Bringing a little California style to a Victorian in Cohasset
Transplants from San Diego buy and completely renovate a fixer-upper close to family.
Last year was huge for Jenny Minns. After spending 16 years living near the beach in San Diego, she and her husband, Brian Minns, headed back east with their 5-year-old twins, Isabelle and Oliver. Says Jenny Minns, “We sold it all — house, furniture, cars, and my wedding design business — to raise the twins near family.”
The couple purchased an 1890 Victorian in Cohasset, around the corner from Minns’s parents, and moved into the basement, where the family lived last summer while the rest of the house underwent renovation. Brian laid eyes on it for the first time the day they arrived. “He was dead silent,” his wife recalls. “It needed more work than he expected.”
The family moved in last October, and Millie, a yellow Labrador puppy, joined them in June. Minns has since launched interior design firm Palm & Prep and used the home as a showcase for her style, which merges relaxed California coastal sensibilities with traditional New England moments. “I love the fancy feel of a Victorian, but I still want white couches and tropical greenery,” she says. “ ‘Palm and prep’ perfectly sums me up.”
The couple invested in a few major fixes upfront. They eliminated bulky old-fashioned radiators, removed a few walls, and swapped out the flooring on the first and second levels for wide-plank French oak. “The floors were patched through the years, making the space feel choppy even when it wasn’t,” Minns says.
In the newly light and airy foyer, Minns set the tone for the interiors throughout. The dark wood banister, newel posts, and stair treads were painted glossy ebony for high contrast against the white walls. A pair of brass stools with spotted animal-print cushions sits beneath a console covered in navy grass cloth with nail-head trim, accented with lush greenery. The bohemian-style chandelier is a Minns signature.
Navy accents soften the palette in the living room, which Minns describes as a “chill grown-up room.” It’s pulled together enough for entertaining, but comfortable and conducive to relaxation and conversation. Sofas slipcovered in white cotton twill — must-haves for Minns, despite the kids, the dog, and her own accident-prone tendencies — surround a glam yet child-friendly coffee table in brushed gold. “The room needed a touch of modern shine against the crisp white,” she says.
Some of the only pieces that made the move are here, including a pair of fringe-trimmed ottomans and black cane chairs. A large abstract painting by San Diego-based artist Samantha Louise Marett served as inspiration. “It’s messy but pretty, with splashes of all the colors I love,” Minns says. “There’s lots of white, touches of blue, and spots of gold and rose.”
The dining area decor echoes the drama of the entry, with a draped wood-bead chandelier from Pottery Barn, a mirror from Anthropologie in a gilded-iron frame, and a black-and-white-patterned wool rug. The sturdy furniture, like the Restoration Hardware farmhouse table and wood spindle chairs, makes it child-friendly. “We try to eat family dinner here at least once a week, though I don’t let the kids sit on the white end chairs,” Minns says with a laugh.
A glass door leads to the kitchen, which is admittedly not her favorite space. Yet. New backsplash tile is on Brian’s autumn to-do list. Last year, he built a banquette in a sunny corner, reusing molding from doorway arches that had been taken down during the initial renovations. A three-tiered jute chandelier hangs above the simple pedestal table and chairs with rush seats. “The vibe is fresh coastal modern, but the trim gives a nod to the Victorian bones of the house,” Minns says.
Upstairs, graphic black-and-white Schumacher Chenonceau wallpaper in the master bedroom is a wow backdrop for the iron-framed canopy bed. “I challenged myself to go bold,” says Minns. “Since it’s our bedroom, the strong pattern won’t drive anyone else crazy.” Inky-blue chests add weight and color, while Roman shades in simple ticking lend a casual air. A delicate bone chandelier and plush shag rug are dreamy finishing touches.
On the third floor, Minns created offices for herself and her husband. She went soft and feminine in hers, with peachy-blush walls, delicate artwork, and a Moroccan rug. Brian’s office is masculine but whimsical, with a trestle desk and plush bear head. “He wanted ‘French Parisian banker meets hunter’s lodge,’ ” Minns says. “His words.”
Although Minns designed much of the home from afar, all at once, she feels good about what she’s accomplished. Like every designer, she’ll continue to tinker, swap, and layer. “I love going to consignment and antique stores, but there wasn’t time,” she says. “The goal is to add grit along the way.”
Interior Design: Palm & Prep, palmandprep.com
Contractor: Matthews Remodeling & Construction