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Inn Sync
Tracey Overbeck-Stead Redesigns the Dockside Inn

by Amelia Smith

John Tiernan and Caleb Caldwell bought the Dockside Inn in January of 2012 and opened for the season in May. Their goal was to update and refresh the hotel’s look in three short months, working with a budget of $300,000 for the entire renovation project, from new flooring to pillow cases. Hiring a designer qas a new experience for them, but a mutual friend convinced them to give Tracey Overbeck-Stead a call. “We’re not designer kind of people,” John says, but the results won him over.

Tracey, a native of Austin, Texas, first came to the island with her future husband for a rainy weekend at his parent’s crowded Campground cottage twelve years ago. She fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard, and now spends every summer here with her husband and children, at their own cottage just down the street, a short stroll from the Dockside Inn. She was delighted to work on a project in her summer neighborhood. “It was a great opportunity for me,” she says.

Tracey works from a small office behind her home in Austin, Texas. She’s used to traveling, so she took the commute to the Vineyard in stride, flying up to the Island every couple of weeks through the winter and early spring. The Dockside was a change of pace for her. Her most recent hotel design job was for the 252-room W Hotel in Dallas, part of the Starwood Group. The 21-room Dockside hotel, independently owned and operated by John and Caleb, was a completely different experience.

“I just did the public spaces on the W Hotel, the lobby, the bar, the outdoor areas,” Tracey says. “That took a year and a half, which is pretty standard. To do the rooms too, you’re talking two or three years, so the fact that we did an entire Inn in three months is incredible.” At the W Hotel, Tracey had to work with many layers of local and corporate management. “Here, I just answered to Caleb and John,” she says. That was definitely a plus. “One of my favorite parts was the trust that the owners gave me, even though some of the decisions were a little out of their comfort zone. The process was busy and fast-paced, but we had a blast.”

“It was very traditional, with teal carpet and chintz,” Tracey says of the Dockside’s old décor. “We wanted a more modern design.” On the exterior, they took down some of the late-1980s gingerbread, to streamline the look, and changed the color scheme. “The whole entire building was pink and sea green,” Tracey says. “We changed it to a charcoal gray and a beautiful sandy beige, with a deep ocean green. We took less Victorian colors and made it more handsome, not pastels.”

In the lobby, the changes are striking. “It’s got an airy, modern nautical feel. It’s still very textural with the linen covered chairs and jute tables and the soapstone console,” Tracey says. “The colors are soft against the intense wall covering.” That wall covering was one of the items that stretched the renovation budget. The pattern, named “Rope,” is made by Cole & Son, the same company which provides wallpaper to Buckingham Palace. “The wall covering is like a giant net,” Tracey says. “It gives it a little bit of that high end coastal look.”

“It’s the Queen’s wallpaper,” John recalls. “I thought, we don’t need the Queen’s wallpaper, or no, excuse me, ‘vinyl wall covering,’ but Tracey said, ‘you need this wallpaper,’ and you know what? Everyone notices it. They even say, ‘Is that Cole and Son?’” In the lobby, it hangs on two accent walls, behind the desk, and at the end of the room by a small seating area with soft armchairs in an earth-brown and smoke blue pattern. A round mirror hangs on the wall, evocative of brass portholes on ships. The other walls display photographs, framed historical photos of Oak Bluffs and also modern photos of the Vineyard by Tracey’s husband, Ethan Stead.

In the bedrooms, the accent walls have Thibaut wallpaper in the Kirkos pattern, a mosaic-like design of interlocking circles. Five different colorways coordinate with nova suede headboards hung on the wall over the bed. “The rooms have the same carpet, the same sconces, but the bedding and the wall covering change colors.” Tracey says. The rooms, like the lobby, have jute accent pieces and Ethan’s photos of island scenes and landscapes.

The new design pleased the hotel’s existing customers, as well as attracting new clients. “All the old people, in their 70s and 80s, love it,” Tracey says. “Everything else in Oak Bluffs is cottagey, this isn’t cottagey at all.” Working on a tight schedule, with a small budget, everyone worked together to achieve beautiful results. “We packed a lot of design into a small budget,” Tracey says.