Your Home | Summer Living

After renting for years on Martha’s Vineyard, building a getaway all their own

Empty-nesters-to-be commission a bright, modern home that’s everything their year-round residence isn’t.

Landscape architect Kristen Reimann used a fair amount of green lawn instead of meadow grasses in hopes of decreasing the family dog’s exposure to ticks.
Eric Roth
Landscape architect Kristen Reimann used a fair amount of green lawn instead of meadow grasses in hopes of decreasing the family dog’s exposure to ticks.

After years of vacation rentals on Martha’s Vineyard, Anne Sargent Arcano knew what she liked in a house. As soon-to-be empty nesters — their youngest child is 19 — she and her husband wanted their fairly secluded Edgartown lot to hold a manageable, not-too-big home. “A lot of times it’s just the two of us,” she says. “I didn’t want it to feel overwhelming.”

She sent architect Chuck Sullivan photos of shingle-style houses, each with a gable roof that came down over a porch, and he used them as inspiration. The exterior he designed, to his clients’ great satisfaction, features a single swooping gable over the main living space. And yes, there’s a covered porch, which gets abundant use.

As for the interior, Arcano wanted an easygoing vibe with an open layout and lots of light. The family’s full-time residence in a New York City suburb is a traditional older home with smaller, darker rooms. An uncluttered and unfussy approach for the Vineyard house was both an aesthetic preference and a budget-friendly strategy. Says Sullivan, “Anne always went with the cleanest, simplest solutions.”

Eric Roth
In the living room, French doors to the porch and tall windows facing the side yard maximize light and air flow.


Liz Stiving-Nichols and Liane Thomas of Martha’s Vineyard Interior Design chose the furnishings and collaborated with Sullivan on interior finishes. Knotty white oak floors with a driftwood-like finish lend a beachy feel against white walls with square-edge tongue-and-groove accents. In the main living area, teak chairs with rush seats surround an elm dining table, industrial-style stools line the kitchen counter, and clear glass pendants fit in without disappearing. Sofas and easy chairs slipcovered in stonewashed linen surround a cozy fireplace. French doors open onto the covered porch, which has a blue beadboard ceiling and comfy seating.

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The site plan, by landscape architect Kristen Reimann, includes natural-cleft bluestone patios and a saltwater pool. She worked closely with the homeowners to position the pool, which stretches toward the back of the property, so it would neither be visible from the street nor compromise the privacy of the master suite. “Because we settled on an axial plan, with the pool projecting off the porch, we created planting beds to separate these very social areas from the private wing of the house,” says Reimann.

Along either side of the patio, steppingstones arranged in a dramatic pattern avoid overly large expanses of stone. Gardens with blue, pink, and purple blooms peak in midsummer, when the property is used most. A pergola, which Arcano plans to plant with wisteria, shades the grilling area. It’s nestled by the north side of the pool, hidden behind a paperbark maple tree. Arcano says, “We do birthday dinners under the pergola and had a party for my sister around the pool.”

The home is a welcoming retreat for all, no matter the circumstance. “It’s great when we’re by ourselves or when my son brings half a dozen friends,” Arcano says. “The first summer, they were stuck here during a storm, and he says it was the best weekend he’s ever had.”


Eric Roth
Designer Liane Thomas extended the home’s neutral palette to the guest rooms on the second floor.

Dan cutrona
Anne prepares lunch at the kitchen island. French doors in the office open to a path of steppingstones that lead to the pool’s lounge area.

Dan cutrona
Anne and her nieces Sarah  — with Lily the poodle — and Grace relax on the covered porch, which is furnished with teak pieces from Kingsley Bate. “It’s a nice extension of the living space,” Thomas says.

Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to