One of the highlights of my too-short stint stateside was a brief visit to Martha’s Vineyard. Anders’ visit coincided with my mom and I’s preplanned time there, and I could not have been happier to show him around what I consider to be one of the quaintest, most charming spots in the United States.
As we stepped off the ferry and I felt that warm rush of being in a familiar, favorite place, I turned to ask him his initial thoughts. “This,” he said after a long pause, “looks like Denmark. With American flags.”
It kind of became a running joke that Anders had flown across the world only for me to breathlessly show him a place that was so much like home. I’d point out the novelty of bike lanes, Anders would inform me that they are de facto in Denmark. I’d marvel over the lack of Starbucks, Anders would hone in one the island’s one unassuming chain — a Dairy Queen tucked in a white clapboard house. I’d carry on about the beauty of small living spaces, and Anders would politely question if the house was actually small or if my perspective was somewhat skewed by the American McMansion philosophy.
Either way, we both agreed — this is a beautiful way to live.
As some of you may recall, my mom finally fulfilled a long-standing dream last year and bought property on the island. But it wasn’t one of the private, remote properties we rented for vacations when I was a kid. Rather, it was one of the brightly colored gingerbread cottages in the tight-knit Oak Bluffs Campground community. Living here comes with a lot of rules — about how often you can rent out your house, what kind of renovations you can do to it, and even what color garbage bags you can use. But it also comes with so many benefits. We’re within walking distance of the beach, the ferry, restaurants, shops, and the library. We’re also a pleasant bike ride away from both Vineyard Haven and Edgartown.
But nothing beats the community. All over the Vineyard, there is a sense of camaraderie. One thing I love about Martha’s Vineyard is the fierce support of local businesses. No Barnes and Noble or CVS needed, thanks — we’re got The Book Den and Vineyard Scripts!
And here, neighbors are more than just people you grunt at while putting out the recycling bins. When my mom moved in, she was greeted with several welcome baskets and bottles of champagne. On one morning stroll through the campground, we stopped to say good morning to one of her neighbors and half an hour later my mom was still standing there with her arms on the banisters, laughing at old island tales while I took photos of the talented wood-workers’ creations. This is a true, tight-knit neighborhood.
While we mostly tooled around on foot or by bike, we did pile into the car one evening to show Anders “up island” — the towns of Menemsha, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. Our first stop was the Aquinnah lighthouse, one of the islands’ most beautiful lookouts.
After, we rushed to Menemsha Beach to catch the sunset. This outing highlighted what I love so much about shoulder season on the Vineyard. We hit no traffic, we sailed into a parking spot, and when my mom sauntered over to The Bite to grab a lobster roll, there was nary a line in sight. Menemsha Beach, which is blanketed in shoulder to shoulder people during the high season, was spotted with just a few friendly island families we quickly bonded with.
A good time was had by all. And by all I mean everyone except Tucker, who had a hard time figuring out the fairness of the lobster roll situation. And Anders, who continued to call Tucker it rather than he under the guise of an “English mistake,” didn’t really help things along.
Really though, this Vineyard visit was all about the new old house. Next summer I’m planning an extended stay there and pinky promise lots of useful Vineyard posts about budget and restaurants and bike trails, but for now I’m just going to show you some before and afters. Deal?
Last Thanksgiving. my mom, sister, grandmother and I popped over to the Vineyard to see the house right after the sale went through. While we were overjoyed, we were also overwhelmed. The previous owners had left the house in a state that resembled a mash up between an episode of Antique Roadshow and Hoarders. There were tons of treasures left behind — antique cameras, typewriters, microscopes — but it took hours of sorting through junk and garbage to find them.
On both trips, I snapped photos on our way out the door, and I thought it would be fun to look at the progress over the year. My mom has been pouring heart and soul and elbow joints into the renovation, and she and her boyfriend have done a ton of the manual labor themselves. It has really paid off.
Now for the before and afters — except as much of the house is in progress, consider a lot of these to be “in progress.” The room that needed the most work, and is the closest now to finish, was/is the kitchen. We were completely enamored with the original cabinetry you see on the left wall, and the renovation revolved around preserving that while creating a useable space.
And because I just can’t get enough of this kitchen, a few more shots. It is such a happy room. And I can’t get over certain details — my mom and I do occasionally clash on design decisions, but I think she knocked it out of the park here. For example, we are microwave people, and my mom likes to watch TV while she cooks. I think she incorporated those two modern desires in a pretty chic way, no?
The upstairs bathroom was the second point of attack. We had some serious differences of opinion. My sister and I wanted the original clawfoot tub to stay, but my mom insisted on a shower. While I would have loved to have seen the tub worked in, I can now admit that everything does look fantastic.
The highlight of the room is without question the reclaimed vanity. When we bought the house this monstrosity was in the dining room and we all agreed it had to go. Somewhere along the way either my mom or her boyfriend had the lightbulb go off to use it in the bathroom and started choppin’ and paintin’. We still need to decide on new knobs, and a build in shelf will eventually fill in that gap on the right — but wow!
The dining room got a major facelift thanks to some serious wall opening and linoleum-removing. We’re still deciding on paint colors as the paint chips reveal, but I love the direction this room is going in. All the chairs are original to the house — the only thing that’s been bought was the dining room table.
Some rooms… still need work. The layout in the living room is so awkward we’re still struggling with how to lay it out. My mom wants to take out the fireplace, but let’s just say that would quickly become another tubgate.
And then there are the bedrooms upstairs. These are still very much in progress. In fact looking at these before and after photos I’m realizing how much cozier these rooms looked with some color on the walls. The middle bedroom below is actually the only way to access the back bedroom and has no door separating it from the hallway, which is a little awkward. Eventually we’d like to make it into an office space.
The back bedroom got a major facelift thanks to a minor layout change. It still needs a little oomph, but I love the way this room is looking.
Finally, the front bedroom. I love this little space, but again, I think it needs some color back on the walls.
I can’t wait to see the progress after next year! It’s a labor of love and I tip my hat to my mom and co. who have worked so hard to get it this far. As a design and DIY lover I can’t wait to get a little more involved next summer. See you in 2014, Martha’s Vineyard!
Which is your favorite room?