Step Inside a Stunning Boston High-Rise

November 10, 2021

A design team proves that solid surfaces can add just as much warmth as soft furnishings.

Text by Erika Ayn Finch    Photography by Michael J. Lee

It started with the stone.

Designer Paula Daher took her clients on a fieldtrip to Cumar in Everett, Massachusetts, before the couple even began pondering a color palette for their new Boston high-rise. Daher had good reason for beginning the design process at the renowned stone fabricator. “The wife was very concerned about living in a high-rise,” she explains. “She wanted to feel a connection to the earth—to feel grounded. It can be unsettling to live so high up, especially at night or when it’s foggy. It’s almost like being in a plane.”

The homeowners spent hours at Cumar with stone designer Dawn Carroll. They were drawn to unusual, vibrant specimens that suggested ocean sunsets and Walden Pond birch trees. Once they made their choices, the three-bedroom apartment began to materialize. Blue-and-copper Van Gogh quartzite became the fireplace surround in the living room. Agate was paired with anigre for the guest bathroom’s backlit vanity, and cranberry-colored onyx vulcano from Turkey offers a jaw-dropping moment in the powder room. A serene quartzite clads the kitchen island.

But the showstopper just might be the nearly eight-by-six-foot slab of Tunisian Sahara Noir marble set into the anigre-paneled walls of the dining room. The clients, who both have a passion for art (she paints, and he does leatherwork), equated the slab to a painting, which made Carroll’s heart skip a beat. “I’d had that piece of stone on hold for myself for ten years,” she recalls. “I just couldn’t let it go, but these clients loved it as much, if not more, than I did. It was bittersweet, but now when I drive by
the building, I can wave to it.”

Of course, installing a six-ton hunk of marble took highly skilled craftsmen—and a little luck, says Eric Adams, principal at Adams + Beasley Associates. In fact, to realize the overall vision—streamlined yet warm, understated meets sophisticated—required an extraordinary level of precision and detail. “There are only a few times in a career where you get to work with clients and design professionals on such an ambitious project,” says Adams. “It was like being part of an orchestra. All of the instruments had to play the same music at the same time or there would have been discord.”

The music analogy is apropos. Daher recalls the day her clients sent along a favorite poem, Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds) written by Farid al-Din ‘Attar in 1487. Because the poem was so meaningful to the couple, the design team devised a way to incorporate it into the space. Today, when the elevator doors open into the condo’s foyer, a plaster bas-relief from Brooklyn-based SuperStrata featuring flora and fauna inspired by the poem greets the homeowners. A striking rock-crystal chandelier purchased at Boston’s Charles Spada illuminates and hints at the surfaces throughout the space.

To further ground the sky-high home, Daher designed cocoon-like floor-to-ceiling drapery on concealed tracks in every room, including the tub alcove in the primary bath. The window in that space also features a motorized shade studded with pearl-like white beads that, at night, resemble stars. “It’s pure magic,” says Daher.

Her clients, who, due to COVID-19, didn’t see the project until it was finished, agree. “On the day of the big reveal, they exited the elevator and were moved to tears,” recalls Daher. “After we walked through the space, she said, ‘You did it. Everything feels warm, organic, and inviting. I don’t feel so far above the earth.’ ”

Project Team 
Interior architecture and design: Paula Daher, Virginia Seherr-Thoss, Daher Interior Design
Interior builder: Alison Cutler, Derek Gann, Eric Adams, Adams + Beasley Associates
Stone design: Dawn Carroll, Cumar