This 200-Year-Old Nantucket Cottage Can Barely Contain Its Charming Vintage Appeal

Steele Marcoux
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Courtesy of Susan Zises Green
Photo credit: Courtesy of Susan Zises Green

From Veranda

"Every single piece in this house has a story," says designer Susan Zises Green about her Nantucket cottage. "Being there is like watching a movie that you play backwards while remembering moments from your life."

She's not exaggerating. From an under-appreciated portrait she scored at auction ("even the auctioneer was making fun of her") to a client cast-off chest of drawers ("I gave the dealer my word, so I bought it for myself—happily") right down to a flatweave rug Zises Green stowed away as a carry-on for a flight home from India ("much to the dismay of the flight attendant"), every item in the house evokes a deeply personal, often funny, memory that she shares with soulful ease.

Photo credit: Courtesty of Susan Zises Green
Photo credit: Courtesty of Susan Zises Green

It's no surprise that a designer like Zises Green, an award-winning designer for preservation projects like this fabled 1920s Palm Beach mansion and an original panelist and frequent moderator for the Nantucket Historical Association's Nantucket By Design antiques and design show, takes comfort in surrounding herself with antiques, art, and collections like decorative mileposts from the story of her life.

The house itself—built circa-1820 by Adam Folger and now celebrating its 200th year—has lived through its own share of fateful plot twists, including a few since Zises Green bought it in 1996.

Even the tale of how the designer discovered it—"I was on my bicycle on a tiny street I'd never been on before when I came upon the cottage just before it was going on the market later that day"—is steeped with Shakespearean destiny. "When I went inside, I felt like I had been there before," adds Zises Green. "I wrote a check for the deposit right then and bought it on the spot."

Photo credit: Courtesy of Susan Zises Green
Photo credit: Courtesy of Susan Zises Green

In 1998, after Zises Green had completed a renovation of the house "to make it look old again," a storm with massive flooding destroyed much of the structure. It took the designer four years to painstakingly rebuild, which is part of how the home earned a new name, Endurance, for its second act under Zises Green's directorship. As luck would have it, the designer managed to enlarge the house and preserve some of its unique, character-laden details during the reconstruction.

Take the parlor walls, for which Zises Green had commissioned a mural that included the names of the house's previous owners, along with other significant historic moments from its and her own past. "I was able to take the [exterior] clapboard off so this room's [interior] walls would not be destroyed," says the designer.

Today, Endurance stands as a testament to the now-intertwined histories of both the structure and Zises Green's life. Inside, a lifetime of furniture, art, and collections are characters in a decorative narrative spun by the designer as deftly as a master playwright. And while much of the furnishings predate the 21st century, the interiors feel as fresh as the hydrangea blooming outside her front door, thanks to textiles and other accents in summery shades of chartreuse, lilac, aqua, peach, and navy that escort centuries of antiques boldly into the present.

Photo credit: Courtesty of Susan Zises Green
Photo credit: Courtesty of Susan Zises Green

This summer, Zises Green plans to write down the stories behind each piece inside her home for future generations of her family.

"Above all else, homes should be places that give you happiness," she says. "I always advise people to buy what they like, even if they don't think they have a place for it. If you love it, you'll find a place for it."

This week marks the Nantucket Historical Society's fifth annual Nantucket By Design. The organization’s signature fundraiser event, which celebrates the island’s unique influence on American design with lectures, panel discussions, an antiques show, and more, will be held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Visit here for ticket information.

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