Category Archives: Design Diary

Design Diary: A Boston Patio Inspired by Majorelle Gardens

Another oldie but goodie from the Boston Globe Magazine archives. In October 2009, I wrote “Kind of Blue,” about a Beacon Hill patio redesigned for outdoor entertaining, inspired by the homeowner’s trip to Morocco; Majorelle Gardens to be exact. This well-traveled 50-something hired Brian Feehan to transform her 10-by-17-foot outdoor space when she returned from her trip. He wondered how he would cram a 20-foot reflecting pool in there, but with a flair for the dramatic (Feehan is actually a director and choreographer), he managed to eke out a bit of paradise in the historic neighborhood.

I N S P I R A T I O N 
Jardin Majorelle   •   Marrakech


Majorelle Garden was designed by the painter Jacques Majorelle in 1924 and revived by fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, in 1980. Feehan took cues from the distinctive cobalt blue accent color, Moorish latticework, lush greenery, and fountain.

B E A C O N  H I L L  P A T I O
Designed by Brian Feehan


Feehan replaced the existed rotted wood deck with a mahogany-stained ipe deck and painted the existing lattice matte black. He added a trio of of 6-inch-wide horizontal wood strips in cobalt blue around the perimeter. The slats add color, and the homeowner can hang votives and flowerpots from them.

For additional interest and color, Feehan hung a pair of antique Chinese doors found at SoWa showroom Mohr & McPherson. The scale and shape mimic the French doors on the opposite wall, and provide a focal point when one steps onto the patio from the house.

The blue mosaic tile you see in the background is a fountain. More about that below. Look closely, there are mirrors on either side of it, which extend the feel of the space.


Feehan created a mosaic glass tile wall fountain that’s eight-feet high.  Water runs down the surface, which is covered with tiles in different sizes and thicknesses. It’s uplit, creating a glistening, otherworldly effect in the evening, and sounds lovely too. The water collects at the bottom in a cobalt-colored trough that runs the length of the brick wall.


Moroccan style tiles are affixed to the gate, adding more flavor.


The patio is accessed from the condo by French doors.
Don’t you wish she’d invite you to a cocktail party?

B E F O R E 


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Design Diary: Rockledge House by Larson Shores Architects

I have many Design Diary posts for you—looks at homes I’ve written about for Boston print publications, but have yet to feature on StyleCarrot. This home, designed by Carrie Shores of Larson Shores Architects is an eco-friendly project we featured (on the cover) of the Boston Globe Magazine in December 2009.  The article, called  “Living A Vision” was photographed by James R. Salomon.

I flew up to Rockland, Maine to see the house, interview homeowner Rhonda Nordstrom, and isit her spa, which I blogged about here: Beauty Break: Rheal Day Spa. But before you click over, scroll through to see Rhonda Nordstrom’s green home in coastal Maine.


 Photo by James R. Salomon

The two-story house, which replaced a small cottage that had no heat or running water in winter, is 1,400-square-feet, and sited on two-tenths of an acre with a very New England view. They didn’t cut down any trees, but had to do a lot of excavation and grading. The house is sited so passersby can enjoy the view of the harbor.

The exterior is shingled, to blend with the Maine vernacular, though the trim is painted black. The arrangement of windows and the overhang of the back porch lend a modern feel. They left the metal chimney pipe exposed, to echo the sensibility of the working waterfront.


Photo by James R. Salomon

Eco-friendly finishes are mixed with a contemporary and Scandinavian aesthetic. (Rhonda’s husband’s parents are from Sweden.) The kitchen cabinetry is Ikea, which fit the look and budget.

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Photo by James R. Salomon

There’s no basement, just a concrete slab. Instead of covering over it, Shores incorporated it into the design. The first floor is stained, polished concrete, with radiant heat. The countertop is Corian. Beyond the eating area, sliders open into the grassy yard, which leads to the water.


Photo by StyleCarrot

Take a close look—under the artwork, there’s a niche for the dog crate.
Table and chairs from Ikea.

