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Your Home | Kitchens & Baths

Would you let a designer hang funny fish wallpaper in your dining room? This guy’s glad he did.

A first-time homeowner learns that pushing the envelope pays off.

A blue lantern from Ballard Designs hangs above the café table and chairs, where homeowner Michael Botte prepares a salad. Jessica Delaney

Michael Botte did not want a white kitchen. Botte, who purchased his 80-year-old, three-bedroom house in Braintree with an eye toward refurbishing it, has a taste for jewel tones and European styling. “I wanted rich, masculine colors,” he says. “And for it to feel curated, not like I bought it all at one place.”

Michelle Cortizo, who had gotten to know Botte while decorating his parents’ house, knew just the look he was going for. “He likes a current take on traditional English decor,” she says. They opted for well-priced midrange cabinetry with a gray stain, allowing leeway in the budget to splurge on statement-making tile. Immediately she thought emerald green. Botte admits he was skeptical. “I was up for a brighter backsplash, but I hesitated on the green,” he says. “But using it was the best decision I made.”


That’s not the only place the designer pushed. While Vermont soapstone worked perfectly for the countertops, the slab behind the range seemed a bit dead. “There’s not a lot of movement in the stone and it’s very dark, so it needed a pop,” the designer says. Her solution? A piece of art. Botte quickly acquiesced, buying a vintage poster to hang there. “It really pulls together all the colors in the room,” he says, referencing the reds in the antique Oriental rug and the patterned Roman shade.

An original archway opens to the dining room, where Cortizo implemented another unexpected element — wallpaper by artist Piero Fornasetti featuring funny-faced fish. It wasn’t quite what Botte had originally had in mind. “I was envisioning grass cloth,” he says. “Something less bold.”

Cortizo, who didn’t want the house to seem stuffy, loved the unexpected color and whimsy. She pointed out that the pattern would not overwhelm the space since there’s wainscoting halfway up the walls. Botte was persuaded, and now appreciates what he calls the wallpaper’s “shock value.”


Botte has enjoyed restoring the home to its former glory, working with Cortizo to tease out its character and infuse new personality, and picking up lessons along the way. “The house feels warm and comfortable,” he says. “I learned you have to trust your designer; you hire one for a reason.”

The velvet upholstery on the chairs, purchased at Arhaus, pulls green into the dining room, while the geometric chandelier echoes the hex knobs in the kitchen. jessica delaney


Interior design: Michelle Cortizo Interiors, cortizointeriors.com

Cabinetry: ProSource of Boston South, prosourcewholesale.com

Drapery workroom: Makkas Drapery Workroom, makkasdrapery.com

Stone and installation: StoneTek, stonetekinc.com

Tile installation: Man Tran, Randolph; 617-828-9320


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Would you let a designer hang funny fish wallpaper in your dining room? This guy’s glad he did.

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