High Spirits

May 9, 2013

The doors of a century-old urban house open to an interior filled with bright color and modern furnishings that are perfects for a young hip couple.

Text by Megan Fulweiler    Photography by Ben Gebo


With its three-level silhouette and pretty stained-glass windows, this hundred-year-old house resembles its Cambridge, Massachusetts, counterparts, at least on the outside. The interior, however, is unabashedly twenty-first century. The owners spied the potential on their first visit. “We were living in New York City, but were thinking about how nice a house with a yard would be. We saw the place on a beautiful fall day and that was it,” recalls the wife.

Their new residence had witnessed a host of renovations over the years. Still, to make it their own, the couple decided on a number of additional changes. Anticipating the endless decisions involved, they wisely enlisted a team that included Cambridge-based architect Mark Wagner and interior designer Amanda Reid of Mandarina Studio, also of Cambridge.

“One priority was reconfiguring the open layout and creating a formal dining room,” says Wagner, who devised a wall between the family room and the dining area to do just that. Guest bedrooms lacked closets so those became a necessity, too, along with a host of other life-enhancing modifications like editing the overly generous number of built-ins and reworking the baths. For the parents of a young child with another baby on the way, one of the most significant changes of all, explains Reid, was doubling the size of a second-floor bath to make way for a handy no-dashing-up-and-down laundry room.

Reid, whose background includes working at an architecture firm, anticipated her clients’ needs as readily as they did, which made for a seamless working relationship. Being a New York transplant herself, she was the perfect partner to help them put a contemporary, but functional, spin on their Yankee nest. In this staid neighborhood, a pale lilac/mauve entry isn’t an everyday occurrence. Here, though, it’s the ideal choice, flowing up the stairs to the second floor and setting the mood for a clean, young palette. “My clients didn’t want neutrals, which was great to hear,” Reid says with a happy laugh. “There are lots of colors but they unwind off each other so there’s also continuity.” Trimwork painted Benjamin Moore’s White Dove also serves as a visual thread, smoothly linking each space to the next.

Reid steered the couple, kindred spirits in design, toward a chic, comfortable look. The quiet parlor that had once known an oriental carpet and a petite chandelier grew sophisticated with a Jonathan Adler pendant light, a lacquered coffee table and an accent chair dressed in a lively David Hicks fabric. Even the room’s paint color—Benjamin Moore’s New Age—speaks to today. French doors (a new addition) open from the parlor to the dining room, where Reid skillfully brought together a vintage Danish rosewood table and chairs, a cherry console and a modern Design Within Reach ceiling light of glass and metal. “I love mixing materials—different types of wood and matte and polished metals,” she says. “It lends interest.”

Fortunately the kitchen demanded minimum tweaking. The island was reworked to suit the family’s needs, new pendants by Visual Comfort cast a better glow for cooking and walls painted Benjamin Moore’s cheery Windham Cream evoke the sun, even on rainy days. As elsewhere throughout the house, Reid tailored the window treatments. A pair of roman shades in a soft-yellow Allegra Hicks fabric trimmed with grosgrain ribbon—one of Reid’s signature touches—provide privacy while ushering in natural light.

The bedrooms—from the lilac-hued nursery to the soft violet master suite—sound a current note as well. The former includes a pretty Landry & Arcari carpet and more lush but simple drapes for a decor that’s guaranteed to grow along with the occupant. The latter is a study in serenity with a Crate & Barrel bed nestled between the windows and an adjacent marble-floored bath. A guest room on the third level sports a floor painted a vibrant shade of blue.

The home’s scheme also incorporates the owner’s ever-growing art collection. Every room has its share of eye-catching work, from the provocative oil paintings by Claudio Gallina in the parlor and dining room to the Matisse lithographs in a bath. It’s another reason why stepping from the street into this urban abode immediately lifts the spirits.

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