March 17, 2015
Text by Megan Fulweiler Photography by Michael J. Lee Produced by Kyle Hoepner
A growing family’s tight timeline doesn’t faze a design team as they give a lovely old suburban Boston house an update.
The young family was expanding. With baby number two on the way, a larger nest was in order. The gorgeous 1895 home Stephen and Melanie Hoffmeister bought in a tony suburb of Boston, though, called for help. True to its era, the house tended to be dark. The layout of the rooms was a bit quirky, and the kitchen lacked the spaciousness and efficiency today’s homeowners prefer. Clearly, a speedy plan was needed to get the grand Victorian in step with the present if the family was to be ensconced in time for the stork’s arrival.
Sympathetic friends steered the couple to Boston interior designer Marc Langlois for a solution. Langlois, whose rich background includes stints as a fashion photographer and magazine editor, is a wizard at pulling things together and bringing projects to a smooth conclusion. “I look at a room and think of a photo,” he says. “It’s the same creative process. Colors, texture, balance, light—it’s all about composition.”
It helped that Stephen and Melanie enjoy collecting art. As Langlois sees it, art is a means to better understanding clients’ taste. “Art is personal; it speaks to who they are,” he explains. With the couple’s paintings (a good many of them by Stephen’s great uncle) as a starting point, the rooms fairly fell into place. Of course, that was after some construction that enhanced the old house.
In just six months, architect Alan Mayer of Mayer + Associates in Brookline, Massachusetts—along with Matt Harkins of Benchmark Builders—ripped away the back of the house to skillfully forge a centrally located gourmet kitchen that opens to a welcoming family room. “The original kitchen was off by itself. And there was no room for relaxing,” Mayer recalls. Today’s setup is instead accessible, family-friendly, and ideal for entertaining.
With help from kitchen designer Linda Davis, the team of experts devised a winning recipe that includes everything from dual dishwashers and sinks to storage galore. The mahogany island—a fine contrast to pale cabinets—protects the cooking zone, while also providing ample prep space and seating. But best of all, Davis points out, “the new kitchen speaks to the integrity of the house.”
The sunny family room couldn’t be any more satisfying. The home’s hilltop location is played up with windows that frame the tree tops. “It feels like a tree house,” says Melanie. “This is the core of our home. Everything centers around this room.”
During their ever-shortening window of opportunity, Mayer and Harkins also found spots for a handy breakfast nook and a powder room, and created a heavenly master suite above the kitchen. A set of auxiliary stairs was removed, the aging main staircase was dismantled and meticulously reassembled, and in went a new staircase to the basement.
Given the collaborative spirit among the interior designer, architect, and builder, as well as the clients’ ability to make speedy decisions, there simply were no hitches to stall progress. “Our main goal,” Harkins says, “was to make the tight deadline, while at the same time keeping quality high.”
Now, with the dust and debris nothing but a vague memory, the owners can enjoy the fruits of their labors and revel in the wise clock-is-running choices they made. Following Langlois’s advice that some of the original woodwork be French polished to bring back its luster and some be painted white, for instance, meant the house could become brighter without sacrificing its pedigree. “My clients wanted to keep the home’s bones intact,” the designer says. “My main purpose was to lighten and freshen the rooms.”
Step inside the spacious foyer and Langlois’s talent for merging old and new is readily apparent. The handsome paneling is painted Farrow & Ball’s tranquil James White, while the adjacent sitting room maintains its dark woodwork. Pulling a chic palette of warm cinnabar and seafoam from a favorite painting, the savvy designer concocted a stylish ambience for the room—indeed, the entire house—that’s both traditional and contemporary. It’s a winning twenty-first-century combination that, Langlois proclaims, pretty much defines his modus operandi.
Mismatched vintage Oriental rugs that share similar colors delineate the sitting room’s conversation areas—one slightly more formal than the other. In the former, twin Bombay chests are backed with stunning antique Oriental screens snagged at the Brimfield Antique Show. Luscious drapes of wool and silk frame the windows. “There are so many windows. I felt the house demanded drapery,” Langlois says. On the sitting room’s opposite side, the tone grows more relaxed. Cozy banquettes flanking the fireplace conjure thoughts of children curling up with storybooks on rainy days.
The consistent palette pulls the large house together, creating a harmonious vibe from top to bottom. When his clients requested that one room be green, Langlois smoothly integrated the color by designing an elegantly traditional dining room that includes chairs with cinnabar-hued seats. Clad in white, the original paneling and coffered ceiling underscore the springlike green, making it pop. The silk drapes mimic the wall color for consistency, but a closer look reveals lean cinnabar stripes—a master stroke that adds to the consistency and offers evidence of Langlois’s penchant for details.
Anyone who sweeps upstairs to peek at the owners’ private domain won’t be disappointed. The serene haven, with its barely-blue walls and its Barbara Barry cashmere drapes and upholstery, is as elegantly understated as the rest of the house. The owners walk from the bedroom through a dressing room lined with custom cherry cabinetry into their marble-tiled bath. A sculptural soaking tub and an oversize walk-in shower are waiting. For the parents, no doubt tired after a day of caring for a brood that has since grown to three active youngsters, a few minutes of leisure at day’s end is a delicious, well-earned reward. One, hopefully, they don’t have to hurry. •
Architecture: Alan Mayer, Mayer + Associates Architects
Interior Design: Marc Langlois, Comprehensive Interior Design Services
Builder: Matt Harkins, Benchmark Builders
Kitchen designer: Linda Davis, Architectural Kitchens
Landscape design: Kim Ahern Landscape Architects