Category Archives: Design Diary

Design Diary: Tour The Verb Hotel in Boston’s Fenway

Last time I was in town I scored a private tour of The Verb Hotel with Elizabeth Lowrey, Principal and Director of Interior Architecture at Elkus Manfredi Architects and stylish lead behind the redesign of this humble-turned-hip Boston boutique hotel, just behind Fenway Park. The architects worked closely with the development team to embrace the area’s legacy .

Initially slated for a tear down—the hotel had become a HoJos after all—Samuels became disillusioned by the shiny new development happening all over the city and decided to re-imagine the 94-room mid-century modern hotel, knowing it would add character to the revitalized neighborhood.

The Verb Hotel first opened in 1959 as the Fenway Motor Hotel in a neighborhood that by the thriving indie music scene. Over the years a multitude of clubs popped up on Lansdowne Street, along with the alternative weekly newspaper the Boston Phoenix and rock radio stations.

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Developer Steve Samuels and hotelier Robin Brown enlisted “vibe conservators” Stephen Mindich, publisher of the Boston Phoenix, and David Bieber, WBCN Creative Services Director to consult with Elkus Manfredi on the hotel’s new look and feel, which pays homage to the rock scene of the ’70s and ’80s. Bieber dipped into his enormous personal archives of pop-culture memorabilia which the designers used to decorate the lobby.

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The two-story modernist building, designed by architects Irving Salsberg and Ralph Leblanc, went up in 1959. Elkus Manfredi Architects honored the original building, retaining the footprint of the motel and guestrooms. The feel is that of an authentic motor inn, including a courtyard pool and cars pulled up outside the rooms.

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The team stuck to a pretty strict budget. Easy upgrades like colored film by Solar Graphics were applied to the new windows to add rhythmic pops of color. In 1959 when the original motel was completed, different colored stained-glass windows formed solid vertical lines on its structure. Eventually, these windows were replaced and the solid vertical stripes of color became irregular. When replacing all the windows for the restoration, Elkus Manfredi deliberately retained the irregular Mondrian-like pattern.

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The architects dressed up a front façade with vertical wood siding and simple landscaping.

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A circular skylight in the lobby lets in light and provides a glimpse of a new high rise across the street.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Lobby Desk

The front desk is upholstered in tufted black leather. Amps and electric guitars are propped up beside it. Black and white geometric flooring by Mondo.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Lobby Banquettte

The lobby, with its deep blue walls and tufted yellow leather banquette custom-designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects broadcasts that it is indeed a Boston boutique hotel. Authentic vintage music ephemera, curated by David Bieber from his own collection, include backstage passes from the J. Geils Band, and torn $4.50 ticket stubs to a Blondie show at the Paradise on Commonwealth Avenue. Framing done locally by Stanhope Framers. Triangular Island tables by Calligaris. Knoll Risom lounge chairs designed in 1943 by Jens Risom and sheepskin throw both from Design Within Reach.

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Music posters and vinyl records along with a vintage jukebox.

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Original brickwork was painted black using textured paint by Sherwin Williams.

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If the lobby’s not crowded, guests can spin records on the yellow vintage Realistic-brand LAB 440 turntable. They’ve got 150 vintage local and national vinyl albums.

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A display case in the breezeway connecting the main lobby with the guest rooms houses The Archives at the Verb,  curated from Bieber’s warehouse of thousands of pop-culture memorabilia.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

Original brick walls were painted vibrant hues and treated to music-related stenciled sayings. Perforated steel railings custom-fabricated by MIW Co. Ipanema Multi-Bloom Pendant Lamp by Jonathan Adler.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

“If the music is too loud, you’re too old.”

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

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Photographs of numbers from Fenway park were pulled together to form the room numbers on hotel room doors.

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Illuminated signs on black walls in the hotel lobby.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Guest Room

Guest rooms are clean and crisp with integrated wood veneer headboards. Elkus Manfredi Architects designed the mid-century modern inspired furnishings, which were manufactured by Artco.

