Expecting their first child two years ago, Lauren and Jeff Black left behind their Charlestown condo and bought an antique Cape within walking distance of downtown Hingham. They loved its location — the house abuts a 9-acre 18th-century farm — and relished the opportunity to make it their own. The couple hired Marblehead-based designer Helen Bergin to update the interiors, aiming for a modern coastal feel with a boutique hotel vibe while preserving the home’s character.
“We’re in the suburbs, but we’re only 33 and 34,” says Lauren Black. “We want to have fun.”
Built in 1814, the three-bedroom house has a well-integrated addition constructed in 2009 and was in excellent condition, but the kitchen needed some tweaks. The wood ceiling beams, while gorgeous, dwarfed the space; brown speckled marble countertops didn’t help. In addition, beadboard cabinetry skewed too country for the couple’s taste, the sink was shoved into a corner, and the paltry island was oriented in the wrong direction.
Working with the couple’s desire for a bright white scheme with shots of blue, Bergin redesigned the space, swapping the cabinet fronts and hardware, installing a crackle-finish subway tile backsplash, and designing a new island painted Benjamin Moore Midnight Blue. The new farmhouse sink, complete with statement-making brass faucet, was relocated under a window dressed with a crisp Roman shade in a fun Sister Parish print. Bianco Neve marble countertops, which Bergin calls “a stunning splurge,” complete the look. “It really opened up the room,” she says. “Now the beams seem to float overhead.”
Next to the island, Bergin created a funky breakfast area, establishing the original wood-paneled wall with wood-burning stove as the focal point. A vintage Oriental rug grounds the space and makes it cozy. A Saarinen table with a laminate top (“We wanted to avoid marble overload,” says Bergin) maintains the white, modern sensibility, and black spindle chairs reflect the home’s history. Clear glass chandeliers add unexpected glamour while preserving a light and airy feel. “I love the juxtaposition of the chandelier against the scarred wood,” Black says. “It really enhances its character.”
The relaxed family room, decorated in off-white with blue accents, is visible beyond the breakfast bar. The dining room, which doesn’t get much everyday use, easily accommodates family gatherings on holidays. Plush velvet chairs in 1970s-style silhouettes surround an extra-long table with a brass base and oak top. Bergin says, “The oak pulls in the rustic wood element that was missing here.” The couple found the cow skull adorned with yarn hand-pressed into beeswax on a recent trip to Sayulita, Mexico.
The adjacent den is known as the jungle room — the most distinctive space in the house. Its ceiling is covered in the iconic Martinique banana leaf wallpaper made famous by the Beverly Hills Hotel. Jeff Black, who wanted to use the paper somewhere (anywhere!) from day one, drove the design. A fan of contemporary street art — an interest that developed during the couple’s visits to Budapest — he eventually persuaded his wife that such pieces would work. The trio decided the den would be the space where they would take stylistic risks.
Bergin applied the jungle-print paper to the ceiling rather than attempt to cover the bumpy, horsehair-plaster walls. She painted the walls Benjamin Moore Hunter Green, added dark red campaign chests from Ballard Designs on either end of the sofa for contrast, and created interesting vignettes to draw the eye up. A geometric-patterned bar cabinet is stationed beneath a tray with a cheeky quip, and a vintage Hans Wegner chair from Reside in Cambridge sits under edgy artwork by pop artist Campbell La Pun.
“Essentially, I just wanted a room where I could have that wallpaper,” says Jeff. “Kind of a rebellion against moving to the suburbs.” It worked out well, since everyone gravitates to the jungle room now, especially in winter. Lauren says: “We light a fire, play music, pour a glass of wine. It’s very lounge-y; an escape, right in our own home.”
Interior Design: Helen Bergin Interiors, helenbergininteriors.com
Contractor: Crawford Construction, crawfordconstruction.us