Design Diary: Patricia McDonagh for This Old House

Earlier this year interior designer Tricia McDonagh emailed me about a project she had been working on with “This Old House.” To help celebrate its 30th anniversary season, they wanted to help the community where it got its start. The show’s crew worked alongside affordable housing nonprofit Nuestra Comunidad to to renovate a vacant, foreclosed house  in Roxbury. Tricia furnished the interiors in her flawless, clean and elegant style.

The refinished façade of the 1870s Second Empire house.

It was an absolute wreck. Have a look at the “before“pictures. The two units will be sold separately, at an affordable price. The original shingles were replaced with fiber cement siding, and the dilapidated slate roofing (which was salvaged) was replaced with recycled rubber architectural shingles.

The crew restored the hand-carved wood banister and newel post in the entryway.

These plaster ceiling medallions throughout the house were either be restored or replicated.

The rooms all have Tricia’s spare, sophisticated touches, like muslin covered furnishings.

The artwork over the sofa, which looks like a tie dye scarf, is actually beaded porcelain on rice paper by Dharma Strasser MacColl from Walker Contemporary in Boston.

The crew was able to salvage the original marble fireplace surround. They removed it for cleaning and repairs, then reinstalled  it.

It’s absolutely gorgeous. I love the subtle color from the silver cups and plant.

The dark walls make the room look rich and cozy. Love how the white shapes of the furniture pop against it too.

A gleaming white kitchen. The original kitchens were on the second floor; the new ones are in the center of the units’ first floors.

Love the nailhead detail on the bed and muslin upholstery.

The old millwork of the window casings and panels were replaced with replicas featuring the same dimensions and profiles. There were ugly dropped ceilings that were removed. Now the rooms have an airy, lofty feel.

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All photos by CASEY Photography.

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Stuff Magazine: Players

The “Players” issue of Stuff Magazine is out. I haven’t actually seen the print version yet, but I was able to sneak a peek online. I wrote five profiles for it, all related to house and home. I love the photos, edgy, with a hint of whimsy and steam. You can click through to Stuff’s site for the actual text, but I’ve included some additional anecdotes (irrelevant ramblings, really) below.


Ricardo Rodriguez realtor

Ricardo is super cute, charming, and, boo hoo, married. I interviewed him and his husband at their South End apartment last year for an Improper Bostonian piece about what couples hate in their mates’ wardrobes. Ricardo is a suave Barneys shopper while his partner is an adorable prepster. They bickered beautifully : ) (Maybe I can get a PDF of the article to post – it was one of my favorites.) 


Meichi Peng interior designer

My first awareness of Meichi Peng came through her butter soft, hand-stitched, pebble leather pouches that I wrote about for pricey handbag site, Lux Couture (hi Sari!). Turns out, Meichi Peng is actually an interior designer. Her style is sleek with a subtle Asian infusion. And she just opened a home furnishings shop, PENG, at 450 Harrison.


Nicole Dalrymple interior designer

Nikki’s North End shop, Acquire, is one of my favorites. (And I’ve written about it twice before, in the Globe mag’s “Best of the New” and for Daily Candy.) As interior stylist, Kara Butterfield put it recently, shopping at Acquire is like going to Brimfield without having to pick through everything. I purchased three milk glass vases there that are on my dining table in Truro. Wish I had a picture.


Stephanie Walker gallerist

I believe I first made the acquaintanc of Stephanie Walker of Walker Contemporary through Kristin Gaughan of the design firm Urban Living Studio, (BTW, stay tuned for a post on one of her spaces.) I first wrote about Stephanie for the Globe’s “Best of the New”, and I recently featured the works of one of her artists, Elisa Johns, in an ARTmonday post.


Erin Gates interior stylist

By now you all know Erin Gates, interior stylist and blogger. Click here for my behind-the-scenes tour of her JP condo, or read the Globe article “Small is the New Black”.

Photos by Tim Gray for Stuff Magazine

ARTmonday: Elisa Johns Bouts of Excess

I love the paintings by Elisa Johns’ in Bout of Excess for their colors, flirtatiousness, and femininity. I am definitely drawn to works that portray two women, or women flaunting their sexuality in a playful, bashful or innocent manner. (I’ll have to scan my postcard collection of such paintings for you.)

Stephanie Walker, who owns Walker Contemporary and curated the show, points out that the two women in Johns’ “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus” (the third one here) aren’t necessarily in a sexual relationship. I think that’s what I am responding to; they could be lovers, but maybe they are close friends, or sisters. There’s an intimacy with just a hint of sexuality; a promise, perhaps.

When I showed my husband the images, he asked of “English Rose” (the second one here), “Why is there a vagina in the sky?” I see that now. And I had just thought, “What a pretty, rosy sun.”

When I asked Stephanie what attracted her to the artist and these works in particular, she cited the way the artist handles the paint, that she uses oil paint in so many ways. And, although the images are obviously based on historical stories, she points out “they’re so L.A., contemporary and of-the-moment.”

One of my favorites is “Daphne and the Laurel Tree” (the last image), which, at 72 x 48 inches, is relatively large work. I’d love to hang it in the living room at our house on the Cape. I love the colors, and how the tree creates angel wings. She’s so Nadja Auermann at the apex of the ’80s, but warmer and more fun. More like Nadja Auermann meets Stephanie Seymour meets Kate Moss.

She said Cate McQuaid, a critic from the Boston Globe, found them to be sort of “Project Runway” gone awry. But Stephanie sees women that are “playing with fashion, while snubbing what they’re portraying, and pushing boundaries.”

Either way, let them eat cake!

On view at Walker Contemporary, 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston until the end of March.