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Framed Phoenix newspaper pages hang on the walls in each room.

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Mid-century dot pattern drapery and a shot of pink from the window film.

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Photo by Adrian Wilson

Like many boutique hotels, the contemporary bathrooms are simple but don’t skimp on amenities.
Tile by Dal-Tile.

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The desk in each hotel room is equipped with a typewriter purchased on eBay. The desk chair is an armless Setu side chair by Herman Miller.

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Best part: the hotel courtyard has a pool. The vibe is motor lodge, but really it’s like a hip resort, right downtown. Check out the green stands at Fenway in the background.

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Period-appropriate colors were carefully chosen.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Sign

The Verb Hotel, 1271 Boylston Street, Boston

Photos by Marni Elyse Katz/StyleCarrot

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Sneak Peek of Troy Boston Model Apartment In Progress

Last Friday I was granted entry into unit 1409 at Troy Boston, a new, “green,” luxury rental building in Boston’s artsy SoWa neighborhood. The apartment looks great; so sunny, with very appealing finishes, like cerused oak and lacquer cabinets, a white oak wood floor, and the best, a concrete ceiling. You might recall my post on creating the charcoal and blush color palette.

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I thought I had so much stuff, but when I unpacked there was hardly anything. It didn’t even look like there’d be enough artwork.

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I’m in love with the copper paillette pillow I found at H&M on sale for $7. Any thoughts on the dream catcher I made with fuzzy yarn and bamboo embroidery hoop?

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A pile of textiles from H&M. The pillows are knockoff of a design by Hay. The pink throw is deliciously cozy.

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Two coppery self portraits by Boston photographers Alicia Savage (left) and Laura Beth Reese (right).

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Copper and black wire baskets also from H&M look pretty in the sunlight. Target sells similar wire baskets.

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Heather McGrath’s Icelandic landscape printed on metal looks fantastic on the plywood divider.

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A hammered copper tray on the flip side of the console table will hold a little bar set up.

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Accessories: Canister with wood lid, wood trinket boxes with glass lids, copper sphere candle, fancy tonic water, and a print I made.

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More H&M accessories. Rose gold & glass trinket boxes ($5 octagonal knock-offs of those little glass boxes by Iittala) and copper colored candle holders (also on sale for $5) that remind me of a Tom Dixon design.

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All my bedding options, laid out. Charcoal and blush linen sheets and cushion covers from H&M, textural charcoal throw, velvet throw pillow and lots of pillow inserts from Ikea and a sweater knit blanket, plus even more gray sheets from Target. Sofa and rug on loan from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in Boston.

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More pictures soon.

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Design Diary: Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover by Heidi Pribell

Cambridge-based interior designer Heidi Pribell breathed a new and colorful life into a dated, dilapidated, and absolutely dreary multi-family home, transforming it into a thoroughly fantastic single family residence for a family that re-located from out-of-state. I wrote about this colorful makeover in the Boston Globe Magazine “Makeovers” issue in February 2014, shot by one of my favorite local interior photographers (and the first one I worked with in Boston) Eric Roth.

Pribell got her hands on the 3,600 square foot interior once  Oldenburg Architecture and contractors Dattilo & Reidy completed the structural work, which included opening up the main living space and improving the flow. Since the family preferred to stick to a tighter budget when it came to furnishings, Pribell knew most of the wow factor would come from color. Pribell says, “I am so passionate about color, I can nearly taste and hear it.”

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Pribell’s rich and rosy palette was inspired by a trip she had recently taken to Mexico, most specifically by wildly blooming bougainvillea in its yellow, orange, red, and magenta glory. The trim in the living room is painted in a color Pribell describes as “a hot, cardinal red,” then toned down with an uneven application of glaze. Pribell transformed a closet into a light-filled home office with built-in desk, accessed by French doors.

