Boston Home — A Fresh Approach

By Kari Molvar | Boston Magazine |

Every interior has its own unique chemistry. It's an essence that drifts through the air, perfuming the atmosphere with mood and light. Inside the home of Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, owners of the Boston-based cosmetics and bath-care company Fresh, this sensation comes not only from the tactile elements — the smooth chocolate woods, white marbles, and gleaming stainless steel — but also from the intangible parts: the flickering candles and hints of cypress, jasmine, and tuberose swirling in the air. For a couple whose business started in a tiny storefront in the South End and has now blossomed to become part of the beauty and fashion giant LVMH (owner of the luxury brand Louis Vuitton, among others), creating a sanctuary where they could retreat after a chaotic day was crucial. Glazman and Roytberg still maintain careful control of (and substantial ownership in) their brand, dreaming up new products in their South Boston offices and planning an expansion that includes new shops in New York, London, Paris, and Las Vegas. So the fact that the chemistry of their surroundings is layered as carefully as an exotic potion is no accident: At the core of every project — be it sake-scented bath soaks or their home in Brookline — is their scientific devotion to purity.

“Every detail in life, every angle, conveys meaning,” says Glazman, lounging in the yielding folds of his luxurious sofa. “We wanted our home to express an appreciation for the simplicity of materials, the idea that you don't have to own a thousand objects, but just a few well-made items that last forever. It is very much the philosophy of our home, our stores, and our lives.”

It's a concept that interior architect David Hacin, principal in the firm of Hacin + Associates, immediately grasped. A friend to the Fresh skincare duo since their early days, Hacin also designed the interiors of their boutiques, both in America and overseas. “Lev and Alina are two of the most passionate people I know, on both a personal and professional level,” says Hacin. “Every space of theirs reflects some core aspect of their personality; every nook, corner, and crevice conveys intimacy and emotion. Nothing is ever left to chance.” Especially under the roof that houses the most important of all contents — Glazman and Roytberg's two energetic, doe-eyed daughters, 10-year-old Thais and 6-year-old Dalia.

“Before we moved to Brookline, we had a big house in the suburbs,” says Roytberg. “But it wasn't a home. We couldn't see each other all the time. We were too far away. There were too many rooms, too much space.” While the loft-like apartment they live in now is hardly a tight squeeze, the downsized specs do more to encourage interaction. You can easily imagine food fights in the kitchen, quiet nights on the balcony, wet footprints tracked between adjacent bedrooms. Even when the house is empty, the presence of its inhabitants lingers in the air.

To translate the very personal into the very polished, Hacin worked with Aaron Weinert, his associate at the design firm. “But the whole process was really one big group effort between all of us, Lev and Alina and David and myself,” says Weinert. Hacin and Weinert mastered the manipulation of light, materials, and surface textures, while Glazman and Roytberg took turns filling the home with furniture, fabrics, and personal imprints of elegance. The collaboration resulted in a look that is sleek, modern-meets-effortless glamour. And every detail in the apartment carries that tune, from the Japanese architecture manuals on the bookcase to the world music collection in the media center to the neat stacks of precise tiles in the bath and kitchen.

Hacin helped to guide this harmony of textures by selecting exquisite materials for the composition. In the main foyer, the wood floors are made of blond ash, which is triple-stained to reach a sultry shade of smoky brown with hints of gray. “The most successful colors reflect changes in light, like changes in mood,” notes Hacin. Bookcases span the back wall, rising organically from floor to ceiling and tempered by the horizontal panels of wood and brick-like patterns above the fireplace. Luxurious tweed curtains draw the eye upward, adding texture and volume. Roytberg made the couches even more inviting by adding small splashes of citrine color with pillows and cashmere throws.

As a contrast to the sexy, lounge-like feel of the living room, the custom-made Poliform kitchen serves up sugar-white slabs of marble atop the counters. Hacin chose surfaces with beveled edges to prevent the inevitable juice drips and pizza sauce spills (remember, kids live here) from running down the cabinets. The Viking stovetop and climate-controlled refrigerator shine like polished nickel, picking up the tiny blue flecks running through the marble slabs. Snaking around the kitchen, subway tiles lend a linear orientation, echoed later by the creamy tiles in the guest bathroom. “The surface functions like a grid of textures,” Roytberg says of the tiles. “The lines need to match up; otherwise the overall effect would be lost in a maze of patterns. It had to be seamless.” In fact, the entire interior — from foyer to kitchen — blends effortlessly in a soothing display of wood, marble, and steel. “We kept the design simple and graceful. It's lavish without being cluttered or crowded,” says Hacin.

