New Life for a Suburban Boston Home

November 10, 2021

A face-lift superimposes a fresh new look on the classic bones of a suburban Boston home.

Text by Paula M. Bodah     Photography by Michael J. Lee

In the bustle of raising three young children, Kim and John Toomey were fine with their Lexington, Massachusetts, home. But as the kids became teenagers and Mom and Dad had a moment to catch their breath, they realized the house they’d occupied for eight years could use a bit of a refresh. “We did a renovation when we first moved in, moving walls and updating the kitchen,” Kim says. “But it always felt like we didn’t really make it personal, adding the aesthetic touches a designer can add.”

Boston-based designer Dee Elms had worked with the couple on the city condo they bought in anticipation of their empty-nest years, so it was an easy decision to turn to her again for their primary home. “I said, ‘It’s time for you to get over here to warm this place up and make it us,’ ” Kim recalls.

Architecturally the house didn’t need major changes, although everyone agreed the half-wall and beefy columns separating the living and dining rooms felt clunky and outdated. Working with Dan Stone of JW Construction, Elms swapped them out for a pair of metal-framed panels of glass. “They’re sort of like sideways transoms,” Elms explains, “and they delineate the
space but in a subtle way and with a contemporary vibe.”

From the foyer’s paneling to the living room’s coffered ceiling to the barrel ceiling in the family room, the house boasts plenty of traditional architectural details that lend a gracious touch. Elms’s palette of black and palest gray/white plays up the classic details while imbuing them with a contemporary freshness.

To further the youthful new look, she replaced fussy fireplace surrounds with sleek travertine and brought in furniture with a clean, elegant look. And every room is treated to a knockout light fixture: a sparkly vintage glass starburst in the foyer,  Lindsey Adelman’s dramatic Branching Bubbles chandelier in the living room, and Christopher Boots’s striking Abacus pendant in the dining room. “I’m obsessed with this light,” Elms says about the sculptural piece, which features clumps of uncut-quartz crystal suspended from a horizontal brass bar.

Artwork, chosen with help from Boston’s S3 Contemporary, adds color to almost every room. A vivid oil by Connecticut artist Ted Gahl enlivens the family room, Ori Gersht’s large floral photo makes an arresting addition to the dining room, and a graffiti-like lithograph by Melissa Meyer is a bright echo of the pastel hues that give Kim and John’s bedroom its serene feel. Then there’s Kim’s favorite: Emily Mae Smith’s whimsical screen print that hangs in the kitchen. “The house wouldn’t be complete without the art,” she says.

It wouldn’t have been complete without the input of her three teens, either. Although once in a while she says, “I had to make an executive decision,” she welcomed their opinions. “It was definitely a family project.” As grown-up as the place looks, it holds lots of family-friendly features, like the indoor-outdoor fabric on the white living room sofas, and the benches at the dining table that encourage kids to linger for after-dinner conversation.

When they embarked on this project, Kim says, “I said, let’s make it special, make it fabulous, make it us.”

Mission accomplished.

Project Team
Interior design: Dee Elms, Elms Interior Design
Builder: Jon Wardwell, Dan Stone, JW Construction