Bring Autumn’s Beauty Home


Life on Nantucket is a never-ending tapestry of natural beauty. This island is where I find joy in the simple rhythms of the day, as well as much of my design inspiration. Although many people come here for the summer, with the beautiful beaches, warm evenings and the whirl of social life, there is just as much to inspire us when the weather turns colder and the leaves have fallen.


My husband, Frank, with G.G. at the Farmers’ Market


Come along with me  as I share how I find comfort and beauty as the seasons change!

The first place I go: the island’s Farmers Market, sponsored by Sustainable Nantucket. It had been a long, quiet, and lonely road through the pandemic, so the joy I felt being with the artists, craftspeople and island farmers at the Saturday markets this summer was indescribable. (Luckily, there are a few more days this year to gather: for the Downtown Holiday Market on November 25 and 26, and then the Farmers and Artisans Market during Christmas Stroll on December 2 and 3. )


The colors of autumn!


Here’s what I love: the way original artwork and crafts combine with fresh food and locally-grown produce to bring people together! That combination also brings fresh ideas, and a new way of seeing. Fall changes the slant of morning sunlight, and breathes its frosty breath on the last of the autumn roses. I rush home from the Farmers Market with an arm full of bright red and orange tomatoes, eager to lay a fire and light candles.


“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t, they should, for their feet are dusted with the spices from a million flowers.”–Ray Bradbury


It’s time to say goodbye to the bees until spring, but the market offers a final glimpse of a busy hive. Nantucket is home to many island beekeepers, with Sustainable Nantucket offering a beekeeping mentoring program for novices. I love bees, birds, and butterflies, and have long forbidden the use of pesticides and fungicides on my lawn and garden. A connection with nature is vital to our health.

Watching the busy little gold and brown insects gives me other ideas for autumn-warmed rooms. Inspiration can come in the tiniest of ways!



The local artists and craftspeople find natural beauty to inspire them, too.  Nantucket’s unique whaling history and the salty ocean waves that surround the island bring internationally famous artists to our shores as well.


From the mid 1700s to the late 1830s, Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world.


In the waters surrounding Nantucket, you can find Humpback whales, Finback whales, Minke whales, Pilot whales, and the endangered Right whales.


Fresh Flowers!


I believe in  bringing the patterns and textures of nature inside. As a sustainable LEED-accredited Professional with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction (LEED AP + ID + C),  I love fresh flowers, nature-based artwork, and natural fabrics.

Each of us will look at the jewel-tones of autumn and find a unique way to bring the outdoors in. “The question is not what you look at,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what you see.”

I agree!


The painting, “Finches–Right Eye,” is by the American Neo-Expressionist painter Hunt Slonem.


You can nestle right in to sumptuous hues such as persimmon, spice, pumpkin, sage, and olive in fall. Dujardin’s Senior Designer Price Connors and I used those rich colors in our design work at the historic Thomas Starbuck House, brought to Nantucket’s Milk Street by barge in 1790.


The dining room retains its original cooking fireplace with two ovens, considered one of the finest examples of its kind in New England.


Warmer hues were  perfect for this historic home, built when earthy colors such as stone, ocher, red, pumpkin and sage were widely in use.

Poet A.D. Posey said, ” Life is a sea of vibrant color. Jump in.”

Why not?


The paneled wall surrounding the fireplace is painted with a Farrow & Ball paint that reflects the traditional colors of the period.


You’ll want to place a soft blanket where you sip your morning coffee, with a throw pillow that brings a touch of nature indoors . Little details are not little at all.

On the contrary, as the painter N.C. Wyeth said, “To elevate the little into the great is genius.”


A contemporary version of a Hepplewhite sofa is a graceful addition to the parlor.


The last fall touch takes place in the kitchen with a pot of soup simmering on the stove,  Helen Keller told us that “scent is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

Do you have a favorite recipe from your grandmother? If not, I’ll share mine!



My favorite Butternut Squash Soup recipe is actually one of Ina Garten’s.


Old school green bean casserole


And since I’m originally from South Carolina,  side dishes from Southern Living really resonate with me! My favorite is the Old School Green Bean Casserole, made with canned fried onion rings. My mother made it even simpler with Campbells’ Cream of Mushroom Soup. Here’s the recipe! 



My other favorite is the Sweet Potato Casserole--we always had it with marshmallows!



And Price loves the Corn Pudding, and makes it every Thanksgiving!



Wherever you find yourself this fall, remember that your life is enriched when you attend to the small details and the little moments. I wish you all the comforts of home as you celebrate the season.

