Glam Rock in Chestnut Hill

January 10, 2022

An ultra-daring designer/artisan team joins forces to push the envelope.

Text by Tovah Martin    Photography by Jessica Delaney

If pressed to label her style, designer Michelle Michaels goes straight for “glam rock.” It’s daring, it’s dramatic, and it doesn’t scrimp on the sparkle. She was ready to work her mojo when homeowner Pam Mittleman asked her to create an interior for a newly renovated, hundred-year-old brick Tudor in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill. Mittleman proved to be Michaels’s ideal accomplice. The two were country club acquaintances when Mittleman’s home became Michaels’s first major project as a designer. “The interior was a blank slate,” Michaels recalls, “and we were very symbiotic.”

The resulting rooms explore territories few homeowners are sufficiently courageous to go. “It’s very edgy,” Michaels admits of elements that include an ombre-painted dining room, tie-dye-patterned walls in the mudroom, and an arresting ceiling treatment in the bar. “I’m a risk-taker, and I don’t play by the rules,” Michaels says. However, she does have an agenda: “Everything should make you smile.” And sure enough, the input most often heard by the Mittlemans (including husband Jeff and their three teenage children) is, “Wow! This house is so happy.”

For a collaborator to help make it all happen, Michaels reached out to decorative painter Pauline Curtiss, who was a New England Home 5 Under 40 winner in 2014. Curtiss jumped at the chance to add her artistic flair to the home’s original architectural elements and period details, all of which were respectfully preserved. “I love juxtaposing an antique house with very modern interior elements,” she says. “It adds
a third dimension.”

Not only were the wall treatments modern, but many also pushed the limitations of gravity. In the dining room, Curtiss basically invented her technique while mixing and applying the mauve-to-berry pigments that ascend the walls. And thanks to Photoshop, Michaels was able to show Mittleman a preview of the mudroom prior to Curtiss’s actual splatter application.

For a thematic element, Michaels likes to incorporate “something very personal to the owner” into the brew. In this case, it was agate and crystal, evident in the living room draperies, a custom-printed wallpaper ceiling in the bar, and the dining room table centerpiece. It’s all over the top. “Sometimes it takes company a few minutes to adjust,” Mittleman finds. But family and friends end up glowing. As Curtiss sums it up, “The end goal is getting more exciting ideas out into the world.” 

The glitter gets going in the foyer where designer Michelle Michaels paired custom art by Pauline Curtiss with a bench upholstered in a Romo iridescent velvet and a rug custom woven in an amethyst pattern.

Project Team 
Interior design: Michelle Michaels, Michelle Michaels Interior
Design Decorative painter: Pauline Curtiss, Patina Designs
Renovation Builders: Matt Abrams, Abrams Renovations; Hawthorn Builders