How One Couple Turned an Old Fishing Shack Into a Stunning Summer Retreat

When a Massachusetts couple falls hook, line, and sinker for modest fishing shacks on Martha's Vineyard, the end result is a real keeper of a cottage.

martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

When Marsha Ahearn found a pair of charming, secluded old fishing shacks built in the 1950s, she knew she found the best catch on Martha's Vineyard. After convincing her husband, Patrick, to make the investment, the two spent the following six months fixing up the three-acre beachside property.

"No one else can build cottages on this land anymore," Patrick, an architect and author of says. "This place will forever stay the way it is. It’ll always look like the 1950s and 1960s." That's why it was important to the couple—as well as the close-knit community—that modern updates wouldn’t downgrade any of the cottages’ original charm.

After several months of renovations lead by Patrick and decorating done by Marsha, the shacks are now a casual and funky beach home that houses a mix of new pieces and antiques from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market. “I still feel like I could pinch myself,” she says. “It’s my greatest hope that we can pass it down, and it can stay in the family forever, because it will always be magical here.” Take a peek inside to see the magic for yourself.

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Exterior
exterior martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

When it came time to add layers of color, Marsha was inspired by the view outside and started with a bright blue for the shutters and back door. “Patrick uses a lot of dark black-green for his other Edgartown projects, but I was like, ‘No, no! We are up-island. It has to be a little funky.’”


Entryway
entryway martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

A ladder leading to the loft is original to the house and can be folded flat against the wall when not in use. The Gothic mirror and bench are finds from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market.


Kitchen
kitchen martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The Ahearns brightened up the old kitchen with a custom blend of white paint (a 50/50 formula of China White and Linen White, both by Benjamin Moore) and a cobalt blue door (Zephyr Blue by Benjamin Moore).


Kitchen Storage
kitchen storage martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The couple also replaced linoleum countertops with warm butcher block and traded upper cabinets for open shelving filled with stoneware, green glass jars, and majolica plates.


Dining Room
dining room martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The dining room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the Atlantic Ocean. Marsha had the curtains made from 100-year-old French sheets found at Brimfield. A lightweight lantern hangs above the dining table. Bark cloth pillows add feminine pattern to wicker chairs.


Living Room
living room martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The metal chandelier doesn’t obstruct the ocean view just outside. A bamboo chair from eBay and a slipcovered sofa provide swimsuit-friendly seating.


Guest Room
bedroom martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

In the guest room, Marsha chose a bamboo headboard and an antique quilt she found on eBay. A turquoise bench and majolica plates round out the breezy palette.


Bathroom
bathroom martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The master bathroom is a mix of materials—from the bluestone-topped vanity and wood mirror to the bronze hardware.


Sleeping Loft
bedroom martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

A sleeping loft has just enough room for a bed, end tables, and a telescope, as well as an old sign Marsha found at a tag sale.


The Homeowners
martha's vineyard beach house tour decorating ideas
Alec Hemer

The couple, Marsha and Patrick Ahearn, at the beach near their Edgartown home.

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