Contemporary Stainless Steel Wood Burning Fireplace

Photo by James R. Salomon

The raised fireplace is easy to access. Rhonda insisted on window seats.


Photo by James R. Salomon

The stairs and second floor are done in bamboo, also with radiant heat.


Photo by James R. Salomon

Built-ins make the most of the space. Rhonda got a window seat here too.


Photo by StyleCarrot

A fan keeps the air moving. Notice the cathedral ceilings.


Photo by James R. Salomon

The bathroom floor is lined with ipe leftover from the deck.
The tiles are recycled glass mosaics.


Photo by James R. Salomon

The bedroom opens onto the back porch.
You can see the boats out the window.

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Photo by James R. Salomon

The railing is industrial steel and wire.

view-James R. Salomon-maine

Photo by James R. Salomon

The harbor, which you can see from every room in the house,
is one of the largest lobster shipping ports in the country.

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Design Diary: Kids Room Spruce Up

It’s spring break again (I get three), so I’m in Florida. I’ve had little luck finding a contractor (we want to swap the wall-to-wall carpet for a plywood floor, paint everything white, and a few other fixes), so yesterday I decided to do some freshening up to tide us over, at least in the boys’ room. Between the blah walls and carpet, it was getting a tad depressing.

Spending a lot of money wasn’t an option, so I ran into Marshalls and T.J. Maxx (luckily they both happen to be in the same complex). I found great on-trend, brightly, patterned bedding. The aqua and turquoise cotton quilt looks like John Robshaw, with its Indienne pattern. Plus, its really soft. Considering the very reasonable price, I was thrilled with the high quality.  The charcoal grey and white trellis pattern sheets are amazing smooth; they’re all cotton but really satin-y. The “smile” pillow is done in an almost nautical canvas, very cheerful and preppy.

I also found a durable little area rug with a Moroccan-inspired pattern. For a toy storage solution, I got a cute charcoal gray nylon fiber basket that’s large enough for the balls, books, and other random toys that seem to magically materialize. (I may steal it to hold towels in the entry though.)  Lastly, I got him a glass water bottle with a silicone cap and grip to leave by the bedside.

Plucking from other parts of the condo, I finally framed and hung the artwork. All three are prints by Cathy McMurray that I had purchased last year. I also moved in a better lamp and a stalk of bamboo. HUGE improvement, I think.

I might not keep the bed dressed like this ultimately, (I’m thinking it would also be perfect out on the Cape), but I love the look right now. What do you think? Scroll down for the “before” photos too.





B E F O R E 





Thanks to Marshalls & T.J. Maxx for the $150 gift card!


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Design Diary: Davis Square Loft With Roof Garden

Five years ago (wow), I met Sharon Kitchens, she who now lives on the Great Cluck Egg Farm (blogged about here) and writes two blogs, The Root for the Portland Press Herald, and her own, called Delicious Musings, when I wrote about her Davis Square loft for Stuff Magazine. Going back through my archives, I see I never blogged about it. Crazy, because I totally, totally loved it. The photos aren’t perfect, but I hope you can see the loft’s general amazingness.

Kitchens, who had been on hiatus from Hollywood up in Maine (and yes, she’s back there again now), fell in love on the spot with this 850-square-foot, top-floor unit at the Davis Square Lofts in Somerville, Mass. It used to be the Comfort Pillow factory, and is adjacent to a renovated tin toy factory. The developer retained the industrial vibe, mixing in just the right amount of modern day luxe. There are bridge like walkways, garage doors accessing outdoor spaces, open floor plans, concrete floors, and interesting fixtures. Let’s go in.


The entry door and her sweet, old dog.


 The living room, which is what you face when you walk in. The piano artwork on the right is by the son of Portland, Maine gallery owner June Fitzpatrick.


The front deck, accessed by a garage door. Kitchens got her start planting vegetables here.


Looking back, the study is on the right, and the kitchen on the left. Keep looking back through the kitchen and you’ll spot the garage door in the bedroom, on the other end of the loft.


Heading into the galley kitchen.


