A Boston High-Rise with 360 Degree ViewsText by Bob Curley Photography by Michael J. Lee
Believe it or not, there can be a downside to owning a 3,000-square-foot condo near the top of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Boston. Sure, there are fantastic views of the harbor, of the planes taking off from Logan Airport in one direction, and of the Charles River and Cambridge in the other. But the price you pay for all those acres of glass windows is a deficit of wall space.
Most people might not mind that. But interior designer Paula Daher’s clients are avid art collectors who were downsizing from a large suburban home where their vast collection occupied nearly every available space. Needless to say, it could not all make the move.
“The challenge was to highlight the art but not take away from the views,” says Daher.
The couple moved into what was essentially a “white box,” Daher recalls, and gave her broad latitude to pore over their art collection, choosing pieces that seemed to work best given the layout and designing the rooms around the art.
She spent months going back and forth to the owners’ home in the suburbs, taking photos of paintings and statues and inserting them into CAD presentations to demonstrate what each room would look like. “It was actually pretty easy because they had a fabulous art collection,” says Daher, giving her lots to choose from, including traditional, modernist, and abstract, by artists drawing inspiration from New England to Asia.
Her clients had a few “must-have” pieces that provided a strong starting point for the design, notably the David Kroll oil painting Apples and Two Vases, which found a home in the living room. The piece hangs above the new gas fireplace built into a low console of dark marble—a replacement for the white, floor-to-ceiling fireplace and chimney the condo came with. A pair of avocado-colored stools plays off of the colors in the artwork’s vases, while the pale-gray horsehair wallcovering provides a textured but neutral display space that nods to the organic nature of the painting.
Throughout the home, Daher limited the background palette to soft white, gray, and blue hues, and relied on the artwork to provide color and character. In a guest bedroom, a colorful painting of a pair of whirling dervishes, a reminder of a trip to Turkey, dances with a bold yellow stripe in the bedding and even picks up colors from some of the nearby buildings seen through the windows.
The art also played a role in managing scale. In the study, the designer’s clever arrangement of pieces helps bring the twelve-foot-tall walls down to size. Nearly a dozen paintings of various sizes are displayed on a long wall; most all the pieces are graphically simple and predominantly black and white, but a single moody, gilt-framed landscape joins them, catching and guiding the eye.
The aim—successfully achieved—was a home that honors the clients’ passion while sacrificing neither style nor practicality. Each room is enriched by its focal artwork, but no space feels too precious to be an everyday living space.
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