Layers of color bring an expansive space down to human scale

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Michael J. Lee

A neutral palette makes for harmonious seating areas in the living room, which opens to a study where a bold red grasscloth covered wall attracts attention.

From the start, the client who hired Dee Elms and Andrew Terrat of Terrat Elms Interior Design in Boston to help turn a downtown penthouse into a comfortable home for Design New England‘s May/June 2013 interiors story “In Sync” had his priorities in order. “The views, the art collection, the furnishings are all important, but livability is what really matters,” he says. “Because of its warmth and coziness, this place looks good to me all the time, even with toys strewn about.”


Soon there will be even more toys as he, his fiancée and their 2-year-old daughter are expecting their second child.

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Michael J. Lee

A sheer panel provides a ethereal effect when looking out the windows at the city.

The penthouse in The Residences at the Ritz Towers, Boston Common, is a full 4,500 square feet with lots of windows to bring in the views and light. In such expansive quarters, layering of color was the game changer. By cannily using blocks of color in rooms off the neutral living area, Terrat Elms makes the spacious apartment cozy as the eye is drawn from the tranquil seating arrangements to the bold rooms beyond. The result is a sense of scale that feels more human than grand.

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Michael J. Lee

In the foyer, saffron-colored walls are the bright backdrop for the low brass bench covered in eggplant-toned velvet.

The long living room is a sea of serenity, bathed in the softness of ivory matte-painted walls. But then there is the fun visual dialogue between it the open library, where a recessed book-filled wall is lined with eye-popping red grasscloth.

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Michael J. Lee

From the persimmon breakfast room to the brown dining room to a light beige living room, colors blend and mix for an appealing result.


A different visual discussion takes place on the other side of the living area, where the adjacent dining room is a cocoon of dark walls painted deep cocoa set off by burnt-orange upholstered chairs. It is luscious, intriguing, and totally inviting. Beyond, the kitchen’s red walls enliven the family’s private space, all of it framed with white painted woodwork. “Color, layers, life,” says Terrat, “It’s an unbeatable combination.”

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