Urban Sophistication in Downtown Boston
February 4, 2019
Text by Maria LaPiana Photography by Greg Premru
Interior designer Rachel Reid remembers the first time she met her client, then the owner of a clothing boutique on Newbury Street in Boston. “It was in 1990, and I thought her store was amazing,” says Reid. “I walked in looking for a dress and left with a dear friend.”
The friendship flourished, so when the client and her husband purchased an apartment overlooking Boston Common in 2003, they asked Reid to help them take a blank (albeit grand) slate and make it their own.
Reid, whose interior design firm is based in Lexington, Massachusetts, has been working on the interiors ever since. She counseled the couple on how to visually combine two spaces after they purchased the adjoining apartment (for its views of the airport), and she advised them again in 2017 when they decided to renovate the kitchen. It’s a singular space in a singular place: a 5,500-square-foot penthouse in the Ritz-Carlton Towers, in the heart of downtown Boston.
Joined by S+H Construction, the two units have been seamlessly melded to read as one and maximize views. Under Reid’s direction, old and new elements combine to reflect the city’s mix of classic and modern architecture. The vibe of the airy space, is both minimalist-modern and globally inspired, thanks to the homeowners’ trove of artisanal pieces and original art. It’s the ultimate in urban sophistication—and whimsy. “My overall aesthetic tends to be relatively minimal, with a focus on clean sightlines and a small number of carefully chosen objects,” says Reid. “In this case, the client’s incredible collections led to a different feel, which really enhanced the project.” Because the wraparound view is so showstopping, the design strategy, says Reid, was “fundamentally focused on incorporating it into the home. From every room, you are reminded of the beauty of Boston.”
The designer and her clients opted for bare windows in the common spaces to further enhance the lovely daytime view. And at night, the sparkling lights of the city transform the vista completely.
A neutral palette grounds a deceptively simple interior design. All the walls are white, and, with the exception of a dark herringbone floor in the entry, the floors have been finished in whitewashed oak.
Everything old has something new surrounding it. “We selected new pieces, including furniture, carpets, and fixtures, and combined them with the clients’ vintage pieces,” says Reid, who favors all things modern. “The older pieces really keep the space from feeling too formal, too precious.”
Up-to-the-minute luxury owns the day, but that allows the sometimes-quirky antiques to stand out. “These are things the clients cherish—many belonged to her mother—and they wanted them to have a place of importance,” Reid says.
Even as the furnishings are clearly refined, playful notes abound. To give an office some semblance of privacy, Reid fitted the doorway with one of her clients’ treasured finds: a vintage iron gate. Decorative accents skew toward the fanciful—a stylized tree painted on a wall, a stepstool to nowhere, a pillow with a smiley face, a pink sheepskin throw.
In the most recent work phase, the kitchen became a streamlined beauty. “The original space lacked life and felt very dark,” says kitchen designer Meaghan Moynahan of Venegas and Company, a design studio in Boston. “Everything was lightened—from the finishes and fixtures to the overall sense of the space.”
Because she had collaborated with Reid in the past, Moynahan says the process of parsing out the many layers of kitchen design was fluid. They worked with a palette of gray and beige, and while the footprint of the space didn’t change much, the design duo cleverly allocated cabinetry to provide storage and accommodate the homeowners’ entertaining needs. Leather-finished marble countertops and a zinc backsplash further the contemporary feel.
Reid says the look of the kitchen, like every other design decision, was made with the clients’ comfort and taste in mind. A thoughtful exchange of ideas between friends helped. “We took a clean, modern aesthetic and paired it with playful and elegant elements. The result was meticulously cohesive,” Reid says. “That it emerged from our combined vision is what I think makes the project so exceptional.”