I love a good house tour.  Especially, now with the planned renovation on our house, I was not going to miss an opportunity to nose around some houses in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard.  Besides, my friend and I wanted an excuse to escape our children for a couple of hours.

Edgartown was a major port for the whaling industry in the 1800’s.  The captains of the whaling ships built grand houses in the town many of which are still around. Intermixed with these houses are smaller homes dating from the 1700’s and houses built or renovated in modern times.

So, what did I learn about expensive Edgartown houses and their owners’ decorating tastes?

Well, the Edgartown interiors style generally seems pretty traditional. And fussy. We’re talking flouncy bedskirts, table coverings and window dressings.  Kitchens tend to be traditional with marble countertops.  Ditto on the bathrooms.  Marble, marble, everywhere. most of it Carrera.

The homes were also big on collections – scrimshaw, shells, porcelain etc.  People really had accumulated a lot of stuff.  I was fascinated to learn about ‘Sailor’s Valentines’ – artwork made from shells by bored sailors.  A whole wall collection, however, felt overwhelming to me because each piece was so intricate.  I wasn’t sure where to look.

Sailors' Valentine artwork photo:  Ebay

Sailors’ Valentine artwork
photo: Ebay

Much of the furniture is antique (the 19th century brown kind).  The artwork tended to be traditional oil paintings and heavy on the nautical theme.  It was all very expensive.  And oppressively heavy and grand.navy photo

I did love the little quirks in a home, such as the painted electrical outlet below depicting Edgartown lighthouse and harbour.  Such small touches make a home feel less like a museum.

electrical outlet

We saw 5 houses in total which I assume were picked because the owners were happy to display them.  The house tours were packed with participants.  We overheard many ladies of a certain age who loved the interiors.  The majority were simply not to our taste.  Some just felt like Miss Havisham had gone into interior decorating.

Of the 5 houses, I was taken with only one because the interior style seemed curated.  This house was recently completed in 2011 by noted architect Louise Brooks and has appeared in New England Home.  Moreover, the owner of the house is an interior designer.  Although this house did have its share of collectibles, they were dispersed throughout and didn’t overwhelm the space with clutter.  The house was light and bright with a neutral backdrop and great flow.  Not only was the antique furniture mixed with modern items but there was also many small touches that paid homage to the traditional design.  For example, the wooden beams creating the kitchen mantlepiece was a beautiful feature and the same coloured wood was used in the kitchen island.

Photos of the house are on the Brooks and Falotico website but here are some of the features I particularly liked.

favourite house details

So what does this information from the house tours mean for my house renovation?  Maybe, if I’m going to appeal to a traditional American crowd, I’ll need to reign in my modern European tendencies a bit. Or do I?  Surely, there must be some contemporary styling somewhere on this Island.  I’m on a mission  – wish me luck!!

What do you think?  Do you prefer the traditional look or more contemporary?  You know where I stand.

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