Unconventional Wisdom

Text by Megan Fulweiler Photography by Michael J. Lee Produced by Kyle Hoepner

Fearlessly setting a mix of styles against a backdrop of bold color brings a spirit of fun to a young family’s suburban Boston home.

It’s well known that New Englanders have a staid reputation. Steadfastness, endurance, loyalty—indeed, Yankees have all those traits. Exuberance as a characteristic, on the other hand, comes less frequently to mind. But when a designer who wields color like a magician happens along, we’re utterly and completely charmed. As it turns out, fearless playfulness is a balm for our souls.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder interior designer Jill Goldberg’s clients feel like they have a new lease on life. Their previously dark house, with its decidedly Gothic-leaning decor, has been transformed. Maybe the exterior fits perfectly with all the other homes in their pretty Boston suburb. But the interior? That’s a different story.

It was the owners’ wise recruitment of Goldberg that turned their world around. In addition to being among the area’s most in-demand designers, Goldberg is the founder of Hudson, one of Boston’s most stylish boutiques. Known for her ability to blend styles—modern (the designer spent almost a decade in sunny California) with traditional and vintage—Goldberg also subtly interjects a good bit of fun into every project.

Here, since the layout was efficient and the home was in mint condition, the primary focus was on cosmetics. The master suite got a makeover, but it was the first floor—ground zero for the family’s activities—that received the greatest amount of Goldberg’s attention. The owners were yearning for a more up-to-date look and a cheerier nest overall. As every expert will confirm, nothing changes a room’s mood like a fresh, bright color. And, fortunately, Goldberg’s clients were more than ready to rev up the tempo.

Now, even on the dreariest of days, the vibe is upbeat. Just look at the entry. Goldberg clad the walls in a luscious blue Phillip Jeffries grasscloth that might easily evoke thoughts of a cloudless West Coast sky. Visitors who sit to remove their boots do so on a Bernhardt leather bench the hue of a spring leaf. The bolster at their back (like the curtains framing the window on the stair landing) is dressed in a flamboyant Osborne & Little fabric guaranteed to raise the spirits of even the staunchest northerner. For that matter, so could the leopard-print stair runner and the fanciful vintage mirror (the last a lucky score on 1stdibs). “The more eclectic we made it, the better it seemed to work,” says Goldberg.

The office, which is visible from the entry, isn’t shy on personality either. The linen window fabric, with the fun name Enter the Dragons, is by Jim Thompson. There’s a fireplace for extra coziness, but a carpet the color of a summer sunset is also a warming feature. And there’s definite heat being generated in the powder room, too. Celerie Kemble’s electric Flamestick wallpaper gives the stately vanity pizzazz it never had before.

Warm and welcoming are the adjectives that apply to the whole place. The kitchen with its generous-sized breakfast area and the adjoining family room, for instance, couldn’t be more congenial. The existing cabinetry didn’t warrant replacement. Instead, Goldberg cleverly worked around it, swapping out yesterday’s countertops and backsplash for pale tiles and gray-veined marble. Then, to help define the dining area, she installed an eye-popping, oversize, custom-painted light fixture above an X-base table by Noir.

One step down, the family room holds a bold sectional by Verellen and a user-friendly coffee table from Restoration Hardware. A chic cowhide is layered over a long-wearing sisal rug. “This is where everybody congregates,” says Goldberg. “We wanted it to be an enjoyable, worry-free spot.”

The dining and living rooms are even more uplifting, if that’s possible. The bright-green, open-to-one-another spaces suggest gardens, grass, and all things outdoorsy. Yet, there’s also an underlying note of elegance. Glossy white ceilings—one of Goldberg’s signature moves—add life, underscore the crisp green, and maximize light. In this case, the gleaming finish also draws attention to the architecture by accentuating the tray ceilings.

And, once again, there’s a titanic light fixture—this time it’s the dining room’s capiz sphere—floating moonlike above a handsome Parsons table by Kravet. The Martinique side chairs are creamy-hued, while dramatic blue wingbacks guard the table’s ends. The chairs ground the space and reference splashes of blue found throughout.

The chic living room centers on the hearth. According to Goldberg, it was the Christopher Farr drapery fabric that inspired the vibrant wall color. The furnishings are classic—twin Bernhardt sofas and Layla chairs by Oly standing side by side—but a zebra-striped (actually, painted cowhide) ottoman kicks it all into a higher contemporary gear. “You have to mix it up,” Goldberg says, modestly downplaying the level of skill such complementary blending entails.

The designer was delighted that her clients carefully cherry-picked their art, not only because every piece earned her thumbs-up, but also because it put a personal stamp on the rooms. In addition, the wife happens to be a photographer. Her work lends a whole extra layer of interest, bringing with it reams of stories and memories.

Still, all the captivating art and comfortable furnishings aside, if we were to take a family poll, the most joyful nook of all might be the youngest child’s whimsical basement playroom. How could it not be, with its bright Schumacher wallpaper and hot-pink, snuggly sofa? Once again, Goldberg lets it rip, marrying yellow pendants and a floor lamp the shade of a grasshopper. Open shelves provide plenty of space for myriad toys and books. And, should a tea party be scheduled, there’s a generous table with chairs for guests. “Little kids are happy,” says Goldberg. “I wanted to make this a happy haven.”

In the end, that’s exactly how the talented designer made the whole house feel—irrepressibly happy, the way every home everywhere should be. •

Interior design: Jill Goldberg, Hudson Interior Designs

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