A Boston brownstone comes out of the shadows and into the light.
A love of blues and greens and a desire to feel connected to her family. Those were the key elements Laura wanted reflected in her new home on a quiet, gaslit street in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Yet when the busy vice president of a Boston-based wealth management firm moved in, the finishes were dull and dreary. “I guess you could say it really put the brown in brownstone,” she says with a laugh.
The walls in the main living areas were finished in a color Laura dubbed “paper bag brown,” while the master bedroom was painted an equally uninspired shade of green. Imposing cherry built-ins dominated the dining room.
There were, however, many features Laura loved about the house: its soaring ceilings, bow-front windows, hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplace. She had faith in its potential, but she knew she needed guidance to transform it, saying, “I know what I like, but I did not have the skill to tackle this project.”
Enter Dane Austin, a Boston-based designer whom Laura found through a chance cocktail-party encounter with one of his former clients. “Dane and I had an easy rapport from the start,” she says. “He was able to draw out and give voice to my design preferences, while at the same time giving me the courage to take some risks.”
One such risk was the choice of a three-tone Stark carpet in the master bedroom. Laura says, “I had always thought of a carpet as somewhat invisible, but this was more of a statement. Dane felt strongly that it was the right choice and now I think it looks amazing.”
Another bold element Dane encouraged was the use of a patterned, reflective wall covering on the living room ceiling. “Again, I never would have thought to put wallpaper on a ceiling,” says Laura. “But it ended up being my favorite design feature in the whole house.”
From the designer’s perspective, the reflective wall covering was one of just many components he incorporated to help illuminate the once dark interior. “We rarely paint walls white, but the living room needed to be much lighter and brighter, so we chose Pratt and Lambert’s aptly named Silver Lining,” says Austin. “And the colorful, large scale vine-and-leaf patterned wall covering in the dining room helped to inform the joyful assortment of colors throughout the home.”
The dining room’s cherry built-ins got a fresh coat of milk white paint, allowing them to recede into the background. A mix of the classic patterned wall covering and rustic elements like the reclaimed wood table and a vintage chest of drawers establishes a layered, eclectic vibe.
In the living room, the Silver Lining backdrop allows colorful accessories and furnishings to steal the show. Ceramic glazed, double gourd table lamps in aqua blue pick up the colors in the painting over the fireplace. A peacock lacquered Asian cabinet from Mohr & McPherson doubles as a media cabinet. The green flecks on the nearby blush, channel-tufted, swivel chair echo the forest green, custom chenille sofa by Dane Austin Design.
Along the sofa wall, in a nod to Laura’s love for her family, Austin created a playful arrangement of black and white, brass-framed images of her cousins and siblings.
Laura’s main objective for the master bedroom was that it be “calming and beautiful, but not frilly.” To help achieve this, Austin used the blue and beige antique cloisonné lamps passed down from Laura’s grandparents as color cues for the earthy Phillip Jeffries grass cloth and Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue paint. The curve of the scroll pattern in the Stark carpet is repeated in the metal work of the crystal sconces and the arc of the headboard.
While Laura and Austin collaborated closely on all decisions, on the day of the “reveal,” the designer had one surprise up his sleeve. “Dane came across pieces of my grandmother’s needlepoint in my guest room and placed them prominently in the alcove near the bay window. I was almost brought to tears,” says Laura. “With Dane’s help, I feel like my house is now a true reflection of my taste and my close connection to my family.”