Written by Gabrielle Svaoie | Photography by Annie Schlechter
Being a STEM teacher isn’t easy, but it does come with a perk in Greg Dunbar’s case: a two-month summer vacation that allows him and his partner, Glenn Hinderstein, to leave their Los Angeles home every June and spend the season in Nantucket. The couple met on the island in 2015; Dunbar has been visiting the New England locale since he was a child, and Hinderstein, an avid sailor, spent many years on his boat in the area. After two summers spent living on Hinderstein’s sailboat, however, Dunbar craved solid ground again. They traded their sea legs for a small rose-covered, shingled cottage in Sconsett.
For most people, the more square footage, the better, but the couple was charmed by the postage-stamp size of Burgee Cottage (named after their goldendoodle). The house clocks in at 1,700 square feet, with “4 feet of outdoor space in every direction,” jokes Dunbar. Its location, steps away from the ocean in an area known to have been a hot spot for Broadway stars in the 1890s, trumped the size. Besides, months spent on a boat meant the couple were already masters at using up every nook and cranny and ducking around angled ceilings (for Hinderstein, who is 6 feet 1, it’s second nature no matter where he is).
It also helped that Hinderstein’s friend of 30 years, designer Peter Dunham, agreed to help out with the interiors. “Peter was really fantastic spatially,” says Dunbar. He convinced them not to center the sofa around the fireplace to allow for multiple seating areas in the living room, and stuck built-in storage everywhere he could. The couple pitched in, too. “We were a huge part of hunting for antiques,” says Hinderstein. “If it were up to me, the coffee table would be one of those captain’s wheels with glass on top, so Peter did a good job of doing that dance with us and reining me in.”
The primary goal of the reno: “Giving the house as much of its original flavor as possible, but making it feel less like Granny’s cottage and more appropriate for two guys who are modern liberals and have an active life,” says Dunham, laughing. That involved adding crisp shiplap throughout; exposing original beams to make the ceilings higher; and sourcing the perfect reclaimed red and white oak planks for the floors, inspired by a Steven Gambrel project. Hinderstein found the timber in New Hampshire. “I’m a little bit obsessive about certain things, especially wood,” he admits.
“From our sitting area in the bedroom, I can look at the ocean and the beautiful greenery and smell the sea breeze,” says Hinderstein.
Two minor structural changes were also on the to-do list: a larger kitchen, which the couple achieved by borrowing space from the adjacent laundry room, and building a partial wall in the main bedroom so their bed could look out onto the ocean. “If anything, it added space in a strange way,” says Dunbar (they gained a closet in the equation). His college friend, architect Emily Trulson, oversaw the work.
The home’s footprint may still be small, but Dunham went big on pattern and texture. He was tasked with creating the bespoke furniture (like woven dining chairs inspired by a seat he picked up when the New York Athletic Club closed), as well as choosing breezy yet bold fabrics (a red and blue wallpaper in the guest room distracts from the fact that it looks out onto the neighbors’ house).
Unlike most beach getaways, you have to search to spot the nautical touches at Burgee Cottage. Curved wood sconces, an ode to buoys imagined by Dunbar, are peppered through the house, while Hinderstein punched grommet holes into their Shade Store blinds so he could add leather monkey fist pulls, a knot that’s commonly used for marine keychains because it tends to float.
A landscape architect in a previous life, Dunbar also took charge of the yard. “I can look out the window now and tell you what date it is, based on what’s in bloom,” he says. Life is slower in Nantucket, which gives the couple time for puttering around, either on the water or within view of it. “From our sitting area in the bedroom, I can see the ocean and the beautiful greenery and smell the sea breeze,” says Hinderstein. “It’s quite spectacular for a little house.”