For furniture, Pribell paired a gray sectional sofa from Crate & Barrel (scattered with store bought pink and orange pillows) with yellow hexagonal side tables from West Elm. A stylized floral black rug grounds the space. All the furniture in the house was newly purchased, with the exception of the two armchairs, which the wife inherited from her great grandmother. Made from dark, polished wood with mustard upholstery, they hardly blended, so Pribell had them painted with several coats of that same hot red paint and glaze, and covered with a fun fabric by Romo.

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The columns dividing the living and dining room were original to the house.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

For the dining room wall Pribell used sorbet shades of butterscotch and salmon, again inspired by bougainvillia. Pribell says, “As bougainvillia grows and ages, the petals transform from yellow orange to magenta.”

The indoor/outdoor striped rug is perfect for family living. The white dining extension table with curvy legs—the Regency by Calligaris—was purchased at local furniture store City Schemes. Pribell says, “I love the rococo nature of it.” Swirly orange chairs from Indonesia have ikat print cushions about which Pribell says, “I think they’re kind of soulful; and they relate to the Arts & Crafts nature of the home.”

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

Pribell clustered six mirrors from Global Views above the Asian style sideboard to help bounce light around the room.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

Walls were removed for an open layout.  The orange Kartell barstools were a splurge, but they loved the color and flexibility they provided, since the kids were different sizes and growing.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

The white kitchen was already designed when Pribell came on board. She added funky red lacquer hardware.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

The master bedroom was originally two rooms, so they broke down the wall to enlarge it. The vintage light pendant, made from clear fishing line on Lucite, purchased at local modern design shop Abodeon, adds character. A persimmon door leads to a balcony.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

The master bathroom walls are covered in large format marble tiles from floor-to-ceiling, thanks to a major sale at Tile Showcase. They added a custom Silestone countertop to a store bought vanity. The floor is done in cotton candy-colored penny tile. Pribell says, “It’s extremely small for a master bathroom, but it has the graciousness of a 5-star hotel.”

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

On, the first floor, which has essentially the same layout, the color scheme is repeated, providing a perfect atmosphere for the kids who use the space to watch television, do art projects, and practice piano.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

The downstairs living room provides the family with another, slightly more casual, hangout spot. The swirly vine rug is by Dash & Albert and the coffee table on casters is the Strind from Ikea. “The downstairs space really caters to the kids,” Pribell says.

Colorful Cambridge Home Makeover By Heidi Pribell

The exterior entry doors are persimmon and the porch ceiling is lilac.

Pribell says, “I wanted the home to seem fresh and crisp and have a modernism about it, but not be devoid of character. The homeowner is very theatrical and energetic; this house became an expression of her personality, and I think that’s what delights her most.”

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Design Diary: Girl’s Study by Erin Gates

Elements of Style blogger and interior designer Erin Gates designed this lovely work space for a nine-year-old girl  in Newton, Mass. Gates decorated most of the rooms in the family’s house, which are featured in her book, but recently went back to update this room. I wrote about it in a StyleWatch column for the Boston Globe Magazine, published this past Sunday. More decor details and sourcing links (some of which are StyleCarrot partners) included here. The beautiful photos are by Boston-based photographer Sarah Winchester.

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The goal was to create a space sweet enough for a young girl, but modern enough that guests would feel comfortable there (and so she wouldn’t quickly outgrow it). The starting point was the existing purple/grey wall color Benjamin Moore Coastline. The color was a perfect match for the large scale, Arts & Crafts influenced Farrow & Ball Lotus wallpaper, which the client had had her eye on for some time.

A tufted grey velvet daybed from Restoration Hardware Baby & Child anchors the room. She points out, “A daybed is comfortable for reading and doesn’t take up as much room as a bed with a headboard.” (I also like this more streamlined grey velvet daybed from World Market.)

Rather than opting for more obvious silver-toned accents, Gates used gold tones for contrast. Visual Comfort’s French Library wall lamps in antique brass from Circa Lighting provide plenty of reading light and cord covers eliminated the need to hire an electrician to hard wire them.

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They found inexpensive butterfly prints, which were under $20 each, on Etsy, which Gates custom framed in gold metal frames. Gates says, “We looked for art in purple tones that we could layer on top of the wallpaper, and these have a nice, girly feel.”