Sharon just finished baking granola. No surprise she ended up owning a farm in Maine! Truth is, growing up, she spent summers on her grandparents’ farm in Arkansas. Love the red knobs on the petit gas range.


Open shelving and a butcher block countertop.


Sharon tucks a black & white photograph, by Sabrina Krisky, behind the kitchen sink.


Industrial sink in the bathroom.


And the metal shelf above, with indoor/outdoor industrial sconces, raw wood beams, and more art.


The airy bedroom. The fun chair is from the Rockland Antiques Marketplace in Rockland, Maine.


Vintage dressers and rugs in the bedroom.


Sharon shows off a family heirloom: her grandmother’s vintage ’70s patchwork skirt. Very Todd Oldham!


Outside, you can see the plank walkways with chicken wire-like fencing.



Sharon pursued her interest in gardening ou on the deck.


She and her neighbors also shared a CSA and would cook dinner together on Sundays.


Looking back toward her unit.


And back on the ground. Bye!

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Art Basel Miami: Charlotte Perriand Beach House

I 1927, Le Corbusier invited French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand, when she was just 24, to join his studio. In 1931, Charlotte Perriand began to exhibit under her own name, designing buildings, interiors, furniture, and lighting. Even if you do not recognize her name, you know her work—among the most successful pieces she designed in collaboration with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, are the the LC4 Chaise Longue and the LC3 Armchair, both produced by Cassina. She also co-designed the Prouvé Potence Lamp, a style that is incredibly popular right now.

I went to Art Basel Miami for the first time yesterday, with my friend Deb, who is an architect with a minimalist, modernist aesthetic. Unsurprisingly,  Charlotte Perriand’s beach house topped her list. Designed in 1934 as a competition entry for the French magazine Architecture Today, the modernist house was intended as a prefabricated, budget-conscious vacation home suitable for mass production. Perriand won second prize; the homes were never put into production.

Fashion design house Louis Vuitton worked with Perriand’s daughter, Pernette Perriand-Barsac, to construct a prototype according to the original plans, complete with furnishings. It is erected behind The Raleigh Hotel (a quintessential Miami Deco boutique hotel), so we made our way through the lobby, out past the pool, and through a little opening in the back hedge, where a media garden party was in progress. (And yes, we helped ourselves to grilled lobster.) The little structure was just beyond that, almost on the edge of the beach. 

The design is so minimal, yet thoroughly functional. The wood is so satisfying to the touch and to the eye, very smooth. We glided around in awe. Here are my photos. The first one is an official image, courtesy of Louis Vuitton, which provides a good overall perspective.

Louis Vuitton Beach House Art Basel Miami

Looking at the house straight on. We entered from the back. The center is an open air, courtyard-like type of space, with a canvas awning overhead.


We entered up this ramp, barefoot.


A wood feature wall with simple shelves holds natural objects from the sea.


When you first walk in, the kitchen is to the left, then the dining area and a sitting area. This is the view from the kitchen.


A closer up shot of the built in table and banquette.


The divider between the banquette and the sitting area.


And a space to lounge, with a cowhide rug. And the coolest lighting. I also love the way the square window opens.


 There’s sliding doors the lounge area side of the divider, for storage.


Standing in the sitting area, looking back towards the kitchen.


 The back wall of the structure.


 The sink and counter are stainless steel. That taller divider is topped with slate. Love the plywood walls!


 Open shelving for dishware; just enough for a weekend.


Stepping back into the courtyard.


There’s a low, Japanese-style table in the middle of the courtyard space. The stools are made from tree stumps.


Towards the front of the courtyard, under the awning portion, are two low lounge chairs, overlooking a glass railing.


 Looking onto the little party, towards the hotel.


 This is the front room along the right side of the house. A little bedroom with a desk.


Another little room, with storage and green pocket door, leads to the bathroom. The toilet is behind the red pocket door.


The open wood slat floors in the bathroom gives it a very beachy feel.


Clad completely in stainless steel. Mod red medicine chest.


 All the greenery out the windows is great.

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Learn more! Buy the books.

