PaperCity Magazine

May 2016 - Houston

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B Y R E B E C C A S H E R M A N . P H O T O G R A P H Y F R A N C E S C O L A G N E S E . HOUSTON ART COLLECTOR POPPI MASSEY KICKS OFF HER LEATHER BIKER BOOTS AT HER RETRO NANTUCKET COTTAGE. C ontemporary art collector Poppi Massey earned a reputation as a renegade when she built one of the few modern houses in River Oaks, which is known for its classic, old-guard architecture. With a penchant for wearing black leather biker boots, she also sometimes lightheartedly refers to herself as a "pinko Communist liberal," a label her father jokingly gave her in college for her left-wing political leanings. And, for the past 20 years, she's been quietly disrupting the conservative Siasconset village on Nantucket, where she regularly summers with her grown daughters, Phoebe and Annabel, in their color-packed 1920s cottage. "People tease me, 'You're on the wrong island, you should be on Martha's Vineyard where there are more liberals,'" says Massey, laughing. When she first moved in, most of the cottages in the community had flagpoles flying Republican flags, she says, so she countered by flying a Democratic flag from hers. "Someone took it," she says. A cardboard donkey she put in her front yard also generated plenty of comments from neighbors. Political jousting aside, Massey has been in love with Nantucket since the mid-'90s, when she and her former college roommate chose it as a place to meet during the summers with their children. "I like Nantucket's tiny size," she says. "And it has a cool history — it was once the whaling capital of the world and the inspiration for Moby Dick." Tucked away on the far east end of the island, 'Sconset, as locals call it, is where John Steinbeck penned East of Eden in the 1950s. Massey and her now ex-husband, Craig Massey, bought their 95-year-old cottage in 1997. "We'd go there as soon as the girls got out of school and stay as late as possible in August," she remembers. "But it was a summer cottage, not winterized — a fact we learned the first Thanksgiving. The wind blew through the walls." Insulating the house would mean losing precious interior space, she says, so renovations were put off. "I love all its quirks and didn't want to touch it inside." Six years ago, when "the technology finally caught up, we were able to insulate it from the outside, adding three inches to the exterior walls and four inches to the roof," she says. It was also a chance to expand the cottage to accommodate the pack of college friends her daughters invite every summer. Local firm Nantucket Architecture Group doubled the space from 2,400 to 4,800 square feet. Thanks to a new basement, several new bedrooms, a bunkroom and an attic converted into a bedroom, the house now sleeps 20 people. Massey tackled the interior design herself, and she relished the opportunity to make it her own. "Back then, it looked like everybody else's beach house," she says. "I came back home, went to the design center and got fabrics, vintage furniture from eBay and mid-century pieces from all over." For inspiration, she channeled the colorful Sinatra-esque Palm Desert vacation house her parents, Marilyn and Basil Georges, owned when she was growing up, installing similar red-metal St. Charles Cabinetry (preferred by mid-century greats Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright), a retro blue Big Chill refrigerator, a red TurboChef oven and Formica counters rimmed in stainless steel. A contractor freshened the walls and pine floors with coats of Benjamin Moore white paint. She recovered all the vintage furniture (except for the original white vinyl George Nelson Marshmallow sofa in the living room) in vivid Designers Guild and Lee Jofa hues POPPI's PLAYHOUSE Poppi Massey in her Nantucket kitchen with stainless-steel cabinets by St. Charles Cabinetry and a Big Chill refrigerator.

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