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Making a temporary apartment feel like home

A short-term rental gets a short-term face lift.

sarah winchester

They couldn’t find the perfect antique home to buy in Marblehead, so interior designer Helen Bergin and her husband, Matt, moved out of their Boston apartment into a mid-century modern beachfront rental last September. Although they planned to be gone by spring, Helen went on a redecorating crusade so that the place would feel like home. After carefully photographing every nook and cranny so that she could remember where everything went, Bergin stored most of the homeowner’s belongings in the largest of the four bedrooms. Then, using a mix of new pieces and furnishings they already owned, she designed a quirky, colorful haven where she and Matt could relax, entertain friends, and get the hang of coastal living. Less than six months later, Bergin put everything back and the couple moved into a newly purchased home, as planned. The temporary redecorating was worth the effort, she says. “I knew we would buy a traditional place, so it was great to have fun with this,” she says.

1. Attracted to its geometry and palette, Bergin acquired the triptych of prints over the sofa specifically for the space. “I incorporate black and white in all my designs,” she says.

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2. The couple’s IKEA sofa, with a custom blue velvet slipcover, was positioned against the wall to retain the room’s open floor plan and still take advantage of the view.

3. The homeowner’s oversize dining set stayed put, and the Bergins’ mid-century modern-style dining chairs went into the living room.

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4. The circa-1970 glass and brass waterfall coffee table by Leon Rosen for Pace Collection was a Craigslist splurge. “I love that you can see the pattern of the rug through it,” Bergin says.

5. The Chinese Art Deco-style rug is an attention grabber. “I probably won’t use it again,” says Bergin, “but I love the colors, and it anchors the space.”

6. Bergin found the 1960s rattan chaise on Etsy. “The house calls out for lounge chairs,” she says.

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7. Two majesty palms, inspired by the decor in a Paris hotel where the couple recently stayed, frame the expansive view.

sarah winchester

8. A road sign that belongs to the owner of the beachfront rental once demarcated the town line between Marblehead and Swampscott. “I’m not exactly sure how the homeowner acquired it,” says Bergin, “but it’s an amazing piece and really heavy.”

9. Bergin slapped a piece of red masking tape on the oil portrait by Connecticut-based artist John Coots, a friend of her family’s. “The eyes are a bit intense,” she says. “I’m not sure how he would feel about it, but I think it looks cool.”

10. Bergin refreshed old ginger jar lamps with new navy suede shades.

11. The calacatta gold marble slab that previously served as the couple’s dining table makes a perfect desktop.

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