It’s hard to imagine that a room as striking as this one was ever an eyesore, but you’d better believe it was, says Amanda Hark of Boston design firm Hark+Osborne. The floor was sheathed in a garish orange terra-cotta tile; walls and ceiling, clad with wide wood paneling, were painted a muddy brown; and a dismal piano, sun-bleached to the point of disrepair, was among the furnishings. “There’s no other way to say it, the room was awful,” says Hark, who spent 18 months transforming the nearly 500-square-foot space with her design partner, Jeff Osborne.
Active philanthropists, the homeowners like to host fund-raising events and other parties, and the great room, with its three walls of glass overlooking a lush backyard and pool, is the epicenter of their entertaining. They asked Hark and Osborne to update the room for large gatherings of up to a couple hundred people.
“It was a very long, complicated process,” says Hark of the remodel. Workers broke up the terra-cotta floor tiles with jackhammers, and scaffolding was installed to give painters access to the extended walls and 25-foot-high ceilings.
In place of the terra cotta, the designers opted for concrete, “because it is so indestructible,” says Hark, who had a standard concrete mix customized with a slight metallic sheen. “It offers a lovely glimmer when the sunlight pours in through the windows,” she says.
Ebony varnish on the walls and ceiling add to the sleek, contemporary vibe, but a Lucite grand piano is the room’s real showpiece. The homeowners had seen a similar piano at the Delano Hotel in Miami Beach, Hark explains, and had their hearts set on finding one like it. After scouring Craigslist, Hark tracked down a reasonably priced vintage model in mint condition at an estate sale in Oklahoma.
Another attention-grabber – a 9-foot-tall black-and-white photograph of Elvis – hangs next to the piano. It’s part of an eclectic collection: There are pieces by graffiti artists and Massachusetts College of Art students alongside a painting by renowned postmodern artist Angel Botello.
The room’s furniture is modern and modular, with pieces selected for their look, of course, but also for their mobility. “The space needs to be flexible; sometimes a three-piece band comes in for an event, other times the room becomes a dance floor,” says Hark. The oversize sofa, by Edra, is made up of three modular sections. Polished stainless-steel ottomans, custom made by the design house John Lyle, serve alternately as tables and seating during parties. Low, chrome-leg O’Mies chairs, by Fasem, are easily moved.
Since the room was finished in May, the owners have used it often, says Hark, who attended a 250-person birthday celebration there this summer. As for the Lucite piano, it’s not just a showpiece. That evening, Hark recalls, a pianist tickled the ivories all night long.
Jaci Conry, a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine, lives on Cape Cod. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.