For Donna Elle, interior design is so much more than just bureaus and paint colors. The design veteran, who established herself on Nantucket during the ’70s, has developed a unique approach over the years that is more wholistic, more spiritually nourishing than focusing on just the building blocks of color, texture, and form.
“Design is really about a whole person—how you want to feel when you step inside,” explains Elle. “Your home is an extension of your personal life. It’s where you go to feel comforted and safe, to recharge and perhaps even heal. It needs to feel congruent with your inner journey.”
Elle uses this same wholistic approach, whether working on a new Shingle Style build or a historic renovation on Nantucket, Cape Cod, and beyond. At the outset, she asks her clients how they want to feel when they step inside their homes, and she uses their answers as a litmus test while executing the design.
When she asked Michele and Jeff, owners of a charming, shingled cottage in Sconset, what they envisioned for their historic gem, their request for a timeless, evocative interior became the designer’s starting point.
Yet another seating vignette, with two chairs upholstered in a Rogers & Goffigon fabric (“Lagoon” colorway), beckons in the nearby cocktail lounge. “This was previously a dining room and is now more of a pass-through space,” notes Michele. Osborne & Little drapes boast Persian motifs, with a dappled effect that recreates the handmade beauty of oriental rugs. This fabric is printed on a luxurious chenille with a horizontal strié.
Visitors have a choice between two guest bedrooms: one on the ground floor and another in a loft space. Kids (and sometimes adults) prefer the lower level’s third bedroom option with custom bunk beds. “Donna designed the bunks to mimic a ship’s berth,” says Michele. “They have full mattresses and everyone who stays here loves them.”
Meanwhile, the clients retreat to their primary suite, also in the lower level. The cognac painted concrete floors (with radiant heat) inspired the fruitwood finish of the custom king-size canopy bed. Blush-colored walls catch the morning light while the swirling, wave-like, apricot-rose Victoria Larsen wallcovering forms an energetic, romantic accent wall.
Faux painted accents by decorative painter, teacher, and islander Mary Emery further refine the cottage’s color story. For the stairwell, where the clients’ artwork is illuminated by gallery lighting, Emery’s striated paint application mimics the texture of grasscloth. She also customized the kitchen vent hood with a motif drawn from the pattern on the cocktail lounge’s drapes.
Ultimately, the clients appreciated Elle’s personal and professional relationship with the island and knew she would hold the history of their home in high regard. The finished cottage is visually sensual, evocative of place, and infused with artistic detail. Now, when Michele and Jeff step inside, they feel all the right feelings.