Style Watch

Parlor tricks

A Brookline living room, designed by Duncan Hughes, incorporates clever nods to the pre-Industrial era.

Josh Kuchinsky

Josh Kuchinsky

BOSTON-BASED INTERIOR DESIGNER Duncan Hughes was fascinated with the Dark Nostalgia design movement when he decorated this Brookline family room. The philosophy, a reaction against the prefab forms and plastic pieces celebrated in the mid to late 20th century, instead gravitates toward colors and materials used prior to mass production — rich velvets, polished woods, and hand-forged metals. While Hughes maintains this is by no means a Victorian room, he incorporated nods to the preindustrial era. The result is thrilling for its dusky drama but thoroughly family-friendly and ideal for modern-day living.

1 >TWO PATTERNS OF THE SAMECOLOR GRASS-CLOTH WALLPAPER, plain and checkerboard, both by Phillip Jeffries, add texture. Removing the trim and replacing it with new millwork, rather than cutting the wallpaper to fit around the moldings, makes for a cleaner installation.

Josh Kuchinsky

2 >A VINTAGE BASEBALL POSTER was the jumping-off point for the room’s color scheme. “That’s why we have a smoky taupe sofa and dark plum chairs,” says Hughes.


3 >SATIN-FINISH PAINT on the exposed-beam ceiling bounces light around the room and draws the eye up, adding the illusion of more height.

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4 >AN UPHOLSTERED VALANCE between the bookshelves allows the white millwork to pop. It also unites the two shelving units.

5 >THE COFFEE TABLE has an expanse of flat surface for board games and homework, but isn’t too visually heavy, because it’s open all the way around. Books and games are stacked artfully underneath, out of the way but accessible.

6 >ANTIQUE BRASS LIGHT FIXTURES were chosen to complement the warm tones in the room. Hughes notes, “Chrome is very contemporary and oiled bronze more mission or industrial; this space is neither.”

7 >PILLOWED MOSAIC TILES of honey onyx add warmth to the fireplace surround and lend an updated look. “The original black surround was an oppressive vortex that sucked you in,” Hughes says.


8 >AN EMERALD-GREEN FAUX-MALACHITE BOX was the finishing touch. “I wanted to bring some green into the room, but green pillows would have overwhelmed,” says Hughes. “This is the perfect nod.”

Hughes likens his design process to baking: “There’s always a thread, though it may not be evident. It’s like a well-made cake — you don’t detect the individual ingredients, you just know that it’s delicious.”

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