Cottage Style in Martha’s Vineyard: Inspiration Home

        Martha's Vineyard cottage.

Inspiration Home is a new series where we’ll take you inside the houses we all want to peek into. In each installment, we share a space with you via a virtual tour and an interview with the homeowner and designer. We hope this new series will offer some inspiration to you in your own home! First up, Cottage Style, dreamy in midsummer.

To kick off the series, Melissa Swansey Nicholson, the designer behind Oliver Henry Designs, opens up her home to us.

A Parsons School of Design graduate, Melissa is a surface and pattern designer by trade (check out her portfolios here) and her designs are available for sale and license. She also creates fabrics, which are available on Spoonflower and Etsy.

Great wood floors!

Melissa’s home is the epitome of Cottage Style: a charming Cape Cod on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Melissa always wanted to buy an old fixer-upper, but when gifted some land on the Vineyard, she and her husband built a new home with vintage details like hardwood floors (intentionally weathered wide-plank eastern white pine) and wainscoting. They also incorporated salvaged pieces like the stair baluster (purchased at the Brimfield Antique Show—a New England Institution—in Massachusetts) and the radiators that were torn out of a great old home. Melissa also gave carpenter photos of old house mantels and fireplaces for him to use in construction. But how did she bring it together?

Cottage style kitchen.

Jen Wallace: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me; so, how would you describe your decorating style?

Melissa Swansey Nicholson: A love for vintage definitely. I don’t know if I have a style, I just buy things I like and hope they work together! I have always loved the cottage painted furniture look, but lately I have started really wanting more simple midcentury modern pieces as well (maybe due to my obsession with Mad Men). I also love white and neutrals with pops of color.

Cottage gardens.

JW: Your garden is also very lovely, is outdoor living an important part of your home life?

MSN: Yes, outdoor living is very important to us. My husband is a landscape designer and contractor and he co-owns a landscape company called Contemporary Landscapes. So all of the well-planned and laid-out parts to our landscape are my husband’s doing—and the messy perennials placed randomly around are from me! One of my favorite parts about our home is that with all of the windows and doors we can always see the gardens and forest around us.

Cottage style living room.

Cottage bedroom style.

JW: Since you’re textile designer, fabrics must be an important part of your home. Can you talk a little about how you use textiles?

MSN: The reason I started toying with fabric design came from my love of vintage textiles. My collection became a collection without me knowing I was even collecting! Every time I would go to a yard sale or flea market, I found myself drawn to the vintage tablecloths and aprons. I also love the old blankets and have plenty of them. Nothing is for show, we use all of the linens I buy.

Cottage studio for Oliver Henry Designs.

JW: You have young children and are a work-from-home mom. Is having your studio in your house a challenge or a bonus? What’s your favorite part of your studio?

MSN: At this point, I am just designing to build a portfolio and try to get my name out there. My dream is to actually make money by designing and still be here when my kids get home from school to give them a snack and make my family dinner. I love the little nook we created for my home studio. It’s a perfect spot.

Reclaimed mantel.

JW: It looks like many of your furniture pieces are vintage or thrifted, Is that an aesthetic, budgetary or planet-mindful choice?

MSN: I wish I could say it was for eco-friendly purposes,  but that’s an added bonus. I think it was just what I grew up doing. We were always going to yard sales and thrift stores; it didn’t really occur to me to do anything different. I love a good yard sale and people get pretty serious around here. When we were building the house, I would wake up super early, throw my one-year-old old in a backpack to go scope out the houses before the yard sales started. I knew the older the house, the better the goods would be inside. I would try to be the first through the door (they give out numbers before opening the door at the good sales).

Cottage style bedroom.

JW: Finally, what’s your favorite room in the house and why? Is it also where you find yourself spending the most time?

MSN: I don’t necessarily have a favorite room, maybe just a favorite overall feeling from my home. When I come home from vacation, no matter how amazing the vacation was, I always feel so happy and comforted to be home.

The light pouring in from all the windows is my favorite part. That said, I think I spend the most time in my bedroom—with all of the windows, it feels like being in a treehouse when I’m lying on my bed. It’s a very peaceful space.

JW: Sounds wonderful. Thanks again for sharing, Melissa!

Cottage bathroom.

Pretty cottage bedroom.

Cottage style bedroom.

A view into the dining room.

Images: Melissa Swansey Nicholson

Jen Wallace

Jen Wallace shares her indie life by writing about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, decorating, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy from indie biz tips to the modern history of the American hemline.