Your Home: Makeovers

A lighter touch

New owners brighten a 19th-century Back Bay brownstone.

The couple’s collection of contemporary artwork, including a 6-foot-long archival pigment print by Shinichi Maruyama in the dining room, creates a pleasing juxtaposition with the home’s traditional details.
Michael J Lee
The couple’s collection of contemporary artwork, including a 6-foot-long archival pigment print by Shinichi Maruyama in the dining room, creates a pleasing juxtaposition with the home’s traditional details.

THE NEW OWNERS of this Back Bay brownstone were delighted with its splendid 19th-century details: soaring 12-foot tray ceilings, carved fireplace mantels, and thick moldings. But they wanted to lighten things up inside. “They felt the previous owner’s traditional aesthetic” — darker furnishings, antiques, and Oriental rugs — “was lovely,” says Boston interior designer Leslie Fine. “It just wasn’t their style.”

In fall 2012, they hired Fine to create a warm, transitional style suited to their young family. “They wanted furniture with clean lines, more texture and less pattern, and lighter colors,” says Fine. While it was essential that the 3,000-square-foot home have modern appeal, the design also needed to honor the architecture.

In the living room, where the long windows take center stage, Fine felt the new window treatments should be extraordinary. Made of Romo fabric in a bluish-green shade, the floor-length drapes pop against the cream-colored walls, and basket-weave detailing at the curtain rods is “a unique look that feels both elegant and striking,” says Fine.


The bustle of an active family ensures the room gets plenty of use. To make the soft color scheme practical, Fine sought durable fabrics for most pieces, including the Holly Hunt indoor/outdoor fabric on the Dakota Jackson sofa. “The selection of indoor/outdoor fabrics these days is phenomenal,” she says. “They are really high quality; you’d never know they are 100 percent acrylic.” Also simple to maintain is the large A. Rudin ottoman that serves as a coffee table. Sheathed in vinyl with an ostrich texture, it easily wipes clean. In the same vein, the dining table chairs are upholstered in low-maintenance ultra suede.

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Marrying classic and modern styling, the living room’s contemporary wood-frame slipper chairs are covered in a traditional cream Kravet fabric with a subtle bluish-green damask pattern. The dining room’s classic crystal chandelier, which belonged to the previous owners, makes an appealing contrast to the walnut table with a curved base. “I love the dichotomy between the traditional and the more contemporary,” says Fine.

The owners’ contemporary artwork creates another juxtaposition, framed by the home’s original wall moldings. Above the living room sofa, a substantial oil painting by Michael Mazur echoes the blue, green, and cream tones found in the room’s furnishings. In the dining room, an arresting 6-foot-long archival pigment print by Shinichi Maruyama adds drama, says Fine.

In the master bedroom, a palette focused on purple, rose, and gray combined with a bold chandelier made of crystal balls suspended from a polished-nickel ring give it a sophisticated, modern edge. Fine anchored the room to its origins by adding subtle traditional details to modern furnishings, including tufting in both the headboard of the Swaim bed and the purple velvet Kravet chaise. She custom-designed several pieces for the room, including the luxurious silk drapes for the bowed windows and a striated metal cabinet with door panels made of padded fabric that nestles next to the fireplace. Textured wallcoverings are cut to fit within the room’s moldings. They add warmth and depth, says Fine, but by sticking to a neutral shade similar to the wall color, the effect is subtle.

Throughout the home, wool area rugs soften the hardwood floors. Metal accents and shiny surfaces reflect light and infuse rooms with a bright, airy feel. While no walls were moved and the existing footprint remained intact, new paint, window treatments, and furnishings totally altered the style of the space.


“It’s undergone a real transformation,” says Fine. “The home is lighter in feel, more comfortable. But it still has an elegance worthy of the architecture.”

Jaci Conry is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to