A Vibrant Family Home

A home outside Boston goes from beige to bold with whimsical art, modern patterns, and feel-good design for the whole family.

Text by Julie Dugdale Photography by Michael J. Lee

She has modern West Coast sensibilities. He’s a farm guy who loves nature. When a new job prompted a move from their home in rural Rhode Island to the Boston suburb of Sharon, the first order of business was transforming the 5,800-square-foot house into a space that suited both their styles. “The two of them had such different ideas,” says designer Shari ­Pellows about her clients. “To marry their tastes was a challenge.”

Two things everyone agreed on: the importance of color, and materials that were durable enough to withstand three kids, two cats, and a dog. “I really didn’t want traditional,” the wife says. “I like sparkle and fun.”

Pellows took a layered approach and started with the floors and walls, darkening what she and her clients called the gymnasium colored” hardwoods and choosing a creamy white paint for the rooms, creating a blank canvas of sorts. Solid, neutral sofas and chairs in the family and living rooms begged for the addition of vivid color and plenty of texture. “I used a lot of fabrics soft to the touch, a lot of fine vinyls,” Pellows says, noting the kid-proof ingenuity of the vinyl surfaces on the family room’s ottoman and cheery yellow-topped console.

The rugs are works of art almost as expressive as those on the walls. “Rugs should be an expression of who the homeowners are, instead of something you step on,” Pellows says. Bursting with rich patterns and palettes, the floor coverings play off the art and nearby accent pieces by juxtaposing disparate colors and prints, like the cool blues of the living room carpets that somehow work in harmony with the fiery warmth of the painting by Nellie King Solomon over the fireplace. The result is a striking display of color and texture perfectly tempered by the calming, sandy tones of the room’s bones.

Similarly, the neon print on the hallway runner outside the dining room plays off the colors of the painting above, yet contrasts with the cool tones of the nearby chairs, bench, and carpeting. As the eye travels through the dining space, the cool focus shifts again to unexpected warmth in the three-dimensional birch wall sculptures inlaid with copper by Gisela Griffith.

The birch installations—a nod to nature with avant-garde flair—illustrate how Pellows worked with the homeowners to marry “her style” and “his style.” It was tricky to incorporate hints of the outdoors into the bright, abstract scheme, and the effect is subtle in pieces like the Katoucha breakfast nook table, which the wife interprets as a modern take on a tree.

“Shari is very creative and open-minded,” she says, “and she can take the wildest questions and turn them into something fun. So we did nature pieces with a twist. It’s very much us.”

The couple wanted their kids to personalize their spaces as well, so Pellows sat down with each child to talk style. The family had recently traveled to Paris, and the eldest daughter was enamored of Versailles with its romantic rooms and Hall of Mirrors. So Pellows recreated the look, in the requested blue color scheme, with a fairytale canopy bed and glamorous mirrored accents. On the other end of the spectrum, the youngest daughter wanted a room fit for Rock Star Barbie. Pellows obliged with a hot-pink theme punctuated by well-placed black-and-white accents for some age-appropriate edge. The son’s high-ceilinged bedroom is sleepover-ready; in addition to a regular bed, there’s a loft bed accessed by ladder. A desk tucks into the wall space below the loft.

After a year’s worth of decorating and art perusing, the new suburbanites couldn’t be happier with the result: a compilation of tastefully bold colors, textures, and patterns showcased in a stunning, yet livable home probably unlike any other in their Sharon neighborhood. But they know the ultra-bright look—especially pieces like a Day-Glo abstract in the hallway—isn’t for everyone. “What we found is, people have a love-hate relationship with it,” says the wife. “People’s reaction to that painting tells us a lot about somebody’s personality. The very linear-minded are bothered by that piece. But if art can spark a conversation, isn’t that fun?” •

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