Text by Katie Ellis
As you approach the front porch of Julie Forgaard’s seaside cottage, the wooden quarterboard reading, “Why Worry” sets the tone for this New Hampshire family’s idyllic vacation home on the historic island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Each room beyond the welcoming Dutch door hosts a cozy, comfortable place specifically designed for family.
The Forgaards purchased the quaint Siasconset cottage in 2009—but their love affair with coastal retreats started long before then. Julie is quick to share that she’s been a beach person all her life. She grew up in New Jersey, spending her summers on the Jersey Shore, and as an adult she has explored nearly all of the New England coasts with her family. Before buying their beach bungalow, the Forgaards had been renting homes on Nantucket for nearly 10 years. “When the market dropped, we looked at each other and said, ‘If we’re ever going to buy a beach house, this is the moment,’” Julie recalls.
At first, the cottage was “just a summer house,” Julie says, noting it was an older property that was originally built on piers. “It had no heat to speak of, and you could see straight through the gaps in the floorboards. You couldn’t use it at all in the cold months, and that was something we really wanted to be able to do.” After living in the home for a number of years, thoughtfully taking their time to identify the needs of the home, they decided to make the necessary changes to enjoy the cottage year-round.
With the help of Nantucket interior designer Donna Elle, the Forgaards forged a creative and comfortable renovation plan and design scheme, and together they layered the cottage with stylish, livable design elements dressed in peaceful blues that mirror vibrant hues found on the island. Julie’s love for a timeless blue-and-white motif seamlessly married with Donna’s excitement to explore the classic hue in a fresh way. “I’m a blue girl; always have been and probably always will be,” Donna says. “No matter if it’s mixed with another color, painted, tile, or textile—it is my interpretive dance throughout my interiors.”
Donna’s thoughtful eye for design was key to weeding through the quagmire of decorative choices ahead of the family. “This is old Sconset, Nantucket, feel with a nod to the bungalow era,” she says. “Personally, my heart resonates with cottage and traditional style, and I love the challenge of interpreting modern elements.”
Throughout the renovation, they chose to keep everything true to its original character. “Our goal in doing the renovation was to keep it exactly as it was, as much as possible. We really didn’t want to change the interior or add square footage,” Julie says. “What we wanted to do was make it livable year-round.”
And while the home’s footprint stayed nearly the same, the house itself was in such abysmal condition that a gut renovation was essential. The entire island is a historic district, so getting permit approvals often proved a challenge. But Julie and her family welcomed the hurdles as a worthwhile experience. “It was a challenging process, but I’m so happy we went through that because it really was beneficial,” she says. After two years of tedious design work, the cottage renovation was completed in 2015.
“Every time we go there, we are struck by the fact that we love this house,” Julie says. “We just love being there. It is cozy and charming and so livable. It’s really just a perfect place.”
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