Cape Cod HOME Summer 2017 |

Building Business: The Cottages at White Elephant

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2017 / ,

Writer: Tanya Lawrence / Photographer: Jeffery Allen 

Cottages White Elephant

Capturing the colors of Nantucket, designer Donna Elle creates accommodations travelers will never want to leave. Photo by Jeffery Allen

Designer Donna Elle is called upon to cultivate a group of cottages at Nantucket’s famed White Elephant that instantly say ‘Seaside Summer.’

Photographs and artistic renditions of Nantucket are often resplendent with images of picket fences and gardens galore, but nothing will truly match actually being there. The island is known for catering perfectly to all those who touch its shores, offering fun and enchantment to willing adventurers or a bit of salvation to others through its familiar and idyllic setting. As most would imagine, these characteristics and sentiments can be rightly found throughout the various properties on Nantucket, including a favorite retreat, The Cottages at White Elephant. The recent redesign of these cottages by award-winning island designer Donna Elle has infused new life and direction into the overall décor, captivating guests upon arrival and embracing them throughout their stay.    

Located on scenic Nantucket Harbor, The Cottages boast unique architectural features and embody the sophisticated style of the island. It is the very nature of these elements that Donna Elle leveraged in renovating this historic property. “Each cottage is named after a flower that thrives on the island, like honeysuckle and hydrangea. This drives the sense of being there,” Elle explains. “It was this symbolic representation that made my design mission so clear: embrace this essence within the redesign and provide the full experience of being on Nantucket.” The transformation was spot-on accurate.

A Fresh Breeze, Summer 2017 Cape Cod HOME |

The Cottages at White Elephant offer serene bedrooms separate from the living areas so that guests feel like they have their own summer beach house, even if just for a week. Photo by Jeffery Allen

The Cottages offer a personal sense of privacy for those enjoying extended vacations, including families and couples alike. Key to their allure are the many available amenities. Beyond the convenience of dining areas, kitchenettes and cozy fireplaces lies the charm of these accommodations in the form of lush gardens and a sprawling lawn. Guests of all ages join in outdoor games by day and enjoy sunsets and fireflies by night. Bettina Landt, general manager of White Elephant, states, “Unlike White Elephant Hotel, the cottages on the premises were meant to be more fun and beachy—as a Nantucket cottage should be. When we began this design project, the cottages were reminiscent of a hotel room. That did not work. We needed to embrace them for what they were and their original and unique characteristics.” She adds, “Most often we have families who stay here, so we needed to think outside the box during the design process. We had to integrate the aspect of the traveler, including amenities not normally thought of to make their stay everything they would want.” Having worked together for 15 years, Landt knew undoubtedly that Donna Elle was vital to achieving success.

Having lived on Nantucket for over 40 years, Elle is acutely aware that the heart and soul of The Cottages rests not only in their island look and feel but also in the seasoned Nantucket visitors who inhabit them, even if for just a short while. Quickly immersing herself into the project, she plugged into a distinct energy to “get in the zone,” translating concept into design with an easy flow. “The process of design ebbs and flows within me like the tides,” Elle says. “When I am in that transcendent flow of the two forces is where dreams become concretized, resulting in a seamless connection between the space and those that dwell within it.” The Cottages project was no exception.

A Fresh Breeze, Summer 2017 Cape Cod HOME |

Comfortable seating areas in carefree fabric choices keep things stress free. Photo by Jeffery Allen

While charm and ease were integral to the redesign, so was the reflection of beauty found only steps outside the door. These inspirations translated into clean, coastal colors that adorn walls rich in history and original hardwood floors, resurfaced in a warm modern hue. Furniture specified and selected by Elle from Stanley Furniture’s Coastal Living collection was fitted with solution-dyed acrylic fabric for a light and airy, sophisticated vibe. In addition, the purposeful choice in material withstands natural and man-made elements including light, weather, wet seasonal attire and lotions. Pillows and area rugs from Elle’s own Life’s a Breeze collection readily complement the surrounding pieces; they add to the unique feel provided by other accessories inspired by the history and environment of the island. “Guests love The Cottages,” Landt says. “The colors are light and bright, and the characteristics we longed to keep have been beautifully built into the redesign. We’ve accomplished what we set out to achieve, and the outcome is a relaxing and really comfortable experience, particularly for families who seek just that.”

On the surface, interpreting and translating a client’s vision are seemingly the critical underpinnings to attaining the ultimate design. However, collaboration and partnership with architects and contractors are also significant factors to success. “Being a team player is of vital importance and what breeds success across all my design projects,” Elle says. “My motto is that wood doesn’t bend but humans do, given the right environment. Partner well, and you’ll get the best out of people.”

This was evident to all those participating in the multi-faceted design process. As expressed by Landt, “Donna works deftly through each piece of the design process, always well attuned to the end-user and in touch with all those who play a part in this amazing venture.”    

Through this redesign, The Cottages at White Elephant have a revived sense of purpose and splendor that is shared with all those lucky to stay there. Elle has created a backdrop that allows guests to write their own individual adventure. “I strive to understand the deepest part of who my clients truly are and then skillfully and energetically interpret their spirit within the design,” she says. “I believe this combined with my design sense results in a deeply gratifying and interpretive carpet ride, one that clients yearn to experience again and again!”   

For more information on accommodations and events at the White Elephant, visit

Tanya Lawrence is a writer and modern-day adventurer living in Rochester. We offer a full array of auto locksmith services to cover all your vehicle security needs. If you are locked out of your car, or you are looking to have a new car key cut, we are the auto locksmith experts to call upon.