What started as a master bathroom renovation (the second-floor room “was drafty at night,” says the owner) quickly progressed to a remake of the powder room and kitchen below it, and before you could say “demo day,” the entire first floor was slated for a refresh. The expansion to the living and dining space happened after the homeowner polled some friends at a dinner party in her 1850 town house in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood.
The question: Should she replace the wood floors in just her kitchen or do the whole first level? The consensus was new flooring throughout. With all this sprucing up going on, she couldn’t help but look anew at her bedroom, which is upstairs next to the bath where this all began.
To execute her plans, she engaged Cynthia Driscoll Interiors, a firm she knew from her frequent forays to the shop on Charles Street in nearby Beacon Hill.
“It was a true collaboration,” says Cynthia Driscoll, the company’s principal, recalling that she became familiar with her client when she bought a pair of vintage lamps with dolphin-shaped bases.
“That was the start of the design relationship,” Driscoll says. “She was in and out of my shop for at least a year visiting. We have the same taste. The things we like have a lot of character.”
The front door of the town house opens to a long hallway, with the living and dining spaces to the left and a view straight ahead through the narrow 30-by-9-foot kitchen. Adding designer Heather Kahler of Downsview Kitchens in Boston to the team, they created a look that completely suits the owner.
“I like to cook a lot,” she says. “I wanted it to look good, but I also wanted it to be functional.”
The homeowner initially thought that changing the layout, which included a peninsula that cut the space in half, was off the table. To her relief, a better galley-style floor plan emerged at the first meeting with Kahler.
On each of the long walls there are 18 feet of cabinetry. On one wall there is also a Sub-Zero refrigerator with a glass door and, between two windows that overlook a small courtyard, the sink. On the other wall is a Wolf cooktop and two wall ovens — a Miele convection and a combination conventional/steam model.
The kitchen culminates in an eating area where a classic round wooden pedestal table, which has been with the owner through multiple moves, sits in front of a wall unit with gray shelves atop a base cabinet, all finished with high-gloss lacquer. Natural light enters the room through a glass door to the courtyard.
What makes the kitchen so striking is the rich deep-blue stain on the flat white oak cabinets. “The client had this vision of what color blue,” says Kahler. “Every time we got a sample, she’d take it home and live with it for a few days, see it in different lights.” It had to be just right.
“I wanted blue,” says the owner, “but not too bright, not too beachy… and I wanted the stain to come through but not be too rustic or too gray.”
Working with Kahler, the owner chose the glass-door refrigerator instead of a paneled appliance that would match the cabinetry, so “there isn’t too much blue,” she says. “Heather was great at interpreting what was in my brain.”
Offsetting the strong color are light quartzite countertops and a matching backsplash from Marble and Granite Inc. in Westwood, Massachusetts. Brushed-brass metal trim on the gray custom exhaust hood ties in with the cabinet hardware as well as the frames on the artwork in the eating area.
An adjacent powder room continues that just-right blue in wallpaper by Cole & Son and a floating high-gloss lacquer vanity designed by Kahler. A teal-framed mirror adds a bright accent.
The bold aesthetic of the kitchen and powder room is different from that achieved in the master bathroom. This space is light with Calacatta marble floor tiles from Ann Sacks, a steam shower, and a bathtub in front of an installation by Cambridge, Massachusetts, artist Tony Davlin, who hand-painted the glass tiles and applied rose gold leaf for a textural design that features two ethereal branches. It’s a luxe focal point the homeowner absolutely loves.
She also loves the new oil-rubbed white oak floorboards laid in a herringbone pattern throughout the first level of the house. That “changed the whole look” of the interior, says Driscoll. To freshen up the living and dining spaces, Driscoll reupholstered most of the furniture.
“The scale of the furniture was great, and the shapes of the chairs were great,” she says.
Teal silk mohair from Mark Alexander now covers the sofa, while Swedish chairs in the dining room are done in a striped fabric by Stark. Both rooms have original fireplaces. Flanking the one in the living room are those vintage dolphin lamps that kick-started the relationship between designer and client.
“I like to work with people I like,” says the owner.
“It just makes life so much easier,” agrees Driscoll, “and a friendship developed.”