fb-pixel Skip to main content
Style Watch

Home design ideas: Small upgrades in a Back Bay rental pack a big payoff

A designer flexes her modern side in a rental apartment, pulling in color that echoes the view from the main living space.

The main living space in a Back Bay rental unit.Sabrina Cole Quinn

It was the asymmetrical fireplace mantel and big windows that attracted Jessica Alex to the two bedroom Back Bay rental she shares with her husband, goldendoodle, and any day now, a newborn. In decorating the living space, Alex fuses a spare sensibility with the traditional style she honed in her six-year stint with designer Bunny Williams. “I look at colorful fabrics all day, so I wanted modern and monochromatic space to come home to,” the founder of Jessica Alex Interiors says. “Green accents draw the eye to the tree-lined view of Commonwealth Avenue.”

1 “We swapped out the sconces, even though it’s a rental,” Alex says. “These dark metal ones from Currey & Company are very architectural and a scale that balances the mantel.”


2 The couple’s existing sofa offers separation from the dining area without blocking the sightline across the room. It’s also perfectly (and practically) positioned in front of the television. “We entertain around sports, so the TV had to go over the mantel,” Alex says.

3 A vintage coffee table from Chairish is very functional — it’s a great place for food when entertaining — and allows for easy circulation, especially when playing with the dog.

4 Alex has tended the giant fiddle leaf fig for over seven years. “Plants are key to making a place feel alive,” she says.

5 The Eames chair is her husband’s go-to spot. “He sits there every evening with a book or his laptop and a whiskey,” Alex says. “The lounge-y look makes the corner feel inviting, and the ottoman works as a seat when we have people over.”

6 The vintage black rattan cabinet stores audio visual equipment and cookbooks. “I shop for found pieces often, especially in today’s market with long wait times and high prices,” Alex says. “They make a room more interesting.”


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