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Your Home | Family Living

Stuck in college mode with your decor? A Roslindale couple gets a grown-up look.

After a makeover, the duplex suits the playful personalities of the young family who lives there.

Local artist Chris Firger painted the family into the Arnold Arboretum landscape commissioned for the dining area. Stools upholstered with indoor-outdoor fabric by Sunbrella are durable and keep sight lines clear. Joyelle West

Moira and Ryan Murphy have the two adorable kids — 8-year-old Brooke and 5-year-old Robert — and the cute dog, Welsh springer spaniel Remy. Their Roslindale duplex, however, left a lot to be desired. “We were still in college mode with our decorating,” Moira Murphy says.

Then she visited a friend’s recently redesigned home and saw the way forward. She recalls, “I was like, ‘Wait, what? How did you do this?’ ” The short answer: call Mary Flo Ouellette and Steven Santosuosso of Squarehouse Studios in Somerville.

Although home décor is not Murphy’s strong suit — “I don’t look at design magazines, and catalogs go right into the recycling bin,” she says — the family has a fine-tuned appreciation for art. They already owned an abstract painting by local artist Byrd Swift, which Ouellette and Santosuosso used in devising a palette that features bold teal accents, playful patterns, and warm woods. “They were really open to energetic colors and whimsical pieces,” says Ouellette.

The duo reworked the living room, where a microsuede sofa pushed against the wall made the layout awkward. “Every time someone walked in the front door, he or she had to cross right in front of the sofa,” Santosuosso says. By positioning a new curved sectional in the center of the space, the designers delineated a path behind it. The configuration also made for a more intimate seating area.


The curved sectional from BoConcept and rounded swivel chair from Room & Board contrast with the angles of the remodeled fireplace in the living room. “They are very family-oriented and move in a pack around the house,” designer Steven Santosuosso says. “We gave them a lot more seating.”Joyelle West

To help pare down further, Ouellette and Santosuosso redesigned the fireplace wall. They carved back the monolithic chimney and tore out its black tiles and traditional mantelpiece. In its place, a shallow drywall surround in the same light gray as the rest of the room is the anchor.

On the mantel is a painting Ouellette found by Katherine Strause, an artist from her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. It reminds everyone who sees it of the kids. “My daughter is frequently upside-down,” Murphy says with a laugh. “And my son likes to do what she does, so he is sometimes upside-down, too.”


New walnut benches flank the fireplace, adding warmth and seating. An underutilized corner is now a cozy reading nook with an oversize swivel chair and a children’s art gallery fashioned out of steel cable wires from Ikea. “My daughter used painter’s tape to hang her art all over the house,” Murphy says. “This is much more contained.”

The designers created an art gallery in an empty corner of the living room using steel cable wire from Ikea. Joyelle West

The mudroom gained easy, eye-catching enhancements that include a bench, hooks, and shelves. Slice wallpaper from Hygge & West in the powder room ties together the colors in the living room and kitchen.

In the made-over dining area, walls painted Benjamin Moore Adriatic Sea make a statement. “We love the flash of blue with all the white cabinetry,” Santosuosso says. The built-in banquette will go without cushions until the kids are older, and the extension table with self-storing leaves offers flexibility. A landscape by local artist Chris Firger, commissioned by the homeowners, commands the spotlight. It depicts the Arnold Arboretum, a favorite destination for family together time.

The designers reimagined both children’s bedrooms and their bathroom, which sports multicolor confetti-like wallpaper.

A bunk bed with a slide is the main draw in Robert’s room, which also has a cozy new window seat. Taking cues from Brooke’s request for a canopy bed and fascination with woodland creatures, Ouellette and Santosuosso created an enchanted forest theme, with a fantastical floral mural as the focal point. Like Robert’s, Brooke’s bed is large, and the room offers an extra spot to sleep, since multiple family members like to pile in.


When Murphy needs a break, she escapes to what they call “the quiet room” off the master bedroom for yoga and meditation. “I have a grown-up house now,” she says. “And that feels good.”


Interior Design: Squarehouse Studios, squarehousestudios.com

Contractor: The Remodeling Company, theremodelingco.com


In the mudroom, a built-in walnut bench and walnut Wook hooks by Blu Dot, from Lekker Home in the South End, provide warmth and utility. Joyelle West
The Great Meadow mural from Anthropologie sets the tone in Brooke’s room, where the shaggy green rug resembles grass. The dresser was handed down from her grandmother, and the whitewashed cane daybed is from CB2.Joyelle West
Robert’s bunk is from modular bed company Maxtrix. “We originally thought of designing a built-in, but this is more budget-friendly,” Ouellette says.Joyelle West
The designers reimagined both children’s bedrooms and their bathroom, which sports multicolor confetti-like wallpaper.Joyelle West

Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.