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Style Watch

Design ideas to pull an open floor plan together

Empty nesters in Marblehead layer neutrals to once-divided living spaces.

Emily O’Brien

As Mary Michael O’Hare’s clients’ family grew, so did their house. This center entrance Colonial in Marblehead had been added onto so many times that it had become a collection of too many, too small rooms. O’Hare says, “Now that their four kids are grown and are returning with their own children, there was no single space that could accommodate them all.” To remedy the layout without adding even more square footage, the Swampscott-based architectural designer removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, as well as the one between the dining room and stairwell. The new floor plan makes the whole house seem bigger and brighter. As for the palette, O’Hare says, “When opening rooms, I establish a nice background of neutrals so that other things can be the focus.”

1. Long drapes in a linen-look polyester lend softness around new double hung windows on the side of the house. “At night, especially in winter, bare windows can read as a black hole,” O’Hare says.

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2. David Hayes of DRH Custom Woodworking in Salem made custom cabinets sprayed the same color as the walls. “They’re meant to blend in, not stand out,” O’Hare says. Simple knobs have an antique brass finish.

3. Phillip Jeffries grass-cloth wallcovering creates a warm, textural focal point. “It has a nice blend of neutrals with a touch of gray,” the designer says. The other walls are painted Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray in a washable matte finish.

4. The satin gold finish of the Arteriors chandelier adds luster to the top of the room and ties into the home’s original hardware. “A lot of the handles and hinges in this Colonial are brass,” O’Hare says. The sconces by Barbara Barry for Visual Comfort add another layer of light.

5. The curved backs of the Pottery Barn chairs relate to the profile of the pendant light. Their sculptural shape makes for a nice view from the kitchen. The farmhouse-style extension table, a new purchase from Zimman’s in Lynn, was treated with a protective sealer, making a tablecloth unnecessary.

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6. The neutral indoor-outdoor rug from Landry & Arcari stands up to spills, kids, and pets, and also defines the dining area. “When you have a large, open space, a rug helps establish scale,” O’Hare says.


Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.