Color is King in This Boston Condo
May 11, 2019
Text by Marni Elyse Katz Photography by Sean Litchfield
“It’s not every day that clients ask you to design a home around Lady Gaga’s stilettos,” says Boston-based designer Dane Austin. “But when they do, you run with it.”
Looking for a change of pace, the clients, a thirty-something couple who are longtime friends of Austin and his husband, traded a 630-square-foot rental on New York’s Upper East Side for a 1,200-square-foot condo in downtown Boston last fall. The wife says, “We wanted the fun part of our personalities to be represented front and center.”
Said stilettos, created by local shoe designer Thom Solo and purchased at the Fenway Health Men’s Event auction, are displayed on a pedestal with a spotlight, like fine art. “They convey the couple’s flair for dramatic style,” Austin says.
The home is awash in such touches. The open living space is painted Benjamin Moore Paisley Pink. The couple love the color—the husband often sports a pink shirt, bowtie, or socks with his Paul Smith suits—and its connotations—a fun nod to his stylist, whose name is Paisley. For the designer, it’s a cool shade of blush that acts as a neutral backdrop for bold moments of black and gray, from the door and window trim to the upholstery and artwork. Austin notes, “The best interiors balance masculine and feminine.”
In the seating area, a clean-lined sectional and acrylic-backed swivel seats, all covered in textural geometric fabrics, surround a resin and gold-leaf coffee table reminiscent of a Fabergé egg. It’s an apt association, since the husband’s passion is Russian literature. A smooth, toe-stub-proof design was essential—the husband broke his toe on their last coffee table while reviewing, yes, Russian literature. “We walked around it to make sure nothing similar could happen again,” Austin says.
The chairs in the dining area mix easily with the ones across the room, and the table’s zigzag base echoes the shapes on the sofa fabric. “There’s a lot of pattern, but it all coordinates,” says the designer. The wow comes from a statement painting by Lily Koto Olive, a friend of the husband, and from the articulating branch chandelier with crinkled glass tips. The fixture, which can be stretched to match the width of the expandable dining table, or reconfigured just for fun, is interactive art in its own right. “Dane rearranges it every time he comes over,” says the wife.
To pull pink into the center of the space, Austin commissioned decorative painter Pauline Curtiss to create a Venetian plaster finish on the kitchen island. A pair of cherry-and-mint-colored cage pendants by Roll & Hill hang like exclamation points above it. “They look like earrings the homeowner would rock with a great outfit,” Austin says.
The pendants’ color combination informed the color palette in the office, with its historic green walls and red lacquered desk, where the husband, a semi-retired investment analyst, spends his days. The artwork includes gritty street scenes and a portrait by sidewalk artist Paul Richard, whose drip paintings he used to skateboard over in Manhattan.
The wife keeps her book collection in the guest room, where Austin installed Christian Lacroix wallpaper picturing colonial scenes overlaid with bamboo. The choice was inspired by the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, which Austin’s husband and the wife watched incessantly when they were roommates. “Lacroix was a frequent topic,” explains Austin. As a housewarming gift, Austin designed the loopy neon sign reading “Chic Chick,” alluding to an inside joke shared by the friends. (“Chic” is written upside down.) “They love commissioned pieces, so I thought it would be a fun signature,” says the designer.
On a field trip to the Boston Design Center, Austin and the wife spotted the dreamy watercolor mural by Phillip Jeffries used in the master bedroom. The soothing backdrop is visible from the kitchen, and keeps color flowing. A crystal halo chandelier amps up the glam, and hints at elements in a 1997 photograph by David LaChapelle, Addicted to Diamonds, which the couple cited as inspiration early in the process.
The couple succeeded in shaking things up with their move, and with Austin’s help, their decor. “I think this aesthetic was in us all along; we were just limited as renters,” the wife says. “Now people come over and say, ‘Oh, this is so you guys!’ ”