These 7 New England Homes Are a Lesson in Sophisticated Coziness

We could all learn a thing or two from these abodes
living room with brown walls and built in bookshelves
Photo: Douglas Friedman

New England is known for many things: its historical significance, natural beauty, and seafood—to name a few. And as it happens, New England homes have quite a reputation too. Below, we’ve chosen seven of our favorite AD–featured New England homes, from a charming British-inspired Federal-style Boston town house designed by Nina Farmer, to a new build on Nantucket by AD100 designer Ken Fulk.

A British-Inspired Boston Home

Designer Nina Farmer identified the parlor, seen above, as the most layered in the Boston home.

Photo: Jared Kuzia

Interior designer Nina Farmer didn’t have to look far for inspiration when longtime friends commissioned her to renovate their Boston home. The Federal-style town house sits in a historic district, lined with stately 18th-century properties that date back to an era when British design influences dominated the area. So it’s little surprise that the tailored, richly layered interiors she installed have the look and feel of an ancestral manor house somewhere in the English countryside.

“The clients travel to the UK often and they have a real affinity for British style and history,” says Farmer, whose design philosophy is rooted in a classical sensibility that mixes interiors from different periods. “We discussed a lot of ideas, but in the end we were all pretty much in sync with the aesthetic direction.”

The elevated British style inside the four-story row house is aided by the UK-based brands that Farmer sourced for the furniture, fabrics, and fittings. The result is a 3,000-square-foot home that manages to simultaneously feel formal and familiar without losing its decidedly British way of living. —Troy J. McMullen

A Rocky Waterfront House in Maine

A painting from Sloane Merrill Gallery, Kelly Carmody’s The Window Seat, rests on the mantel in the living room of this Nina Farmer–designed home.

Photo: David Mitchell; Art: Kelly Carmody/Sloane Merrill Gallery

There’s a feeling of fortune in knowing someone who has extended an invite to their house at the end of one of midcoast Maine’s peninsulas. Just off Route 1, beyond a scene of lobster shacks and nautically themed shops, there are dirt roads lined with evergreen trees that lead to incredibly striking landscapes. Rocky outcrops covered in bright-green moss suddenly appear between fragrant pines and spruces—often with a bald eagle or two soaring above. No matter the side of the narrow promontory on which said home is perched, the light, wind, and sounds of water present themselves with glory.

Which is all to say: It’s easy to see why anyone would catch a glimpse of the area and want to own a small piece of it. That was exactly the case for one family of five, who were captivated by a retreat in Harpswell despite having no roots in midcoast Maine. Not long after, they called up interior designer Nina Farmer to make the home feel like a real getaway from their primary residence.

Despite the house’s proximity to the ocean and the feeling the property possessed of seeming to almost float on the nearby water, the desired directive was to eschew a typical beach look in favor of a comfortable, colorful, and more textured aesthetic.

“I [designed the family’s primary home], so it was nice that I had a familiarity with them,” says Farmer, who is based in Boston. “They wanted [the space] to feel very approachable and homey and like a real getaway. The husband is from Scotland, and one of the things that he really liked was that the landscape reminded him of home…with the foggy weather pattern that can roll in and out.” Without heavy-handedness, Farmer incorporated plaids, flannels, and varied textures that spoke to the husband’s memories of Scotland as well. —Zoë Sessums

Susie Hilfiger’s Sister Parish–Inspired Manse

Susie Hilfiger worked with Colefax & Fowler on designing her longtime home in Connecticut. The wallpaper in this sitting room is by Tyler Hall.

Photo: Douglas Friedman

In the nearly 30 years she lived at Denbigh Farm, Susie Hilfiger resisted ever publishing photos or giving an interview on the home and its grounds. In the mid-1990s, when she and her former husband Tommy Hilfiger purchased the house, the fashion designer was at the height of his ubiquity. “I wanted privacy for my family,” she explains. When they found the home, she was pregnant with her fourth child, and the sprawling historic estate seemed like the ideal place to raise their family out of the public eye. “We instantly fell in love with it,” she recalls of the shingled manor house, which at the time was home to Joseph Verner Reed Jr., a close advisor to President George H. W. Bush and onetime ambassador to Morocco.

