An English Georgian Inspired New Build

February 21, 2022

An artful family and their fearless design team freshen up a nouveau grande dame.

Text by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans    Photography by Ngoc Minh Ngo

When Mari Sugahara Lathrop and her husband, John, decided to construct a house from the ground up in Weston, Massachusetts, it came with a very specific request. “They wanted to build a home that looked like it had been passed down for generations,” says interior designer Mary McGee. “They didn’t want a new build.”

Mission accomplished. With its slaked limewash-and-brick English Georgian-inspired exterior and peastone front parking court, the 2013 abode, designed by architect John Meyer, could have hosted any member of ye olde Founding Fathers. “Porches, overhangs, bump outs, and bays give our house that added-onto-over-time quality,” Sugahara Lathrop says. “We even picked a few mismatched-but-close stained-glass colors for the family room windows to suggest that they’d been replaced over time.”

But the interiors tell a slightly different story. “My client was infatuated with William Haines’s style—she liked a little more of that Hollywood [Regency] glamour” married with classicism, says McGee, who designed the original interiors and then returned for an update in 2020. Enter a gauzy purple color palette, inspired by Sugahara Lathrop’s longtime love of the hue, and chinoiserie. When McGee happened upon a hand-painted Gracie wallcovering that set Sugahara Lathrop’s heart aflutter, they sheathed the dining room with it. The covering became the inspiration for the entire home, transforming the Lathrops’ existing art collection into something fresh. “The beautiful purple, silver, and gold peonies, vines, and butterflies all remind me of the beauty and elegance of Japanese gardens and growing up spending my summers in Japan with my grandparents,” Sugahara Lathrop says. “Purple is also my favorite color and symbolizes nobility and strength in Japan.”

Benjamin Moore Misty Lilac creates a warm welcome in the foyer. “I thought the lavender with the black accents and the gold frames on the art would just be so unique and different,” McGee says. “It would kind of spotlight some of the antiques you might not otherwise see.”

In the cloak room, McGee took the hue full throttle in a gleaming Crayola-bright purple. Her advice: “Put the shocking color in the smaller space.” Vintage rattan furniture and accessories and Japanese silk textiles hand selected by Sugahara Lathrop help bring the look down to earth. (The Lathrops have created an endowment to support the Japanese textile department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)

“A word that came up a lot in our design meetings was ‘unexpected,’ ” Sugahara Lathrop says. “Our designer and architect helped us create surprising details like the Greek key in the classical Georgian staircase, [and] the black-and-white graphic Paris Ceramics marble floor in the entry vestibule.”

The pièce de résistance is something a silver-screen siren would faint over: a black-marble fireplace surround in the living room dreamt up by McGee and inspired by a William Haines original. It epitomizes a home built in the present but rooted—inside and out—in the past.

Project Team
Interior design: Mary McGee, Mary McGee Interiors
Architecture: John Meyer, Tim Haynes, Meyer & Meyer
Builders: Joe Trainor, Andrew Trainor, CustomWorks Contracting, Grant Rhode, GF Rhode Construction