This Traditional Home is an Art Collector’s Dream
March 3, 2019
Text by Bob Curley Photography by Michael J. Lee
When a suburban Boston couple decided to tear down their existing home and build a replacement on the same site, they chose a classic gambrel-roofed, Shingle-style design that fit seamlessly into the neighborhood, and filled the interior with classically New England architectural touches like coffered ceilings, decorative molding, and a centerpiece gallery with an arched ceiling.
Then the owners, who have roots in sunny California, asked interior designer Jill Goldberg to wind the clock forward again, filling the home with furnishings, lighting, and window and wall treatments that added a mix of contemporary and midcentury style and color.
“They wanted a warm and welcoming home to live in with their young family,” says Goldberg, principal and owner of Boston’s Hudson Interior Designs. “The house is a very traditional build, but we took that and had some fun with it.”
Located at the end of a cul-de-sac, the house has a pair of prominent gambrels, one stepped back from the other, with a barrel-vaulted entry that adds a more contemporary touch. A modestly proportioned foyer opens onto an L-shaped stairway and leads to the central gallery, which runs parallel to the front of the house and provides access to all of the ground-floor rooms. “The owners didn’t want to have to walk through one room to get to the others, and also wanted a place to display their artwork,” explains architect Henry Arnaudo.
“Gallery” is an apt description of the house as a whole, with the owners’ collection of original artwork featuring prominently in—and sometimes guiding the design of—nearly every room. “The artwork had a big part in the way the rooms were laid out and the finishing work was done,” says builder Brendon Giblin.
Flat white paint with gloss trim in some spaces made for a clean and bright template for both art and interior design, with darker colors reserved for the den and office bookended at opposite sides of the house. Each room has a distinct feel: the formal moldings, oval window, glass-backed bar, and velvet swivel chairs in the blue-gray bar make the room downright clubby, while the kitchen has a hint of French country style with its subway tiles and custom range hood of stainless steel and brass.
Guided by clients who had a strong vision for their home—the gallery was on their “must-have” list, despite requiring some sacrifices of overall living space—the design evolved room by room and hand in hand with the finishing work. “The owners gave us a blank slate from the start, but also had specific ideas of what they wanted,” says Giblin. “The formalized gallery had a lot to do with the shape of the floor plan.”
Yet Goldberg’s design subtly provides connection between spaces that might otherwise seem disjointed. Brass accents, for example, show up everywhere, from tub fixtures and table pedestals to the demilune consoles at opposite ends of the gallery and the pendant lights over the bar and kitchen island and in the breakfast nook. Even the decorative elephants spaced between the bottles on the bar shelves trumpet their brassy presence.
Moving from a smaller home to a new house topping 7,000 square feet required some restraint on the part of both owners and designer to keep the finished product “clean and concise,” notes Goldberg. “We tried to avoid filling up all of the spaces,” she says.
Smaller doors off the gallery—which has mirrors at each end to increase the sense of size of what is a relatively narrow internal corridor—lead to more private spaces like the office, with its built-in bookshelves and a comfy couch for reading breaks away from the campaign-style desk. Larger entries lead to the interconnected “public” parts of the house, including the living room, kitchen, and a light-filled breakfast nook that projects out of the main confines of the home to allow for extra ceiling height.
The dining room exemplifies the owners’ desire for a home that is “easy living but fancy,” in Goldberg’s words. The Frances Elkins–inspired loop-back chairs may look heavy and formal, but they are covered in durable indoor-outdoor fabric to stand up to everyday use by the couple’s teenagers. “It had to be beautiful, but not ‘Don’t touch this and that,’ ” says Goldberg.
Much of Goldberg’s design is relatively sedate: soft animal prints and brown and tan furnishings give the living room a hint of relaxed French Colonial glamor, for example, and modern, backless stools are intended to slide in unnoticed beneath the overhang of the kitchen island to avoid taking up visual space in the otherwise clean and bright area.
But that just makes the occasional bold gesture, like a bright green lacquered bedframe in a bedroom and the lushly wallpapered powder room—the broad leaves of tropical plants paired with a faux bois mirror frame—jump out even more. “A small space like that allows you to make a statement without being overwhelmed by it,” Goldberg says.
Wide pink and white stripes on a bedroom wall and Donghia Fireworks wallpaper in a Jack and Jill bathroom also liven up the kids’ rooms upstairs. And of course, throughout the house, the collection of contemporary art provides welcome splashes of color.
Although the home is a throwback design in many ways, modern building techniques ensured that plenty of light flows through the house in a way that might not have been possible with a renovation of a vintage structure.
Local zoning laws governing the height and footprint of the home challenged Giblin and Arnaudo at times—the addition of the gallery meant sacrificing a walk-in pantry, for example—but clever use of features like the home’s twin gambrels and the addition of a clerestory increase the sense of space upstairs. Despite the limitations, “I’d say 99.9 percent of what we drew up was executed as intended,” says Arnaudo.
“I love the personality in this house,” Goldberg says. “It’s casual and fun, but also elegant. It’s bigger than the old house, but when you walk in, it’s still a family home, and there’s warmth all around you.”