Design New England

Living with History: The Barn at 17 Antiques

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Integrating history into design was the topic of last night’s Design Salon with speakers (from left) Gregory Lombardi, Eliza Tan, Jerry Freeman, Stephen Payne, and Dan McAuliffe.

It was a beautiful spring night for our final Design Salon at The Barn at 17 Antiques in Somerville, Massachusetts. Guests (of which there were record number) were greeted by the owner’s shop mascot — their dog, Sydney — and made their way into the 10,000-square-foot warehouse that, filled with antiques as it was, still felt quaint and cozy. The evening moved from mingling to a guided discussion of ways to incorporate history into today’s design.


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Surrounded everywhere by antiques, the warehouse is both a fun setting for the salon and a great place to shop.

Landscape architect Gregory Lombardi of Gregory Lombardi Design addressed how the landscape can be influenced by the history of a place. With examples of a converted coal yard, a space inspired by the Medici Palace, and a courtyard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reinterpreted with early modernism, Lombardi left no doubt that the past is constantly speaking to us through design.
Next Stephen Payne from Payne/Bouchier Fine Builders described his experiences using the past in current design. By example of historic homes in Back Bay and the South End in which Payne/Bouchier, through meticulous attention to detail, demonstrated that modern and historic are not mutually exclusive. Case in point: plaster ornamental detailing (historic) used in conjunction with a serpentine shaped wall (modern) to create a very interesting dining space and parlor (you can see it in Tall Order in our March/April 2011 issue).

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Assorted vintage chairs provided seating for our guests.

Hosts Jerry Freeman and Dan McAuliffe, owners of The Barn at 17 Antiques, energized the crowd with their obvious passion for their work and merchandise. Surrounded by fabulous pieces in their showroom (I was strategically placed directly in front of vintage jewelry and had to practice extreme restraint), it was hard to deny their claims that antiques are more popular now than ever. This, they explained, is tied to the sentiment that living with antiques implies that the space and its occupants are part of a legacy, real or imagined. As they succinctly put it: “Antiques bring life to the modern and vice versa.”

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The jewelry is too tempting.

The ever witty and enlightening Eliza Tan of Eliza Tan Interiors capped off the evening with insight into how a designer uses elements of history to create a “cohesive story” when designing today’s spaces. Tan uses a combination of pieces from different styles, countries, and time periods that all come together beautifully through the strategic choice of colors, patterns, fabrics, and finishes to arrive at design that is very “today.”

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The Barn at 17 Antiques gave away this Georgian-style upholstered ottoman to a lucky winner of our drawing for participants in the final spring Design Salon.

We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who participated, attended, and helped make this season’s Design Salons the best attended yet. Here’s to a long, sunny summer followed by a busy fall when we start our fall series where you can meet and mingle with the design professionals once again.

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