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Area’s best designers transform historic Belmont home

The select designers transformed more than 20 spaces in the William Flagg Homer House, showcasing their styles and skills and working within the home's historic construct.

Robin Gannon of Robin Gannon Interiors designed the master bedroom to include colorful wallpaper and a custom-made couch. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

The William Flagg Homer House in Belmont got a makeover.

But this is not your traditional renovation — the 1853 historic home, owned by the Belmont Woman’s Club, is the site of the 2017 Designer Show House.

Since 1971, the Junior League of Boston has celebrated the Boston-area design community via the “Designer Show House,” an event in which some of the area’s best interior designers and landscapers showcase their work. This year, the select designers transformed more than 20 spaces in the William Flagg Homer House, showcasing their styles and skills and working within the home’s historic construct.

You’ll need to climb a hill to reach the home, a mix of bracketed Italianate and French Mansard styles. Once inside, you’ll immediately take in its historic details: the antique kitchen stove, intricate staircase, beautiful built-ins, hardwood floors, and more.


The home is on the state and national lists of historic places and is seated in Belmont’s Pleasant Street Historical District. William Flagg Homer, a Boston merchant, built the home 1853 to serve as his summer residence. His nephew, famed American artist Winslow Homer, often visited the home.

After switching hands a few times after William Flagg Homer’s death, the home was purchased by the Belmont Woman’s Club, ensuring its preservation. Despite this attentive care, the house needed updates when it was selected as the Designer Show House.

You can visit the house from Oct. 7 to Nov. 5, Wednesdays through Sundays (although there will be special hours on Monday, Oct. 9). On Wednesdays, you can chat with the designers. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 after Oct. 6.

We got a sneak preview of the home’s library, kitchen, and master bedroom and spoke with the designers:


Company: Theo and Isabella Design Group (Sudbury)
Designers: Susan Schaub & Scott Bell

Scott Bell and Susan Schaub in the “Wunderkammer” (library). – Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

Schaub and Bell, both principals, designed the home’s library, which they call “Wunderkammer,” the German word for “cabinet of curiosities.”

The duo didn’t want to keep the room as simply a library with books, so they also filled the built-ins with trinkets and pieces from all around the world.


Before museums, cabinets of curiosities were where the wealthy would display their pieces, Bell said. “[We created] a modern-day version.”

The room is dark, thanks to the wood elements throughout. “We couldn’t paint the wood,” Bell said. “We cleaned the oak. The lincrusta [wallcovering] is original, but was badly damaged, so it was repaired by conservators.” They also had the Venetian-plaster walls polished.

The first piece the team bought for the room was the Moroccan rug. It is off-white and brought some light to the otherwise brown-hued room. Bell said that it helps to give the very traditional room a contemporary feel. All of the furniture they brought in is custom-made.

The couple amassed the collection, through both purchase and loan, by going to antique shows, searching online, and talking to friends.

In the “Wunderkammer,” you’ll find chandeliers made of saddle oyster shells, a Juju hat on the wall, bottles from a shipwreck off the coast of Florida, and a bevy of other eclectic items from around the globe.

How did the pair take all of these random pieces and make them jibe?

“It’s a process,” Bell said. “[We] start with our statement pieces and place them. [It is] almost like a puzzle.”


Companies: Kelly Rogers Interiors (Newton) and Edesia Kitchen and Bath Studio (Burlington)
Designers: Kelly Rogers and Dianne Aucello

Diane Aucello, left, and Kelly Rogers designed the kitchen. – Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

Rogers and Aucello worked together to create what they call a “morning kitchen.” This space is not meant to be a kitchen where 50 of your closest friends mingle at a party; it is meant to be a room where you want to linger in the morning, before you head out for the day.


Rogers and Aucello both own historic homes. Rogers has one that dates to 1896, and Aucello’s is from 1888. “We know all about old house’s issues and charm,” Aucello said.

When they first approached the Belmont house, they knew there was one thing they couldn’t change: The kitchen came with an antique stove, which they restored. “[Working with a historic home] provides direction and bones where you can go from there,” Aucello added.

This team started with the curtains. They went to the fabric store and started flipping through the racks until they decided on a moody purple and blue pattern, one that would then influence the colors throughout the rest of the space.

“The next step was the countertops.” Rogers said. “We worked with Flowstone in Italy. They make surfaces out of lave where they fire it like pottery.”

The island is made of soapstone, which is what you might find in a Victorian-era kitchen, but there are also modern conveniences: a built-in coffee machine, a corner sink, refrigerator drawers, and a steam oven.

Master bedroom

Company: Robin Gannon Interiors & Home (Lexington)
Designer: Robin Gannon

Robin Gannon in the master bedroom she designed. – Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

“I fell in love with the wallpaper,” Gannon said, and it inspired the color palette for the rest of the space and the room’s name. “[It had an] old-world look to it. “

The paper’s pattern is called “Brighton Pavilion,” named after the home of a 19th-century princess, Charlotte of Wales, who died during childbirth. Gannon called her master bedroom design “Charlotte’s Closet.”

“I wanted it to be a retreat that would feel comfortable,” Gannon said. She had quite a bit to work with, even before her design prowess came into play: The bedroom boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with Boston skyline views, along with a gray-marble fireplace.


“There is a lot of gray in the wallpaper,” Gannon said. “It looks like it was made for the space.”

The vibrant wallpaper has subtle neutral tones that Gannon used throughout the bedroom, including in the curtains and bedding.

The bed, which is a mix of traditional and contemporary designs, has two posts instead of four. Sometimes beds with four posts can cut off parts of the room, making it feel smaller than it is, Gannon said.

The wall decor also is quite a mix. There is an antique mirror and modern wallpaper prints. She added the geometric rug at the end after finding one that incorporates all of the colors she used in the room.

“I design these spaces in my head,” she said. “[Sometimes] I just close my eyes.”

See more photos from the home:


The home's exterior. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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The home's second-floor landing. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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The bottles, located in the library, were found in a shipwreck off the Florida coast. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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This library light fixture is made of saddle oyster shells. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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The antique stove in the kitchen. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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A before picture of the kitchen. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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Designer Abby Forstall stands in the vestibule, which she designed. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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The gentleman's bath, with its copper tub, was done by Vivian Robins of Vivian Robins Design. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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A before picture of the gentleman's bath. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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The ladies bath, designed by Linda Lyons of Clifton Lyons. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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Someone admires the velvet door Robin Gannon designed for the master bedroom. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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Another look at the master bedroom's wallpaper and decor. Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

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