But three decades later, her four children have grown up, started families of their own, and moved away. Hilfiger has decided to follow suit, selling the property and relocating west to California to be closer to her flock. “I loved raising my children at Denbigh Farm,” Hilfiger says, opening up for the first time about the historic property. “But now I’ve started a new chapter.”

“The house deserved sensitivity and attention to detail,” Hilfiger says. “It had amazing bones and an even better spirit.” However, before giving it a facelift, the Hilfigers were forced to confront the problems that arose with a centuries-old house. “We redid everything: the roof, the plumbing, all the infrastructure,” she recounts. For the decoration, Hilfiger enlisted Colefax & Fowler to help her realize her vision, which was loosely inspired by Sister Parish. Together they devised a palette rich in vintage-inspired textiles, elaborate patterns, and vibrant colors. —Laura May Todd

A Chromatic Massachussetts Getaway by AD100 Designer Frances Merrill

The sectional in the living room of this Frances Merrill–designed home is upholstered in a Lisa Corti floral.

Photo: Laure Joliet; Styling: Mieke ten Have

On her first visit to what would eventually become a beguiling and much-loved gathering spot for a host of family members and friends, Katie Jordan couldn’t actually get inside. It was November, and the house—which had been built in 1912 and never winterized—was boarded up. Nonetheless, as she and a friend wandered its autumnal grounds, the conviction grew that she’d at long last found exactly what she was looking for.

“The whole ocean side is all these incredible rocks, and then the harbor is just to your right,” she explains. Standing sentinel at the edge of a weathered granite promontory on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, the dwelling overlooks both a bustling fishing port and a stretch of scenic coast. The glorious view loses none of its romance even at night, when the distant lights of Boston often glimmer bewitchingly across the dark waters.

“I was looking for an older home that nobody had ruined,” Jordan continues, and this particular structure—once she was able to enter—proved perfect for her and her son. It was one of two houses that belonged to the local yacht club, and after being sold in 1951, it had passed down in the same family ever since. With no notable additions and only minor changes having been made through the decades, it remained a pristine specimen of a modest New England seaside cottage.

So the task became one of equipping her prize with the amenities that modern life requires (heat, for one) without erasing the home’s period charm. For assistance, it was only natural to recruit AD100 laureate Frances Merrill of Reath Design in Los Angeles, who had already partnered happily with Jordan on her full-time residence in California (AD, February 2020). —Kyle Hoepner

A Vibrant Coastal Maine Home

The painting at the center of this Lilse McKenna–designed living room is by Connor Owens from JJ Snyder Studio.

Photo: Read McKendree / JBSA; styling by Frances Bailey

“Have fun with gingham!” said one of the homeowners—a new grandmother—of her family’s worse-for-wear family beach house in Maine. She was offering direction to Connecticut-based interior designer Lilse McKenna, who immediately summoned a mental image of Gloria Vanderbilt’s 1970s-era Southampton bedroom, wrapped in pink check. While McKenna is known for her “grandmillennial” style, she thinks of her record-scratching remixes of classic motifs like chintz and patchwork as a “fresher take on Americana.”

Luckily, the pandemic-era renovation of the 30-year-old shingle-style home required just that. Especially since grandchildren—the newest generation of beachcombing, tennis-playing, hamburger-flipping snowbirds that will eventually take over the joint—have recently entered the fray. “I could tell this house was important to them,” McKenna says. “It had been well loved for several decades, but needed some renewal to keep up with the growing family.”

