Where Art Meets Heart
March 10, 2010
Text by Stacy Kunstel Photography by Keller + Keller
From the glossy epoxy white-painted floors to the metal accents and modern furnishings, Cappoli keeps the look sleek. But then he introduces unexpected touches such as the deep chocolate brown that shows up on some of the walls, in the rugs and in the Brazilian granite of the kitchen counters, or the punch of bright orange accents in the otherwise neutral dining room and the serene master bedroom.
Tony Cappoli has an eye for art and a thoughtful approach to design, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t follow his heart. When the interior designer talks about the pieces he has collected, oft-turned phrases include “love at first sight,” or he might tell a story about a particular detail that he says “made my heart stop.”
At his apartment in South Boston’s Channel Center, Cappoli is quicker to tell guests about the artists on the walls than about his vision for designing the space. Before you can ooh and aah over the eighteen-foot-tall window that fills his home with soft light, he has turned your attention to the hand-rubbed bronze sculpture by Tristan Govignon that sits prominently in front of it. Cappoli, who has known the South End artist for years, purchased the piece four years ago when he bought the apartment. “I knew that, wherever I was in life, that piece would be with me,” he says. “I brought it home, put it in the window and it’s never moved.”
With the window light behind it, the sculpture appears to curl above the modern furnishings like smoke from a wood fire. Its impact is doubled by its reflection in the forty-two tiny mirrors—the size of teacup saucers—on the wall behind the linen-covered sofa. “I wanted something that mimicked the painting on the opposite wall,” says the designer of the beveled-glass grid. “They also reflect beautiful morning light.”
The painting they reflect, a piece by Jeffrey Wallace that’s more than eight feet wide and seven feet tall, is one of only three things that Cappoli brought with him from his previous home in Union Park. It was no easy task: to fit inside the new apartment the painting had to be pried off its original frame, rolled up, and the canvas re-stretched on a rebuilt frame once inside. It now hangs above a buffet table that served as a dining room sideboard in the old apartment. The buffet went through its own metamorphosis when Cappoli turned it from a serious mahogany piece into a glossy white eye-popper.
Art aside, the focus here is on design, particularly how this interiors expert took a basic white box and created a warm, welcoming atmosphere where he can hold cocktail parties for eighty or an intimate Christmas Eve celebration with his family. “I wanted something new,” Cappoli says of the transition from his tidy and more traditional digs in a South End brownstone. “I wanted something a little more cutting edge. I had lived in the South End for sixteen years and I just needed a change.”
Cappoli bought the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath space at a time when he was commuting between Los Angeles and Boston, working on residential and commercial projects for Hollywood heavy-hitters writer/director Alexander Payne and producer Michael London (both of Sideways fame). “L.A. was a huge influence on me,” the designer says. “It’s all about mixing styles there. As long as things are appropriate in scale and color they can work together. I’ve been noting that, since I was working in L.A., I love bringing contemporary fabric or art into traditional spaces or mixing them into transitional spaces. It’s an element of surprise.”
From the glossy epoxy white-painted floors to the metal accents and modern furnishings, Cappoli keeps the look sleek. But then he introduces unexpected touches such as the deep chocolate brown that shows up on some of the walls, in the rugs and in the Brazilian granite of the kitchen counters, or the punch of bright orange accents in the otherwise neutral dining room and the serene master bedroom. Green is another repeating theme in plants, a painting of fresh apples, a lamp in the bedroom, a green throw across the sofa and a large photo in the dining room of Angkor Wat in all its deteriorating lushness.
That photo of the Cambodian religious center inspired Cappoli when he was going through an unpleasant patch in life. “The moment I saw the photograph I knew everything would be okay,” he says.
It’s the same feeling he had upon seeing a pair of canvases by Boston artist Kim Reynolds. “I was walking through a South End open studios event and saw them,” he says. “I walked right in and handed her a check.” The pieces hang above his bed in the master suite, which sits above and is open to the living room below.
“Ultimately, I wanted each space to feel intimate,” Cappoli says. On the entry level, the kitchen, dining and living rooms are open to one another with the living room area height spanning two floors. Upstairs is a small guest room, a study with a TV watching area and office and the master suite. While Cappoli saved money on a few items (nightstands are IKEA topped with custom-cut marble and he placed an IKEA armoire off the dining area), he took plenty of opportunities to splurge on certain important things: the art, of course, but also storage, especially for his shoes. “I have more shoes than Carrie Bradshaw,” says the designer without the slightest hint of sheepishness. “I wanted to feel like I was at Bergdorf’s. I have shoe racks on an angle with an edge so I can fit more shoes.”
Beyond the shoe storage, he says, “I spent a lot of money on built-ins throughout the apartment because I wanted to keep the space open and not closed off with doors.”
As for the art, “When you know it, you know it,” he says, ready to employ the “L” word again. “I think Boston has some amazing artists, and I have several that I absolutely love—Tristan Govignon, Phil Spinks, Nancy Simonds. I love artwork that can stand by itself and have impact, but in the same sense can exist in harmony with other pieces.”
In his space, Cappoli has found that perfect harmony by using his keen eye and his sophisticated design sense. But just as important, he paid close attention to what his heart had to say.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to learn more about the artwork in Cappoli’s home.