Individual Style

A two-bedroom condo in Boston’s South End is, like its owner, lively, just a little bit quirky, and brimming with personality. 

Text by Regina Cole Photography by Michael J. LeeProduced by Kyle Hoepner

Laura Sceppa walks everywhere: to work every day, to the coffee shop down the street, to movie theaters a few miles away. “I park my car in a nearby lot and then don’t use it for a week,” says the CFO and vice president of administration at the Improper Bostonian, a bi-weekly Boston lifestyle magazine geared to a youthful readership. “It’s one of the things I love about living here. But no matter where I go or how I get there, it always feels wonderful to come home.”

Home is a 729-square-foot condominium with arched lancet windows on the second floor of the Bailey Mansion, a handsome house of red brick and stone that sits on the corner of a quiet South End side street. Named for the circus family that originally lived in it, the building evokes its first owners’ memory with a stone lion outside the front door.

Sceppa had searched for some time before she found a place that spoke to her. “I knew I wanted to be in the South End; I really like the vibe and the cultural diversity,” she says. “I also wanted something with good bones. I like older buildings, architecture with character, crown moldings, and rooms with personality.”

Once she found her two-bedroom home, she turned to Boston interior designer Nancy Serafini for help with the personality. “When I bought it, the space was safe and conservative, which is not me,” Sceppa explains. “I wanted an older feel, but with a modern touch. My personal style is whimsical, and Nancy got that.”

“This became my favorite project,” Serafini says. “Laura was very trusting.”

“I don’t trust everyone, but I totally trusted her,” her client agrees. “I let her do whatever she wanted.

“I had other designers’ names,” she adds, “But once I sat down with Nancy,
I knew that she was the one.”

Serafini created a playful, colorful, yet classic decor that makes the most of the apartment’s high ceilings and nineteenth-century architecture. Structural changes included moving the heating system to install a washer and dryer; replacing flimsy, hollow doors with clean-lined versions in solid wood; closing off a pass-through between the kitchen and the living room; breaking into the kitchen wall to make space for the refrigerator; and replacing the bathtub with a spacious white marble shower stall luxurious with a bench, steam shower, and multiple shower heads.

“Friends told me I should leave the tub because it would affect the condo’s resale value,” Sceppa says. “But I did this for me, for the way I live now, not for some future what-if.”

On one living-room wall hangs a large piece of graphic Marimekko fabric that Serafini stretched on a frame; its hues drove the color scheme for the whole room. Chartreuse paint is surprisingly neutral, yet fresh and cheerful on the walls. “The color, which took several tries to get right, is like me, quirky and lively,” Sceppa says.

The guest bedroom gained considerable presence with purple and chartreuse wallpaper in a large-scale pattern that serves to expand the small room, while in the master bedroom, rose-tinted walls and earth-tone fabrics give the space a serene, calming feel. The kitchen is cheerfully canine-centric, with what Sceppa calls her doggie wallpaper. “Nancy totally got me,” she says. “She knows that I love dogs, that I love to cook, and that I smile every time I walk into the kitchen.”

For the lancet windows, Serafini chose plantation shutters of white-painted wood that provide privacy without obscuring the handsome architecture. At her suggestion, her client found simple, classic furniture. “I had furniture when I moved here, but it was too big and did not fit this space,” Sceppa says. “Nancy showed me the importance of scale.”

“This place is warm and cozy without many fabrics,” Serafini says. “We found accessories that evoke nature and add texture. The overall style is playful, but at the same time, timeless.”

“I learned so much from Nancy, especially in the way she layered things to create personality,” Sceppa says. “I was sad when this was over. We did this together and it was a fun ride. I miss her!”

Sceppa is hard-pressed to name a favorite spot in her home. She often finds herself drawn to the guest bedroom, where she likes to stretch out on the daybed to read. “And, even though it’s small, I really like the fact that the living/dining space is a separate room,” she adds. “I love my steam shower, and I love my kitchen.”

She’s happy that she didn’t listen to the friends who thought she should decorate with some future buyer in mind. “Everyone thought I was nuts to put all this personality into this place, but I am so glad that I did,” she says. “You always should listen to your gut when you make decorating decisions.” •

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