“I fell in love with the archway,” says interior designer Mimi Walsh explaining why she chose the second-floor kitchenette to design for the 2016 Junior League of Boston’s 45th Anniversary Show House. The 6-by-13-foot space in the circa 1848–1854 Nathaniel Allen House, a Greek Revival building owned by the Newton Cultural Alliance in Newton, Massachusetts, was just beyond said archway with a window that overlooked the property’s driveway and barn. Walsh would leave the 7-foot-wide opening untouched, but the kitchenette was a different story.
“It had an old linoleum floor and the cabinets were very old and grimy with old appliances,” says show house cochair Pam Berutti of the space, which had been made into a kitchen when the house was converted into multiple units long after Allen had used it as the home of the earliest co-educational school in the country as well as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The room was gutted, giving Walsh, whose firm Mimi Walsh Interiors is in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a blank slate. “It was this tiny space,” she says, but her goal was to add visual layers and lots of details to create a lasting impression. “I love weird and interesting; things out of the ordinary,” says Walsh, but, she adds, “this being my first show house, I really wanted it to appeal to everyone.”
At one end of the room, a banquette surrounds an old planter Walsh found and turned into a terrarium table with plants under glass. Brown-and-white Thieaut wallpaper above the banquette’s tall wainscoting coordinates with curtains, throw pillows, and porcelain floor tiles. “It’s kind of a lot going on,” says Walsh of the layered patterns, “but it seems to work.”
At the other end, where there is a small sink and an under counter refrigerator, zinc panels that Walsh distressed and patinaed with Annie Sloan dark wax are installed behind floating shelves filled with dishware and curiosities.
“People loved that space,” says Berutti about the kitchenette. “It was such a gem. Most people weren’t expecting to see a little kitchen there. Mimi did so much in that small space. Everything was spot on.”