Charlotte Perriand


Charlotte Perriand : Objects and Furniture Design


I’m headed back to Miami now. More on Monday!

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Design Diary: Olav Hammarstrom Saarinen House

Yesterday my husband sent me a link to this home featured on Racked Cape Cod. It’s a modernist house on a kettle pond in Wellfleet, Cape Cod (where we spend a lot of time). Apparently it was on the market six years ago for over three million. The price has dropped to just under $1.2 million. (Listing here.) The thing about this house is that it was built for sculptor Lily Saarinen, the first wife of architect/ industrial designer Eero Saarinen (he of the iconic Tulip table and more) and their two children.

The retreat which overlooks Herring Pond, was designed by Finnish-born architect Olav Hammarstrom, who led Alvar Aalto’s firm in Helsinki in 1940 while Aalto was working abroad. In 1948 he  joined Aalto in Boston to supervise construction of Baker House dormitory at MIT. Over the next 20 years, Hammarstom worked with Eero Saarinen, The Architects’ Collaborative (founded by Walter Gropius), and ran a private practice.

According to the Cape Cod Modern House Trust,  Hammarstom and his wife, Marianne Strengell, who led the textile design department at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, probably first came to Wellfleet with the Saarinens, who summered there starting in the late 1930s. (The Saarinens met at Cranbrook in 1939; Lily moved to Cambridge in 1951.) Hammarstrom built Lily’s house in 1952. The home has two bedrooms, detached one bedroom guest quarters, multi-level decks, and a dock. The design is said to be influenced by Eero Saarinen’s work.










f l o o r  p l a n 



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Design Diary: Stowe Mountain Resort

Last month I spent a night at Stowe Mountain Lodge to research a story for Boston Common’s holiday issue. It was SPECTACULAR. Of course, I have a major soft spot for Stowe. The leaves hadn’t much started to turn yet, but the lodge is a wonderful retreat. The lobby is large and cozy, the spa is superb, and the pool is super warm for four season swimming, with hot tubs and a fire pit. They also treated me to a wonderful dinner in the farm-to-table restaurant. During the day I toured the other features of the property, including the slopeside townhouses, performing arts theater, and country club. The whole setup is heavenly.
















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Design Diary: Boston Magazine’s Design Home 2013

Over the summer I worked on a big project that is now up and running— Boston magazine’s Design Home 2013. No, I didn’t decorate any rooms; I wrote the copy for the accompanying brochure, describing the furnishings and decor throughout the space. This year’s home is an expansive condo in The Concordia, a newly developed building right on the water on the North Shore, in Swampscott, Mass.

Design Home is open through Oct. 7. I hope those of you who are local will consider taking drive to see it, since all ticket proceeds ($25/person) benefit Boston Children’s Hospital. (Click here to purchase tickets. 

The 3,600+ square foot unit, done in ocean hues, is furnished with pieces from local businesses, including Landry & Arcari, Lucia Lighting, Didrik’s, Surroundings, Zimman’s, and others. Here’s a taste of what you’ll see, photographed by the ever present (and talented!) Michael J. Lee.


Custom bench by 60nobscot; crystal fixture from Lucia Lighting.


Wood Mode cabinetry by Family Kitchens; backsplash by Tile by Design.


Dining Room
Place setting from Didriks.


Barlow Tyrie outdoor furniture from Didriks.


Master Bedroom
Barley twist bed and custom paisley bedding from Zimman’s.
Hand-knotted Turkmen rug from Landry & Arcari.


Sitting Area


Ladies Dressing Room
Cabinetry by California Closets; clothing from Irresistibles.


Sleeping Nook
Trundle bed by Family Kitchens.


Guest Suite
Furnishings, bedding, and accessories from Surroundings.


Coastal View

All photographs by  Michael J. Lee

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Design Diary: Kate Patterson’s Brookline Home

I just got back from a gathering at the home of Brookline-based interior designer Kate Patterson. The house is absolutely stunning; Kate has incredible talent. We met last week via email as I was trying to organize a mini school bus. Turns out her son just started 7th grade with mine. It also turns out that she hosted the breakfast for the Fall 2013 issue of Boston Home magazine, since her house is featured.

