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Home design inspiration: Lightening the look of oak millwork in an old home

A young couple in Dorchester learns how to make the historic woodwork in their family room shine.

The family room in a 19th-century Colonial Revival in Dorchester.Tamara flanagan

It was the original oak millwork that attracted Cait Louise Gury’s clients to their condo in a 19th-century Colonial Revival in Dorchester. However, they also felt intimidated by it. “They struggled with making the family room feel light and relaxed, yet harmonious with the heavy architecture,” Gury says. The first thing she did was paint the sage-colored walls a bright white—Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. The new, crisp backdrop immediately made the space feel airy. “The dusky color offered no contrast so the wood disappeared,” Gury says. “Now that it pops, it’s an eye-catching moment.”

1 This blush and charcoal tones of the vintage style rug by Magnolia Home for Loloi suffuses the room with warmth, balancing the cool blue of the sofa. The pattern also helps hide spills.


2 A wide, contemporary chandelier counteracts the historic millwork. The brass frame also contrasts the dark hardware, keeping things from looking matchy-matchy.

3 Gury’s rule for curtains? Go high and wide. “Panels should be at least two times the width of the window for adequate fullness,” she says, “and hung at least six inches above the window frame for impact.”

4 For a collected feel, Gury uses vintage textile throw pillows made by small businesses. Krinto, Studio North, and Danielle Oakey are favorites. She offers this tip: Buy inserts 2 inches larger than the cover for plenty of plumpness.

5 An in-stock Article sectional—delivered within three weeks—was the starting point. “The deep seats make for extra cozy movie nights, and the detachable ottoman provides flexibility in the floor plan when entertaining,” the designer says.

6 The West Elm coffee table brings the rich wood tone into the center of the space and balances the room’s many rectangles. “I’m always careful to vary silhouettes in a space,” Gury says.

Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.