Watch for my new blogs once a month, and Instagram (@dujardin_design) and Facebook (@DujardinDesign) posts on Thursdays. Once a season I send a newsy email letter to you, too! Be sure to subscribe to get all the best design advice and beautiful inspiration through photos of our projects. I want all of us to live in happy, well-designed, healthy homes!


Guest Blogger Michael May: Preserving the Rich History of Nantucket


Today, most islanders and visitors think of Nantucket and historic preservation simultaneously; they go together—hand in hand—but the reality is that historic fabric continues to be lost on island to insensitive renovation. Nantucket’s very success as a significant historic place threatens the resources we thrive to protect and that helps set us apart from mainland communities.

The Nantucket Preservation Trust’s role as stewards and advocates of the island’s rich architectural heritage is to further preservation education and to encourage the protection of our historic resources. It is our hope that all of us will think of historic properties as art objects—one-of-a-kind treasures that through a mix of luck and love have survived. In order to truly save our island’s historic resources, we all need to value and appreciate not only the exteriors of historic buildings, but the quirks and flaws in the interiors that make them different and give them character.  And we all need to encourage patching, repairing and recycling instead of, gutting, replacing and wasting building materials.

Maria Mitchell’s birthplace; photo by Michael May

You don’t need to be a preservationist to know our historic buildings are important. All you have to do is look around and it becomes quite clear that historic preservation is a vital part of the island community and economy. Nantucket’s concentration of historic architecture has for the past 150 years set the island apart from communities on the mainland—drawing visitors from far and wide. Visionaries like Walter Beinecke Jr. knew that the tourism industry would boom as long as we protected these resources.  Using historic preservation as a tool—tourism became the life blood of the local economy, and although some forget–it remains so even today.

Nantucket Atheneum Public Library; photo by Michael May

Some of us may not realize that the historic charm of the island is also a key reason for having some of the highest real estate values in the nation.  And a key reason for Nantucket retaining its charm is that we have regulations that protect our built environment. These regulations have played a critical role in protecting resources and also ensuring quality work for our island designers, architects, and others with a connection to the building trades.

It is shortsighted to think of our preservation regulations as obstacles.  Anyone who loves Nantucket should recognize that our historic resources are of equal importance to those of our environmental and should be equally protected, just as we protect our harbor, wetlands, and beaches.


Over the past decade it has become clear that regulation alone is not the only answer.  Too many of the interior elements of our historic houses are being thoughtlessly destroyed. Those elements give character and integrity to historic architecture and should be maintained. Moreover they remain a critical part of our economic success as a whole as well as retaining the value of an individual house over time.  Removing significant interior features destroys a direct connection to our past and the link to the future.  Unfortunately, Nantucket is slowly losing that tie—house by house. We need to work together—builders, homeowners, local government, downtown businesses, realtors, and preservationists—to make ethical decisions that protect these resources.


Preserving a building’s important features inside and out (not just its shell) as well as its landscape and street context, ensure its economic value.  An analogy to how we should treat a historic building is found in how we now look at a fine antique. Not too long ago fine antiques were often stripped of their original patina—purportedly to make them fresh and clean—for short-term profit.  Today, the long-term value of such a piece is drastically diminished from one with its original surface and signs of wear. Original surface on an antique is now prized and can mean extreme variables in price.

This is also the case with an antique house.  Houses that retain their originality inside and out will always be prized and valued. It is important, therefore, to handle an intact, historic house with care and to make decisions based on its long-term value and architectural integrity. This is not to say changes cannot be made. All houses evolve, but there is a right and a wrong way to handle an old house.

NPT House Marker program provides passersby with an opportunity to learn more about a historic building; photo by Michael May

Gutting a historic house on Nantucket is never the answer, and is a poor investment decision, besides being unethical because gutting steals history from future generations. Let the historic qualities of a house shine, use a “light touch,” and highlight the elements that make your house special. Ask questions and find contractors who understand the need to treat your old house in a proper manner.  If you do, it will increase in value and you will help ensure the future of the architectural heritage of this special place for generations to come.

Here are some tips to consider before starting a restoration project.

Restoring a historic building can be a challenge. It is often difficult to know where to begin and who to turn to for assistance and advice.  The Nantucket Preservation Trust is available to meet with you and to help guide you in the process.


Consider the big picture. Why undertake a restoration project at this time? For many people, the answer is that new mechanicals or kitchen/baths are desired or the house is a new purchase and updating is necessary. As a steward of an island resource you will need to accomplish your goals while protecting and enhancing your home’s historic elements.

