No Reservations

May 13, 2012

Text by Megan Fulweiler    Photography by Eric Roth

Of course you hire an interior designer to, well, design. But the very best ones do it in such a way as to ensure that, when they depart, the room or the house is all about their client’s aesthetic. Michael Barnum of Boston’s Michael Barnum Studio is a case in point. “My job is to create a level of high quality and taste,” he says. “Yet when I leave, the home should speak about who the owners are, not about me.”

As for this commission, the timing was perfect. When Barnum came on board, the South Boston penthouse was still under construction. Barnum customized the layout to forge a more livable two-bedroom, two-bath open plan and designed a classy staircase to zoom his clients and their guests to and from the roof deck. On warm days and nights people have to be coaxed back inside. Or at least they would, if the interiors weren’t equally dreamy.

The chic condominium belongs to Carlos Reverendo and Fernando Leon, owners of three Boston-area tapas restaurants. No surprise then, that when a window of opportunity opens for the crazy-busy duo—usually on a Sunday—they love to cook and entertain.

Having successfully devised the decor for their popular eateries, the owners were hardly neophytes when it came to designing their own sanctuary. But rather than select similar colors and materials, they were ready for a different approach, explains Reverendo. “We joke about the amount of red and gold in the restaurants,” he says. “This time we wanted something more modern and restful.”

With that as the kickoff point, the collaborative project unfolded as seamlessly as a lovely damask dinner napkin. Unlike many couples, Reverendo and Leon rarely disagree on design choices. “We’re not really opposites. Put six colors in front of us and we both eliminate the same three or four immediately,” Reverendo says. “We know what we don’t like.”

What the two do like very much is the palette they arrived at with Barnum, who is known for his use of color. The taupey-gray walls and soft gray upholstery soothe the senses and foster a feeling of airiness that’s essential for decompression. In the living room area, a generous sectional sofa rests as lightly as a feather upon a ­Barnum-designed aubergine rug with ice-blue accents—a nod to the owners’ blue pottery collection. “Color is great, but you also have to control it,” Barnum says.

Maintaining the same relaxed tenor, the dining area hosts a mahogany table by Ralph Lauren Home. The chairs are covered in a stunning Osborne & Little floral fabric that could easily slide over into the living area and look completely happy. Each chair is meticulously upholstered just so, Barnum points out, with one bloom centered on the back and front. The chairs’ seats are swathed in velvet stripes. And suspended above the table is a French-chateau-style chandelier dripping prisms, an element all three men label as “a bit of bling.”

This unexpected and lively ornamentation acts as a foil to the urbane furnishings. Take, say, the two antique Art Deco sideboards of macassar ebony that serve as a sleek storage ­solution. Or the geometric Art Deco reading chair (when do they find time?) covered in velvet. The chair’s partner is a sculptural metal end table evocative of the architect Louis Sullivan.

Had the kitchen assumed a different tone, the peaceful aura would have been thrown into chaos. Instead, the ­efficient galley with its zebrawood upper cabinets and charcoal-lacquered lower cabinets, its smoky glass-tile backsplash and its granite counters, is as sophisticated as the rest of the pad. Heaven, here, really is in the details. The Black Magic granite resembles a “slice of frozen beach,” says Barnum. And the golden interiors of the Tom Dixon hand-beaten brass pendants cast a catch-your-breath glow. More azure pottery—some gathered on the couple’s frequent travels abroad, some classic Roseville—parades along open shelves where it’s easily admired and accessible.

The well-appointed private areas are more exuberant. The study, which multitasks as guest bedroom, pulls a bouquet of sunny colors from a Portuguese needlepoint carpet. The table lamps—two 1970 resin canisters Barnum unearthed in a San Francisco shop and cleverly reconfigured as lights, using the knobs that once sat upon their wooden lids as finials—shine like welcoming beacons. With its bright carpet, lamps, pillows and art, the study evokes thoughts of a coastline in warm climes or, maybe, an island holiday.

Not that the owners are going to require a vacation any time soon, given the lift-your-spirits lacquered ceiling above their bed. Lacquered ceilings are another of Barnum’s trademarks, and what better color than chartreuse for people who need to wake feeling refreshed, regardless of how few hours of sleep they’ve clocked? The master bedroom’s fabulous Osborne & Little wallcovering drove the color scheme, which Barnum subtly tempers with the bed’s metallic-linen-covered headboard and twin nightstands wrapped in faux shagreen. Swing-arm reading lights help keep the nightstands’ surfaces clutter free.

Whereas the guest bath is a handsome composition of orange and earth tones, the master bath is light and sparkly with a luxe mirrored wall and marble countertops and floor. Double sinks at the custom vanity ensure no one ever needs wait a turn.

The entire home, from posh foyer to kitchen, is impressive for its style and comfort but also for its innovative planning. For a prime example of the latter, Reverendo points to a trio of creamy faux-leather-wrapped doors that Barnum tucked unobtrusively beneath the stairs. The smaller two conceal closets for top-notch audio equipment and luggage. The last is the entrance to the master suite. How tony a strategy is that for making everything work as gorgeously as it looks? •

Interior design: Michael Barnum

Builder: Boston Built