Gates mixed three different pillow patterns against the dramatic pattern of the wallpaper. The European squares are a painterly geometric ikat and the smaller geometric is by Pindler & Pindler. The pairing of these prints provide a nice combination of softness and structure. Kelly Wearstler “Sea Urchin” fabric by Groundworks from Lee Jofa adds an organic element to the mix, while providing some texture.”The secret to mixing,” Gates says, “is to use a monochromatic color palette and play with scale.”

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An inexpensive gold side table echoes the finish of the brass sconces. In choosing a table height to work with the swooped arm of the daybed, Gates advises it be somewhere in the middle of the high and low point for ease of use as a nightstand and side table.

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It was important that a desk provide enough room for more than one person, so Gates positioned the white lacquer Parsons table from West Elm perpendicular to the wall. The hammered brass table lamp and the gold frame around the linen-covered pinboard from Pavona Interiors on Etsy ties in with the gold accents on the other side of the room.

Gates opted for a grey velvet side chair instead of a rolling desk chair since it would function better on the carpet. The homeowner already owned the purple pagoda pillow from the Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler collection at JCPenney.

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The tall and narrow metal bookshelf on casters from CB2 is the perfect dimension for the space between the windows, leaving a bit of breathing room on each side so the curtains don’t bunch up behind it. The family already owned the Eames rocker.

Makkas Drapery Workroom in Framingham, Mass.made the custom ivory and gray linen curtains. (They made the pillow covers too.)  “Custom drapes look so much more finished, so I always advise going custom if it’s in the budget,” says Gates. She opted for a Parisian pleat, which is the only one she uses, preferring the clean lines that are less fussy look than a traditional pleat, which fans out at the top.

Gates hung the curtain rods as high as possible, right under the crown molding, to add height, which is important in rooms with eight- or nine-foot ceilings. As for the length, she says, “I like them to just kiss the floor. Puddled drapes just collect dust.”

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Design Diary: Contemporary Beach House on Plum Island

This contemporary beach house on Plum Island in Newburyport, Mass., designed by Boston-based CBT Architects, belongs to woodworker Mark Richey and his wife Teresa Richey. I wrote about it for Boston Globe Magazine in “Taking it to the Beach” back in July 2013. With the gorgeous weather we’ve had this week in Boston, I thought it was a good chance to finally post it, with photography by Trent Bell.

The Richeys purchased the cottage shortly after having relocated their business, Mark Richey Woodworking, enjoying it for short spurts while commuting from their home in Essex. A few years later, when they were ready to downsize, the couple hired Richard Bertman of CBT Architects to transform the cottage from a casual short term retreat to a full time residence.

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Following extensive research to address coastal conservation concerns, they built a new structure on driven steel pilings atop the existing basement, which allows water and sand to move freely under and around the structure. The result is a 1,962-square foot, three-story contemporary beach house with Alaskan yellow cedar shingle siding.

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The third floor lookout tower offers a 360-degree view of the water and island. The entire room is clad in fir to resemble a ship captain’s quarters, and is Mark’s own handiwork.

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The second floor master bedroom and bath both face the ocean—this was a must-have for them.

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The main level has an open floor plan. They didn’t want it to feel like a big sterile glass and plaster box, so Bertman used a warm palette of earthy materials that echo the colors of sand and beach grass. The fireplace surround is done in a textural green stone from Iran, which is also used in the kitchen. The walls and cabinetry are a mix of quarter white oak and zebrawood veneer. The floors are porcelain tile with a wood-like texture.

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The extensive deck, which follows the natural contour of the landscape, was built around an existing dune, and is constructed of a dense tropical hardwood similar to ipe,which will weather to grey. Check out the recessed cedar hot tub on the right. The couple often enjoy soaks on cold winter mornings. (Must get one of those.)

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Mark designed and fabricated the beautiful curved bench from South American mahogany. 

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Photography by Trent Bell

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