Two of a Kind

January 4, 2011

Text by Stacy Kunstel    Photography by Laura Moss

You would think that two people who can finish one another’s thoughts and intuit each other’s design decisions, who attended the same college and have worked together for more than a decade and a half, might share similar approaches to living—especially given that they reside a few floors from one another in the same South End apartment building.

Not so for Jim Gauthier and Susan Stacy, partners in the Boston interior design firm Gauthier-Stacy. While the two have fashioned enough spaces together to fill volumes of home magazines, their own places put their differences on display as soon as you walk in their front doors.

Those who know them can see immediately that the divergence in their homes echoes the differences in their personalities. Mirrored walls reflecting a modern twig-like table and a tangerine-colored lamp in Gauthier’s foyer stand in striking contrast to the traditional chest and collection of framed intaglios gracing the entry to Stacy’s space. He’s the gregarious public persona for their fourteen-year-old firm, while his more introverted partner prefers to keep her life beyond the business ensconced in private family time with her husband, Tom Shanahan, and their two young children.


Flashes of drama play out in Gauthier’s 1,100-square-foot abode, where chocolate-colored walls and heavy black floor-to-ceiling shutters screen the living area from the bedroom. A twelve-foot linen-covered sofa is astonishingly long, yet it practically goes unnoticed among the other overscaled pieces. “A friend said to me, ‘Are you high?’ ” Gauthier recalls with a laugh. “But most people don’t realize how big the sofa is until they’ve taken in the whole room.”

“The architecture of the apartment is all a modern interpretation of really classic detailing,” notes Gauthier, who worked with Boston architect Doug Dolezal on the home’s layout and architectural details. “Doug took all the things I loved and interpreted them in a more modern way,” says the designer.

Traditional interpretation doesn’t always mean conventional execution, though. The tile-lined bathroom doesn’t have a door on it, and kudos to the visitor who can actually find the kitchen, which functions more as an urbane backdrop for takeout rather than a place to make actual food. “I planned it that way,” Gauthier says. “I sit at the bar all the time. I set up my computer there, look at the view, watch TV, eat dinner.”

A custom tray hides the cooktop, while the paneled refrigerator disappears into cabinetry. A wall-mounted faucet hangs over a sink just large enough to chill a champagne bottle.

Clearly, the apartments of Gauthier and Stacy are set up for single versus family life.

Where his rooms and their functions meld into one another, her spaces are more clearly defined. “I wanted formality in the entry foyer so it felt like you were walking into a house,” she explains. “A mudroom helps keep the house sorted. The kitchen” —a full-size version with a small breakfast area at one end—“is a good place for the kids to hang out because their rooms are right down the hall.”

More traditional bones, the whisper of a color palette, a mix of antiques, darkened floors and layers of artwork and collections lend old-world sophistication to Stacy’s home. “It’s so Susan . . . it’s so Susan,” says Gauthier. “White, funky, eclectic—so Susan. She loves neat art and neat things and loves to collect stuff, but she doesn’t like clutter. White and tan and taupe are so Susan.”

“I love art,” agrees Stacy. “It’s a huge part of me and my house and who I am. I had an artist as a mentor and have a lot of his pieces. My house is eclectic, and I live with things I love whether they work or not.”

The work of that mentor, Tom Rowlands, hangs throughout the apartment, along with boxes, shells, stones and hats that define the surfaces not used for living. A collection of milliner’s molds fills four shelves of a bookcase between the entryway and the living room.

In the master suite a fabric screen divides the sleeping area from the bathroom, but it’s used more to regulate light than for privacy. “I don’t like the idea of being relegated to a tiny room with a tub in it,” says Stacy.

She also wanted a formal dining area, but the 2,100-square-foot apartment didn’t allow for anything larger than an alcove. Stacy made the most of the space with an L-shaped banquette covered with a linen cushion and sprinkled with throw pillows. “It’s amazing how much better manners are when you eat in the dining room,” she says.

Above the contemporary round dining table hangs a Balinese umbrella, lending a touch of whimsy. As is evident in their work for clients, Stacy and Gauthier have a talent for repurposing everyday objects. “I liked the idea of something besides a chandelier. The umbrella is more me, less typical of what you would expect to find,” Stacy says.

It’s that talent for creating unexpected moments—along with a shared strong work ethic—that brought the two of them together. Cape Cod–raised Stacy and Berkshires-bred Gauthier both attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but their paths didn’t cross there. While Stacy cut her teeth on commercial interior design, working for Ben Cook at Trade Winds and in California, Gauthier started at Bierly-Drake Associates, thinking he would spend his career there. It wasn’t until Stacy also went to work at Bierly-Drake that the two met. It was a match made in heaven. “We’ve always worked well together,” says Gauthier. “We bring different things to the table. I can’t imagine not working with Susan.”

It should be noted that what you see in their homes is not necessarily what you would get in hiring their firm. “Our aesthetics never come into play in a client’s decisions,” says Stacy. “We just ask, ‘What’s going to be the best thing for the job? What’s going to push it to the next level?’ Our entire taste is taken off the table.”

Even so, their work for clients is typically beautiful, comfortable and as chic as their own homes.

Interior design: Jim Gauthier and Susan Stacy, Gauthier-Stacy

Architect for Jim Gauthier: Doug Dolezal

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