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After raising their two children in Wellesley, Anna and Mike Caruso decided to change things up and set their next chapter closer to the sea. Their New England–wide hunt brought them to Nahant, where various family members had lived or rented before. 

While sifting through the town’s available real estate, a historic property with a primary home and carriage house caught the couple’s eye. The c. 1918 Arts and Crafts–style home sits high on a rise in Little Nahant, the diminutive ocean-clad peninsula prefacing Nahant proper. Built as a summer home for an executive at General Electric, it was later purchased by the Standish family, who lived in it for three generations until it was purchased by the Carusos in January 2023.

“We couldn’t resist the views from just about every room,” explains Anna. “Also, Nahant is a beach community that doesn’t close in the winter like so many others. And it’s only a half-hour from Boston, where our son lives.” 

The couple turned to Wellesley-based decorator Karen Genta to help them transition the charming yet somewhat dark and outdated interior into something fresh, stylish, and coastal inspired. “We wanted a light and airy atmosphere without being overtly nautical,” explains Genta of their vision at the outset. “It’s a year-round home, not a beach cottage, so we kept things classic while pulling in colors and textures from the surrounding landscape.”

Working to maintain its historic character at every stage, Genta and her clients kept period details intact, reawakening key features with fresh coats of paint. Outside, they opted for a more contemporary bluish-grey instead of the existing brown paint on the shingles. Inside, Genta pushed to paint all the brown millwork white: “I wasn’t convinced at first,” notes Anna of the leap, “but it made all the difference—the house feels so much bigger and brighter.”

White paint also transformed the existing kitchen cabinets, which were high-quality and crafted in Vermont but dark in presentation with a stained wood grain. “It’s interesting how much of a difference we made in this room just by refurbishing the cabinets and changing the backsplash and countertops. It really opened up the space,” says Genta, adding that the new countertops are gray marbled granite. 

For contrast, the island’s wood grain remains. “We also kept the island’s unique copper sink, etched with schooling fish, which inspired the bronze in our lighting selections,” notes the decorator. “Overall, we kept our metal choices limited to brass and antique bronze to maintain a consistent palette room to room.” The “Blazing Star” backsplash tile consists of three types of marble—Celeste Blue, Azul, and Thassos—and represents a modern take on a fleur-de-lis mosaic.   

Another space completely reimagined by Genta is the dining room: “It was more of a sitting area before,” she explains, “but Anna comes from a large Italian family and loves to entertain, so it made more sense to create a formal room for dinner parties and holidays.” Genta enlisted Needham-based furniture maker Saltwoods to handcraft the live-edge dining room table out of English elm. Upholstered dining chairs soften the table’s imposing form, while the natural grasscloth “Brewster” wallpaper echoes the warm brown tones in the adjoining living room.

When guest counts climb, the window seat is yet another gathering spot. For its custom-made cushion and pillows, Genta chose a “fun, light, and airy” fabric by Calico. Meanwhile, the dining room’s antique bar cart (salvaged from an aunt’s house) gets a lot of use during holiday get-togethers, which, according to Anna, are frequent in the Caruso household. 

“I’ve already hosted a family reunion here last August as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says the homeowner. “Once you walk in the front door, the house flows perfectly with the kitchen to the left and the dining room to the right. It’s a party house,” asserts Anna with a laugh. 

The Carusos are also happy to have acquired such a large piece of land in a village where small lots are the norm. Another bonus to their historic find is the carriage house, which was also fully renovated and easily accommodates guests with a full kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. 

“It’s quite a leap from the suburbs of Wellesley,” admits Anna of the finished home with captivating water views. “When I walk through the first floor, I can’t help thinking to myself how much I love living here.”