The house, which is on a city street across from a park—with a distant view of the Prudential and Hancock buildings, dates from the turn-of-the-century, and was a complete mess when they bought it. Kate and her husband hired architecture firm Warner + Cunningham to help with the plans, CW Design for the custom cabinetry in the kitchen and master bath, the Remodeling Company to gut the place, and Faith Michaels of Faithful Flowers for landscaping. Obviously, she decorated it herself.

I want to move in. Probably the best I can hope for is an invite back. The first 7 images of Kate’s home are from the magazine, photographed by Trent Bell. Then, my Instagram snapshots from this morning.








Above photos by Trent Bell

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M A I N    S T A I R W A Y






L I V I N G    R O O M 


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Design Diary: Victorian Townhouse by Evolve Residential

Earlier this summer, Boston designer Tom Egan of Evolve Residential sent me photos of his business partner Josh Linder’s 609-square foot, parlor-level condominium in a 19th century Victorian townhouse in the South End. We had hoped to feature it in the Boston Globe Magazine’s upcoming “New England Traditional” home issue, but alas, Josh sold it and moved out. But, lucky me (and you), I can feature it here. It’s amazing! Of course, Josh and Tom did all the design work. Let’s take a tour.


The bones of the 145 year-old condo were beautiful and retained all of the traditional elements one associates with 19th century Boston homes: high ceilings, bay windows, crown moldings, and paneled doors. Yet it had been turned into a hodgepodge mess over the years. In addition to restoring the historic details, they tweaked the layout to suit 21st century living (an-suite bathroom, Poggenpohl kitchen).  The paint colors, fabrics, and furniture are a dynamic mix of contemporary and traditional. The living room is painted in seven shades of gray!

The sofa was custom made to follow the lines of the bay window, and is upholstered in a plush strié velvet. The walnut barrel chairs are by Flexform from local furniture store, ShowroomThe target painting is by Michael Hoffman, represented by nearby gallery, Jules Place.


The antique petite neoclassical Biedermier walnut chest of drawers is gorgous. They found a fabulous pair of French Baroque style mirrors from the 1940s; one’s in the living room, the other in the dining area. I asked about the funny little men on the chest. They answered, ” These little cuties are an antique pair of porcelain white monkeys from antique vendor in Los Angeles.”


To the left of the fireplace they designed a custom banquette to function as a dining area and work space. Brass Irwin Feld “stiletto” ottomans upholstered plush pleated velvet are an unexpected contrast to the Saarinen pedestal table, and a feminine counterpoint to the black tufted leather banquette. To the right is the master bedroom. I love the tall, panelled door, which is painted in Benjamin Moore’s “Polo Blue.”


A nice closeup of the other French Baroque style mirror. Look in the mirror for a glimpse of the kitchen.


Check out the table (on legs!) in the entry. Tom says, “It’s our absolute favorite piece in the entire residence!”  It is a 1940s polished metal German prosthetic style skeleton leg table with a thick Lucite top. Whoa. The Osborne & Little “Trifad” wallpaper composed of metallic interlocking Chinese keys is one of my favorites. The floors are dyed black and finished with an ultra-matte polyurethane.


In the master bedrooom, the walls are covered in a grey textured fabric which has been paper-backed and applied like wallpaper. They did not reveal where that funky chandelier is from . . . Love the ikat pillows and thick drapery.


Here’s Josh’s closet. Jealous?


Hi shirts and suits match the decor : )


The chocolate-colored kitchen has grasscloth walls. Tom says, “It adds a beautiful texture with a subtle iridescence from the various colored grass strands running throughout the paper.”  As to its practicality, he notes that covering the grasscloth with a thin coat of matte polyurethane creates a wipe-able surface. Good to know.


The cabinetry is Poggenphol. I love how it’s slotted under the eaves. A table lamp makes it so cozy. What’s above the fridge?  A built-in Miele espresso machine!


There’s also a lovely little deck.



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