Vineyard Vibes

Life is different on Martha’s Vineyard. Interior designer Gil Walsh is well aware; she’s been creating exquisite interiors there for about 25 years. Based in Palm Beach, her design company also has an office on the Vineyard (Walsh herself has a home in Edgartown); several of her clients own homes in both locations.

Palm Beach and Martha’s Vineyard are both casual seaside destinations, sure, but that’s about where the similarities end. The Vineyard’s design requirements are unique. Partly, they’re environmental: Working with the island’s more muted light and endeavoring to reflect the textures and tones of the surrounding natural elements means that Walsh, always carefully attuned to color (after all, her book is titled Gil Walsh Interiors: A Case for Color), works with a much more subdued palette than the strong, saturated hues she applies on the Florida coast—think grayed-out blues and greens, muted taupes, and darker-toned woods. “So much of nature is brought inside,” she says. “It’s a little more rustic and organic and not as refined.”

And, partly, those design needs are a factor of the types of groups who gather there: The Vineyard is a family destination, one with large houses to hold the extended families—and their pets—who spend a prolonged time there in the summers. These families require large, welcoming, well-functioning kitchens (they tend to entertain at home often), and living and dining areas with plenty of seating.

Walsh’s designs account for all of this and more. She employs contemporary art pieces to add a pop of vivid color. She chooses durable indoor/outdoor fabrics and rugs to withstand wear and tear, children’s spills, and dogs’ “unexpected treasures” (she’s partial to a particular woven recycled plastic rug made in Scandinavia; one graces her own master bedroom). She selects furniture pieces that will serve multiple purposes—for instance, a dining table that can double as a craft area or work space. Walsh mixes in local antiques and items handcrafted on the island, such as decorative pillows, throws, and lampshades, for charm. “And it’s charm that is created on the Vineyard,” she adds.

With relatively limited shopping options on the Vineyard, Walsh gets creative: She delights in scouring antique stores, flea markets, and even the Dumptique at the local junkyard for treasures. “The flea markets have so much to use, personally and in design,” Walsh proclaims. “I have found fabulous stuff.” In fact, Walsh once outfitted a client’s entire library with beautiful linen-bound books from the Dumptique. “That’s the fun part of the Vineyard,” she says, “finding these quirky little places.”