Dream Come True
by Constance Helstosky
Siasconset is like nowhere else on earth. Everyone who visits this little New England village on the eastern edge of Nantucket is charmed by the quaint cottages, colorful gardens, and unique microcosm that boast a historic year-round post office. A sense of place within this community is deeply entrenched within Siasconset history. Beginning as a fishing village in the 1600s, and morphing into a Nantucket summer vacation destination, ‘Sconset is still defined by the architecture and character of these earlier days. Sitting between the well traveled Bluff Walk and the antique village is a one-of-a-kind Shell Street home designed and built by Steve Roethke of S.M. Roethke Design, Inc. “Shell Game” is a masterpiece designed to blend seamlessly between the Siasconset of old, and new. Due to Roethke and his client’s vision, the new construction preserves and respects the historical context upon which the house was founded.
Steve Roethke grew up visiting Nantucket, and when the opportunity came to move to the Island full time to practice his craft of design and architecture he describes it as a dream come true. A small, private practice established in 2005, S.M. Roethke Design has evolved into a full service design/build firm specializing in custom and contextual residential solutions. Steve, and his trusted team, can handle the full gamut of building services from design concept through development.
Often mistaken as a renovation, Shell Game replaces a relocated original structure that left in its wake a stylistic premise for the home’s design. The original structure served in the late 1800s as a kitchen and dance hall for ’Sconset’s Evergreen Park artists colony. A kitchen fire broke out in the early 1920s, and the structure was moved to the Shell Street site and reinvented as a residence. Repairs and renovations took place, and the stylistic details and spirit of the socially charged “Roaring 20s” were applied in simple, economic ways to the structure. A new building began to be imagined, one that would keep the unique 1920s architectural history of the original structure while meeting the demands of modern life.
The impression the old structure left on Roethke and his client would drive the aesthetic of the new design forward. Shell Game’s owner is a seasoned ‘Sconset dweller who was looking to create more space for a growing family, while prioritizing the stylistic, and often whimsical details that define Sconset’s unique architecture. Roethke describes the project’s placement.
The house’s interior is defined by an open kitchen, dining, and living room for easy, modern living styled around a minimal 1920s design. The kitchen plays with a classic black and white concept that accentuates the simple, crisp details and clean lines of the shiplap walls and black window-framed views to the Atlantic. The minimalist approach easily integrates with the modern conveniences of a cook’s kitchen. In one corner of the kitchen, a small “tea-sink” services the Owner’s tastes for teas from around the world. In the adjacent mudroom, the ceilings are detailed with exposed rafters and v-groove, creating the feeling of antiquity. A custom stainless steel work surface and large sink provides a space for outside projects, like dog washing, to come indoors. In the living room, exquisitely simple 3″x 4″ white exposed beams articulate the ceiling while vertical board and batten wall paneling complete the millwork backdrop. A magnificent, big, brick fireplace detailed with sawtooth edges was built, then painted white to extend the period theme and blur the line between new construction and antique authenticity.
Throughout the home, many details speak to an older era while maintaining the home’s contemporary simplicity, and this balance seamlessly draws you through the home. There is an Old-English inspired butler’s pantry, a monochromatic deep gray surround of millwork, cabinetry, and walls which evokes a sense of timelessness. Ten and 12-inch wide white oak floor boards throughout the house were water popped and dyed to leave raised grain and a texture that gives the impression it has been worn for many years. A beautifully detailed, traditional winding stair complete with a stout, custom turned and stained mahogany newel post and balustrade greets visitors in the entry foyer, setting the stage for the stylized experience of the home’s interior.
Clerestory windows above the entry foyer wash the wide staircase in light, drawing one up to the second floor where a 9-foot tall bookcase wall greets you. Just around a corner, the master bedroom was designed facing due east, poised above one of the largest lawns in ‘Sconset. This ‘great lawn’ remains today as it has always been – open and uninterrupted, the new Owners are now the custodians of this community space enjoyed by ‘Sconset natives for generations. Together the house and lawn stand as the collective product of this dynamic collaboration between a homeowner committed to the ‘Sconset tradition, and Roethke’s historically driven design principles, and quality construction ethic.
For more information on S.M. Roethke Design, Inc. visit their website.
Article edited. Full version available in ONLY NANTUCKET SUMMER 2017