To link the front-facing living areas with the sleeping quarters in the rear, Hacin created an enormous 20-foot-long picture gallery hallway. In the middle, double doors seal off one space from another, with spatial effects to guide the current of energy between them. “Rather than delineate rooms by doors, we used materials,” says Hacin. “The tone changes depending on whether you are surrounded by wood, stone, or glass.” Practicality also meets purpose in the choice of opaque smoky glass panels for the doors. “We can block noise if the girls are sleeping while we're entertaining,” Glazman says. Yet the doors function like a mood swing, too. “It feels like a quiet retreat when you shut them. It's very private, sealed off from everyone” says Hacin. When the two areas are united, the full length of the hallway is revealed at once, extending from views of the street in the front to a peaceful park in the back of the apartment.

With everything so out in the open, storage was essential for keeping the overall look under control. While touches of life abound — from the smudges on the counters to the coffee mugs floating around — these owners embrace a minimalist sentiment. “We do our best to store only what is necessary,” says Glazman. Hacin did his part by installing hidden storage shelving, tucked into both the master bedroom and the kids' rooms. In the living room, Hacin and Weinert designed deep storage bins below the bookcases to stow away blankets, pillows, and guest sheets. In the kitchen, the frosted glass pantry doors hint at what's behind them without spoiling the effect in a cacophony of neon peanut-butter labels. In the media room and a corner office nook, cabinet drawers keep work files out of sight, while pullout bins pack away the music collection until it's time to play.

But while the clever simplicity of the common areas is impressive, it's the master bath that is perhaps the biggest attention-getter. “The ritual of the bath is especially important to Lev and Alina,” says Hacin. The 10-by-14 room is lined in white marble of the highest quality (it's the same type used in the stores). The custom-framed skylight filters the room with soft beams of light, while the trough-like sink flanks the back wall, introducing an element of whimsy.

“Rather than have his-and-hers sinks, we joined them together into a shared experience,” says Hacin. The stainless-steel edges on the slatted wood door almost disappear into fine white light, allowing the wood panels to hover, seemingly weightless in the room. When the door slides open, it plays up the contrast and drama between the light-filled interior of the bath and the dark, sexy exterior of the bedroom.

“Everywhere you look, you sense luxury, comfort, and relaxation,” says Hacin. And when it comes to this home's unique chemistry, the beauty is in the mix.

Betting on the House

Before the drills whirl and the plaster flies, a design pro shows you the fix-ups that stretch the most value out of your home — and wallet. By Patricia Harris and David Lyon

Designer Mollie Johnson of Mollie Johnson Interiors in Wellesley jokes that she and her husband don't bother with the stock market: They get a better return selling their homes. The key to hitting the top of the market is to add quality where it counts, which is Johnson's aim whether she decorates for herself or for a client.

This airy Back Bay townhouse on Marlborough Street drives home the point. The client provided Johnson with specific marching orders: to infuse a feeling of warmth and character into the two-level home. Working with architect John MacDonald of Morehouse MacDonald & Associates in Lexington, Johnson pulled off the final remodeled look by turning her eye to everything from silver leaf on a new coffered ceiling in the dining room to selecting the right drawer pulls.

Honing in on these specific details — and parceling out the work in stages — was Johnson's secret to the successful transformation of this 2,900-square-foot interior. “From an architectural and design standpoint, it pays to plan ahead so you can make intelligent choices,” Johnson says. “As long as you know the end-state scenario, you can work toward that goal in stages.” Here the designer details step-by-step instructions you can use as a guide to increase the sum of your surroundings, too.

The center of the expansive upper level (reached via elevator from the first floor entrance) serves as both foyer and dining room. Johnson grounded the entry into this space by laying a dark-stained oak parquet floor. “I always darken the floor to add a sense of age and richness,” she says. She also addressed lighting, a subject that often confounds homeowners. A modern glass chandelier and wall sconces with architectural details add visual interest and mood lighting. But don't blow your budget on the decorative lights. Be sure to lay the foundation of primary lighting — in this case, recessed halogen ceiling spots on dimmers.

