Inside Donnie Wahlberg’s South Shore Summer Retreat.By Jennifer Sperry | Photography by Dan Cutrona
A remodel, yes. But to owner Donnie Wahlberg, the home meant more than just a construction challenge or a potential real estate flip. “I really thought it would be a simple update and that I’d visit the place one or two times a summer,” Wahlberg admits. “But I love the South Shore so much, it soon became clear that this was more than just a vacation spot for me; this was a place where I wanted to spend as much time as possible.”
The Cape-style home is modest in size and unassuming in profile. Besides its beach access, the property affords quick travel times to Wahlburgers (the brothers’ trendy burger joint in Hingham), their mom’s house in Boston and the occasional Celtics game.As his emotional investment in the property grew, Wahlberg committed more and more time to the renovations. “When I initially found the house, I knew it needed a serious upgrade but my plans were never to take it as far as I eventually did,” he explains. While the transformation progressed from a construction standpoint, the interior’s fate did not fully gel until a serendipitous stroll through Plymouth center one Saturday, when he discovered the home furnishings store and design center Setting the Space.
“The team was so welcoming and the furniture was so much more interesting than just ‘beachy’ cabin furniture. It had the level of quality, style and comfort that I wanted in my home,” says Wahlberg. After visiting Setting the Space a number of times to flesh out his likes, he teamed up with lead designer Terri Gordon to customize furniture pieces, ensure a cohesive look and keep the design project going in his absence.
“Donnie has great fashion sense and a tremendous sense of style. He knew what he liked and the interior went from there,” says Gordon.
The overall goal, explains the designer, was a coastal-inspired look but with a little edginess to it. “We didn’t want to do over-the-top ‘cottage’—we wanted it to be cool, functional and comfortable,” she says. Neutral fabrics, distressed finishes and a prevalence of driftwood are a nod to summer and seaside while dark metals, leather and unique, almost sculptural accessories bring the “edge.”
The first floor is divided by a central stair into a living room on one side and a kitchen and dining area on the other. Besides furnishing selections, Gordon recommended paint colors and also directed the resurfacing of both the ground floor and basement fireplaces. Her spatial planning expertise resulted in a variety of “hang out” areas that express their own mini-personalities while still coordinating with the surrounding décor.
A soothing combination of white and beige, the modest kitchen is just large enough for an island with raised bar and bar stools upholstered in linen with navy stripes. Meanwhile, the nearby dining table accommodates extended meals, after-dinner lingering or even a game of cards. Metal and studded with grommets, with a drum-style chandelier overhead, the round table leans toward contemporary while comfy upholstered banquettes and dining chairs counter with a relaxed vibe.
Similarly, the dining room’s sideboard is crafted from reclaimed wood and metal, a combination that dances between modern and traditional. Crab giclée prints, a driftwood basket and an industrial-styled copper lamp are intriguing yet complementary accessories—“We used a lot of pieces that you wouldn’t find in your average summer cottage,” admits Gordon.
Designer and client continued their penchant for creative choices in the living room, where nautical touches such as rope tiebacks, lanterns, glass jugs and sea creatures on accent pillows mingle with unexpected elements such as metal lamps and a funky driftwood candelabra. Bright blue leather chairs dose the room with color while a more neutral-toned sofa and swivel club chairs face the fireplace and TV.
Upstairs, Wahlberg’s master bedroom is the ultimate calming retreat. Gordon enlivened the room’s predominance of beige by employing various textures, from the banana husk bed to the distressed whitewashed dresser and a bark-encased standup lamp. A leather club chair lends a bright pop of green.
But for maximum unwinding, Wahlberg retreats to his basement “man cave” and its accommodating row of theater seats recycled from his L.A. home. Here, more whimsical furnishings, like the metal game table, audio cassette-shaped coffee table and oversized movie reel, labeled Blue Bloods, mounted on the wall, reign supreme. The built-in sideboard, complete with bar sink, beverage fridge and candy jars, promises easy-to-reach refreshments.
Wahlberg is quick to note that the completed remodel satisfied all of his original goals: “I imagined a flag pole outside—got that—a clean and comfy interior—got that—and a man cave in the basement—definitely got that,” he says. But perhaps the biggest reward was wife Jenny McCarthy’s reaction: “Jenny walked into the house for the first time and immediately understood why my love for this place is so strong,” he says. “Now she loves the town, the people, the water and this home just as much as I do.”
Interior Design: Terri Gordon of Setting the Space