After a brief flirtation with the Seaport, Anna Ashville was eager to find a place to live that felt more like a neighborhood. The New York City transplant and her husband searched in the South End for a condo with outdoor space for entertaining. Then they stumbled upon this Back Bay duplex with two balconies and a roof deck. “We aren’t sure how long we’ll stay in the city,” Ashville says, “but there was so much potential that we had to try.”
The couple, who welcomed a baby girl last fall, hired Jessica Schwartz and Ryan Stanton, principals of Stanton Schwartz Design, to transform the 1,450-square-foot condo into a home. Priority number one was to replace the precarious spiral staircase that wound its way from the main level, through the bedroom level, to the roof. Collaborating with Niall Hanley of Hanley Carpentry in Milton, who had reworked a similar situation in the building, they devised a stylish and altogether sturdier solution. Ashville, who describes the original staircase as “rinky-dinky,” calls the new one with its beautiful oak woodwork and glamorous wrought-iron rail “a work of art.”
The second order of business was to demolish the cramped galley kitchen in favor of one open to the living and dining areas. The interior wall, with its strangely shaped pass-through window, came down, replaced by a marble-topped peninsula that accommodates stools for casual meals. Thinking that they might one day sell, the couple chose classic white cabinetry. But classic doesn’t have to mean boring. “We incorporated something unique — an antiqued mirror backsplash that also runs up one wall,” Stanton says. They painted the brick behind the range white. Ashville says, “I wanted to keep the original material, but I didn’t like the red.”
Stanton Schwartz Design stuck to a neutral off-white paint for the walls, but chose Benjamin Moore Britannia Blue for the built-ins they designed in the main living space. “We inserted color in easily alterable ways,” Schwartz says, “a muted rug, ombre drapes, artwork, and the painted millwork.” Marble accents in the dining area are practical — the built-ins function as a bar and staging area for outdoor entertaining — and signal that the space is an extension of the kitchen.
While the couple retained the fireplace mantel in the dining room, the fireplace in the living room got a minimalist marble surround, making it a sleek focal point. “Once we redesigned the millwork, the existing mantel seemed out of place,” Schwartz says. The ombre drapes unite the space and create a nuanced backdrop for the large, comfy sectional upholstered in a performance bouclé and custom sized for a perfect fit.
In the master bedroom upstairs, the designers played off Ashville’s love of purple — and fixed a problem — with raw silk drapery hung from a ceiling track. “The floors and ceiling are really uneven,” Schwartz says. “The floor-to-ceiling wall of drapery hides the two-inch discrepancy.” A channel-tufted headboard, lush velvet bench, and a trio of fashion photographs amp up the glamour, while a subtle vintage rug keeps the room airy. “Purple makes me feel good and isn’t super feminine, so my husband didn’t mind,” Ashville says.
When it came to the master bath, the couple had quite the wish list for the small space — a soaking tub, a walk-in shower, and a double vanity. While the designers gained space for the shower by pushing into the landing, they had to pull back by the door because it was dangerously close to the stairs. All in all, it was a wash. The freestanding tub — one of the smallest models on the market — sits on a platform under a skylight. It’s an oasis that’s even better when it rains. “We really made it our own space,” Ashville says. “I want to live here forever.”
Interior Design: Stanton Schwartz Design, stantonschwartz.com
Contractor: Hanley Carpentry, hanleycarpentry.com
Kitchen: Metropolitan Cabinets & Countertops, metcabinet.com
Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.