This Historic Home Is Both Bold and Inviting

handpainted stars on floor
Photo: John Bessler

Designer Nick Olsen charts a course for bold color and pattern in an adventurous client's historic Sag Harbor home.

01 of 10

Compelling Twists

living room with blue walls and yellow chairs
John Bessler

Great white whale? Hmm. Lapis blue might be more interesting. Because while Michael Lorber was captivated by an old sea captain's home in Sag Harbor, New York, he wasn't so smitten by its ubiquitous neutrals. However, he knew just the designer to weave compelling twists into the storyline of his newly purchased abode: Nick Olsen, one-time Miles Redd protégé, 2012 Traditional Home New Trad, patron of color, and proponent of pattern.

02 of 10

Historical House

entrance with greek-style columns
John Bessler

"I wanted a lot of color, fun, and nautical flair," says Michael, a luxury real estate broker. "I wanted a true captain's house."

That he got. The house was built in 1810 by primary craftsman Benjamin Glover on Captains' Row in Sag Harbor during the town's whaling days. It was added to and combined with a neighboring house in 1850, gaining beautiful Greek Revival-style -columns, moldings, and newels. "The house has such strong history and architecture," Olsen says. "I was excited to work on it and to bring in Michael's design ethos. He doesn't shy from color and pattern—we're a great fit that way."

03 of 10

Sunny Entry

entryway with green light fixture
John Bessler

Olsen's infusion of color starts in the entry hall, where a decorative paint finish by artist Chris Pearson gives walls the look of sunbaked yellow bricks. "I like that yellow is a happy color but also a historical color," the designer says.

The thread of yellow continues on upholstered armchairs in the living room, where it pairs with hints of green (a nod to -Michael's affinity for lettuceware) and an explosion of blue on hand-painted walls.

"I love Bunny Mellon homes, and I was inspired by the rich blue crosshatch pattern in the dining room of her Manhattan home," Olsen says. To suit the interior architecture of this historic home, however, Olsen dialed down the drama, bypassing flouncy draperies in favor of simple white linen shades.

04 of 10

High Impact Colors

dining room with landscape mural fireplace
John Bessler

In the adjacent dining room, blue reigns once again—this time on a customized de Gournay wallpaper that celebrates the history of Sag Harbor, including its sailing ships and its synagogue, the oldest on Long Island.

While the scene harks to the past, its hues speak to today. "We recolored the whole design from softer colors to give it high impact," Olsen says. "It intensifies a historic notion without being overwhelming."

05 of 10

Nautical Style

handpainted stars on floor
John Bessler

Navy-and-white-striped shades offer geometric contrast to the organic feel of the wallpaper and subtly reinforce the nautical theme, which gets another nod in the kitchen courtesy of compass stars on the hand-painted blue-and-white floor.

06 of 10

Inviting Primary Suite

bedroom with blue-and-white striped wallpaper
John Bessler

A blue-and-white pinstripe wallpaper serves as the backdrop for a tufted red leather headboard in Michael's handsome primary suite. Blue linen curtains juxtapose red doors and deep masculine dashes of red in a tapestry rug, one of numerous pieces that Michael brought in from previous homes.

07 of 10

Feels Like Home

seating area with blue wave wallpaper
John Bessler

"Nick knows that I'm a sentimental person," Michael says. "He includes things that are important to me and make me feel at home. It doesn't feel like I just moved in here. It feels like I've been living in this house for 15 years."

08 of 10

Big and Bold Color

bedroom with green walls and pink door
John Bessler

Bits of Michael—via his collected pieces—and blasts of color keep right on coming on the third floor, where each guest room has its own identity. One room pairs emerald green lacquered walls with a soaring floral headboard.

09 of 10

Whimsical Collection

bedroom with red and black rope motif wallpaper
John Bessler

Another teams whimsical, red-and-black rope-motif wallpaper with a geometric headboard and an array of new and previously owned furnishings. "It's a hodgepodge lodge of pieces brought together for the comfort and delight of Michael's guests," Olsen says.

10 of 10

Inviting Colors and Textures

bar area with american flags
John Bessler

Among the unexpected surprises are Michael's art pieces. "He collects all genres of art, from Lichtenstein to nautical pieces that he finds on eBay. He even has vintage needlework that sailors used to do when they were bored at sea," Olsen says. "He has a sense of humor, personality."

In fact, personality shines throughout the home. "There's something to look at in every room, but it's not a circus house—it feels inviting," Olsen says. "I love the mix of colors and textures, the study in contrasts. In the end, I appreciate history, but I don't want a home to read as a museum. I want to bring it into today."

Updated by
Tori Mellott

Tori Mellott is a stylist director for Frederic magazine and F. Schumacher & Co., an interior design shop. She also worked as an editor for Elle Decor, Domino magazine, and Traditional Home.

Tori holds a bachelor's degree in communications and media studies from New York University. She also attended Penn State University.

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