The house for sale ticked off all the right boxes. It sat on a tree-lined cul-de-sac in Westwood, had room for an in-law suite, and was in pristine condition. But there were things that gave Dara and Nikitas Tsoukales pause: the finishes and fixtures, kitchen, and, in particular, the massive, double-sided stone fireplace between the kitchen and family room. The couple and their two sons would spend most of their time around that fireplace, but its rugged appearance wasn’t in line with their taste. “I didn’t have the vision to see what it could be,” Dara says.
Enter Nina Seed of Nina Seed Interiors, whose Instagram feed Dara had long admired. “Nina’s style is chic and a little European,” she says. The aesthetic resonated. “I wanted a look that felt peaceful and a little modern, with rooms that flowed seamlessly.”
Seed, a Westwood resident herself, established a high contrast palette in tones of black and white. It’s so restrained, the designer says, “in moments it’s almost transparent.” Newly refinished dark floors ground the now airy space painted in shades of gray. After sampling a multitude of stains — Dara initially wanted to go darker, but Seed thought ebony would feel too dark and show dirt and scratches — they settled on a custom blend that looks rich and approachable.
Striking black accents run throughout, starting with the glossy black front door. The handrail on the sweeping staircase in the double height entryway got the same treatment. Seed also added a runner with gray striations and lilac undertones and hung an open bronze lantern. “I love the staircase now,” Dara says.
French doors open to Nikitas’s study, which Seed simplified by painting the walls and trim a single gray color. She explains that the monochromatic treatment “envelops the room and softens the abundant millwork.” Seed also replaced the speckled black granite fireplace surround with classic Carrara marble tile to echo the new design of the statement fireplace in the kitchen. (A tip: “Using marble tile instead of a slab can save on cost,” she says.)
The formal dining room across the hall is particularly pared down. Cool gray walls provide contrast against the existing wainscoting and dentil molding, though those gray walls may soon change. “Dara got a bee in her bonnet about doing grass cloth in here when I introduced her to wallpaper,” Seed says with a laugh. Pristine white chairs surround a roughly hewn, reclaimed oak table that adds age and texture to the room, while a black iron chandelier with a double fringe of faceted prisms brings sophistication and sparkle overhead. “Dara is drawn to the glamour of cut glass,” Seed says.
The bulk of the budget was spent in the back of the house, where the couple invested in a classic white kitchen and a reimagined design for that fireplace. It now features a sleek black insert with glass doors and a Carrara marble surround against a wall of millwork. Richard Levey, principal of RBL Architects, designed the mantel, paneling, and crown molding to echo the traditional kitchen cabinetry and break up the wall’s large scale. Seed’s decision to paint the millwork the same pale gray as the walls, rather than white like rest of the trim, made it sing. “The muted color makes the architecture of the millwork into the focal point,” she says.
The breakfast nook recedes, so as not to compete with the new focal point. White linen-upholstered head chairs and oak X-back chairs sit around a weathered farmhouse table. The indoor/outdoor rug is extra durable, with a peppy pattern that hides crumbs. A crystal drop chandelier bounces light around the room.
Steps on either side of the fireplace lead to the sunken family room, outfitted with a gray velvet sectional from Boston Interiors. “My husband’s only concern was comfort,” Dara says, “so Nina and I sat on a lot of furniture.” A delicate open lantern adds a lighter touch as do gauzy white linen drapes that hang on dark rods — Seed calls them the room’s eyeliner.
The substantial face lift was by all measures a success. By “using strong contrasts within a very neutral palette and adding traditional millwork with streamlined furniture and modern art,” Seed says, “we took advantage of the home’s good, solid bones.”
Interior Design: Nina Seed Interiors, ninaseedinteriors.com
Contractor: Creative Construction Solutions, creativeconstructionma.com
Fireplace Millwork: RBL Architects, rblarchitects.com
Kitchen: Weston Kitchens, westonkitchens.com
Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.