Learn about your home’s history and architecture. Before you begin the work, learn more about your house. Every house has a story to tell—not just who built it and who owned it or lived in it over the years, but how the house evolved gradually over time to meet the needs of succeeding owners. Understanding the architectural evolution of the house and its history is key to proper restoration.  The NPT can help you learn more with a simple walk-through to point out original historic elements and changes, and/or with a detailed house history.

Hire an architect, contractor and other experts who understand your needs and the importance of retaining historic fabric. Communicating your desire to retain the historic feel of your property is essential. A talented and sensitive architect/contractor also can help steer you through a more challenging—and interesting—effort to preserve your home’s character while at the same time make needed repairs and improvements.

Original features, such as the transom and staircase with mortgage button should be maintained; photo by Michael May

Limit the scope of repairs. Keep original details. Don’t over-restore. Your philosophy toward restoring your home should be, like that of a physician, “first, do no harm.”  Although some historic elements may need attention, avoid unnecessary repairs and over-finishing. Replace only the portion of elements that are damaged. Replications of molding profiles and other elements will help retain your building’s historic character. Keep old wood as much as possible. New wood will not wear like the original, which is denser and will continue to perform well as long as any rotten sections are repaired.

Retain the historic plan and features. The historic layout should be retained whenever possible. New kitchen and baths should be added in areas that cause the least amount of damage to original fabric. Defining elements should be retained and can include transoms (that small band of windowpanes above doorways); paneled doors with old hardware; mantels; ceiling medallions; and moldings around doorways and windows, where walls meet ceilings, picture moldings, and chair rails. Other important Nantucket features such as old mirror boards (moldings or woodwork between windows) also should be retained. Keep the winder staircases, which have served houses on Nantucket for centuries and are beautifully constructed. If new stairs are required, consider adding straight-run stairs in new additions or areas outside the historic core.  Be cautious in the removable of wings and other elements; rear ells may be original and are often important to the historic character of the house and surrounding neighborhood.

Keep the plaster walls. In the past, plaster was routinely torn out—even by well-meaning preservationists—to make it easier to install new mechanical systems and wiring.  But grouping those components and snaking them through the walls can be accomplished.  Plaster is far superior to modern drywall since it isn’t ruined if it gets wet. It also provides excellent soundproofing, and can be patch-repaired.


Take special care with your wood floors. Many people want to retain the old floors in a historic house, but there is a right way—and a wrong way—to restore them.  Old flooring is often over-sanded, reducing the floor’s life span and at the same time destroying its antique character.  Old floors were hand-planed, and gentle hand-sanding or chemical removable of paint and finishes is the best way to protect them.  Simple cleaning and waxing will retain the old patina, too.

Maintain the quirks. Straighten that crooked window or doorway?  Not necessarily. Treasure the things that show evidence of how your house evolved over the generations. Your house will be more charming and authentic as a result—and yes valuable. It is possible to make structural repairs and still keep those elements that give the house a real Nantucket sense of place.

Restore—don’t replace—historic windows. Windows are key elements of old houses. Old windows were made to be repaired, not replaced. Almost all pre-1940 window frames were built of high-quality, dense wood in easy-to-assemble parts. Maintenance of old windows generally involves keeping them painted and in good working order. Old windows can easily be made energy efficient by adding sensitive storm windows and weather stripping.


Photo by Michael May

Take special care in repairing masonry. Portland cement is usually not compatible with historic brick, and its use can lead to structural damage and moisture problems that can spread to other areas.  Of particular concern on Nantucket are chimneys that have been lined or repointed with cement.  The weight of cement can bring down an old chimney and lead to very costly repairs. Repointing mortar with the correct lime mortar–cement ratio is essential and should not increase the expense.  Hire a mason who understands the importance of matching the mortar to the old brick.

Build new wings “with Nantucket in Mind.” Design any new addition so it is fully compatible with the main core and does not overwhelm it. Oversized additions can negatively affect the streetscape. Read Building With Nantucket in Mind, the architectural design guidelines produced by the Nantucket Historic District Commission.

Complete maintenance on a regular basis. Routine maintenance, such as proper paint preparation, will help minimize rot and the need for costly repairs.  Maintenance on Nantucket is especially important because of the sea air and damp winters.  Address suspected water problems or other issues early to minimize damage


Guest Blogger Michael May is the executive director of the Nantucket Preservation Trust.