A New Old House
With the help of talented New England craftsmen, a resourceful homeowner brings history to life in a planned Nantucket community.
When Dr. Joseph Spychalski stepped off the ferry in 1993 he knew instantly that he wanted to own a home on Nantucket. “I was always fascinated with history,” says Spychalski. “Antiques and old furniture held an interest for me. My ultimate dream was to own an early historic home and to furnish it with authentically historic pieces.” Coming from upstate New York, Dr. Joe (as his patients refer to him), a skin care specialist, quickly realized that he could not afford an early sea captain’s home on Orange Street overlooking the harbor, so he bought what he could afford and turned it into his antique dream house.
The fact that his new home was a boxy, newly built house in the island’s planned community known as Naushop makes the handsome finished project all the more dramatic. There is something wonderful and romantic about an older home, one with timeless character that exudes the feeling of being lived in for generations. This house clearly lacked this appeal, so Spychalski set out to literally make his own history. The interior of the house was transformed over a 16-year period into what could easily be mistaken for a house built in the early 1800s. Spychalski attributes this accomplishment to the talented craftsmen that he found to make his vision come alive.
This house, like many new houses, lacked the architectural details that make older homes so appealing. However, since the house was one of the first to be built in this neighborhood, it had advantages. The developers copied some of the early features of Federal style island homes, such as 12-over-12 paned windows, giving the house a bit of unexpected charm. The interior of this house, like many new homes, was a blank canvas just waiting for a patina of “older home appeal.”
When Spychalski bought the house he was not thinking about changing its basic structure. His primary interest was in furnishing his home with authentic early American furniture. “The first piece I bought was an early 1800s highboy,” he says. A fortuitous meeting with New Hampshire’s George and Debbie Spiecker, the antique dealers who sold Spychalski that highboy, became his primary source for putting together an impressive personal collection of antique furnishings.
“I didn’t want to live with reproductions. I like looking at a piece of furniture, or a collection of lightship baskets in a corner cupboard, or sitting in a chair, or eating at a table and imagining the people who enjoyed these things before me,” the doctor explains. “But once I had a sizeable collection of furniture, I quickly realized how out of place it looked in the rooms and decided the ceiling should be grained to look old.
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