Before a glut of gingham could be liberated, the designer required a clean slate. To that end, the original dark fir paneling that had been smothering the interiors was painted white, turning the walls into bright and appropriately seaworthy shiplap. Other architectural updates were completed with an eye toward more communion, with the woodsy landscape of red oaks, pine trees, a blight of bittersweet vines, and—as the grandfather clarifies—“No hedges! This isn’t the Hamptons.” The shoreline is just 50 yards from the front door of the beachy rambler. —Leilani Marie Labong

A Cozy Connecticut Home by AD100 Designer Stephen Sills

Lauren Dupont and Richard Dupont worked with AD100 designer Stephen Sills, a longtime friend of theirs, on their Connecticut home.

Photo: Max Burkhalter; Styling: Mieke ten Have

Navigating a patch of delphiniums that she grew from seed in her Connecticut garden, Lauren Dupont is in her element. “I just joined a garden club, which sounds so weird, but I’m into it,” she confides, cradling a bread-plate-size Royal Wedding poppy in her hand. “You kind of nerd out on the facts—the Latin names—and why things don’t work.”

Though by the looks of the current setting, the cutting garden below a redbrick Georgian house— her “happy zone”—any failures are rather outnumbered. Dupont, a pillar of New York fashion and media circles, and her husband, the multimedia artist Richard Dupont, purchased the circa 1930s residence on the hairline cusp of the pandemic. With older children (a son, 14, and two daughters, 20 and 23) and suddenly more time on her hands, Lauren enrolled in online horticulture classes, soon breathing new life into the existing landscape. “I have always wanted a garden,” she says. “Like Richard’s an artist, this is sort of my painting.”

The couple brought the same imaginative fervor to the interior of their new home, working hand in glove with a longtime friend, AD100 designer Stephen Sills, who had helped them decorate their prior Manhattan apartments. “We had no mood boards,” Lauren says of the “kind of English and cozy” design scheme, which relied heavily on repurposing and recovering existing pieces that the couple had collected through tag sales, auctions, and trips abroad—as well as from their respective families. —David Foxley

A Nantucket Project by AD100 Designer Ken Fulk

The study of this Ken Fulk–designed home is painted in Mahogany by Farrow and Ball.

Photo: Douglas Friedman

If you know of Ken Fulk, chances are you know of his dogs: a trio of cream English golden retrievers (better known, perhaps, as #polarbearsofptown) and a wirehair dachshund who populate the AD100 interior designer’s Instagram feed. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the story of this house—a newly constructed shingled number on Nantucket—starts with a visit to the vet. When Fulk, who has a house in Provincetown, Massachusetts, took the dogs in for a checkup, he never guessed the local P-Town veterinarian, Dr. Stephen DeVincent, would become a future client.

“I met Ken’s dogs before I met Ken,” DeVincent jokes. That was around 2007. Fast forward more than a decade, DeVincent had married Ambassador Rufus Gifford, chief of protocol of the United States and former ambassador to Denmark, and they were building a house on Nantucket. Gifford’s family had a long history on the island, where he grew up spending summers and holidays, and the couple was ready to create a place of their own on a plot of beach-gazing property. “Nantucket has always felt like home to him,” DeVincent explains, “Provincetown always felt like home to me.” So when it came time to hire a designer, they immediately thought of Fulk. Who better to merge those two coastal identities? An added bonus: They had become close friends over the years.

“It was a new home, but we wanted it to feel rooted in its place and in history,” explains Fulk, who looked to coastal New England whaling towns (including Provincetown, of course) for inspiration, playing with the idea of what a beachside Nantucket house could look like. They paired the typical (in many cases, mandatory) shingles with dark trim and a moody palette that had a more historic feeling than what was typical in the area. “It has an almost masculine character to it, and we leaned into that.”

Building something from the ground up is no small feat in a location like Nantucket, where the placement of a window or pitch of a roof can attract serious scrutiny by the historical commission. Eventually, after working closely with the Connecticut-based architecture firm Shope Reno Wharton, they landed on a classic shingle-style structure (a sort of gabled roof sandwich) that felt simultaneously cozy and beachy—and most importantly, in DeVincent’s words, “like it’s been there for a long time.” —Hannah Martin