In the kitchen, the stakes are high for a would-be home improver. This is where homes gain or lose much of their value. Beware of cheap materials or extreme colors in such expensive permanent fixtures as countertops and cabinetry. It pays to sink your dollars into durable, timeless designs. But neutral doesn't have to mean boring. Instead of polished granite, this kitchen features a honed limestone counter with tiny embedded fossils and a tumbled marble backsplash. Natural maple custom cabinets provide a welcome alternative to more conventional cherry. Glass panels in the upper cabinets display some of the owner's fine dishware while providing visual relief from the wall of wood. The wrong hardware could spoil the appeal, though. These cabinet pulls are substantial and consistent with the modern styling; they feel and function as good as they look.

In the living room, custom built-ins enhance the unique features of a space in a way freestanding furniture can't match. This elegant combination of curved window seat and soft Roman shade frames the rooftop Back Bay view and provides extra seating. Illuminated built-in display nooks play up the room's proportions and angles — the architectural equivalent of high cheekbones.

“If you like wild colors,” says Johnson, “paint a wall. Paint is the most cost-effective impact.” It's also easy and inexpensive to change, a concept Johnson elegantly displays in the family room. Here, she introduces a dramatic red from the Donald Kaufman Color Collection, following her dictate of using the highest quality paint available. (Kaufman's paints have as many as 13 pigments in the mix, meaning they react dynamically to changing light.) The red provides a jab of color but still harmonizes with the built-in maple bookcases that echo the kitchen cabinets. A thick drop facing on the bookcase shelves makes them look blockier and more architectural than conventional shelves, sending a subconscious message of solidity and quality.

In the master bedroom, well-conceived storage adds a big plus to the value

bottom line. MacDonald created floor-to-ceiling covered storage on the fireplace wall, and to keep the piece from overpowering the room, Johnson covered the doors with woven linen panels. For consistent textural accent, she applied a soft glaze to the trim and the built-in shelves. While paint treatments can be tempting, Johnson exercised restraint. Too much faux painting is a definite faux pas, notes the designer.

The renovation of this home capitalized on the extremely high ceilings with monumental crown moldings. “Even if you don't have high ceilings,” Johnson says, “moldings become very important because they add detail and interest. I'm a lover of substantial moldings.” Similarly, she says, long drapery can function as an architectural element. “I love the drama of how a drapery fills up a room.” Johnson equipped the master bedroom with floor-to-ceiling drapes in a luxurious silk that matches the wall color. In the guest bedroom, which had fewer textural elements, Johnson added a matchstick blind inside the drapes. She recommends not skimping on the volume of the molding or the fullness of the drapes. Johnson credits both for her success selling her own homes, since they add layers of richness to the interior.

Select the finest natural materials you can afford for master baths. The marble used in this home has ” a quality feel that endures,” says Johnson. Then she looked for unusual accents. A delicate soft-blue marble with some fine greenish veins tops the vanity. The same stone complements the basket weave marble mosaic floor tiles. Sybaritic showers with top-of-the-line fixtures bespeak luxury. This spa shower features a large “rain” showerhead Johnson calls “awesome,” wall jets, a conventional showerhead, and a separate hand-held shower — all behind glass. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but that doesn't mean it can't feel good, too.

Sea Change

A waterfront home on the Cape Cod coast shores up its design with a look befitting the beauty of its surroundings. By Brigham Fay

Two yellow labs rest, tongues lolling, on a deck just steps from Provincetown Harbor. To the west, a painter adjusts his canvas, and a photographer juggles her tripod. Straight off in the distance, the Long Point lighthouse straddles the outer tip of Cape Cod. This is the view from 63 Commercial Street, a four-bedroom, 3½-bath converted Cape that, despite being filled with enviable interior objects such as Early Georgian antiques and John Dowd paintings, has as its most luxurious element this idyllic seaside setting.

The windswept property in Provincetown's West End, which comes complete with direct beach access, posed a set of unique challenges for the homeowners. Situated on a narrow 75-by-130-foot lot, the 2½-story original historic structure needed a large addition. The residents, owners of several local businesses, sought out interior designer Tony Cappoli, who has completed projects stretching from Boston to New York to South Florida to St. John, to harmonize the old with the new and to lend a sumptuous feel to the inside while still preserving the casual look of Cape Cod on the outside.

“The owners approached me at the deli counter at the A&P in the dead of winter,” says Cappoli, who lives in Provincetown part of the year. “We met the next day at the site and just stood in the middle of a construction pile, looking at plans. It must have been about 30 degrees below freezing.” Design decisions proceeded apace, and from the frigid seascape materialized a vision of warm comfort and unassuming elegance.

Rather than shutting out the temperate environment, Cappoli embraced the elements — the ever-changing spectrum of sand, sky, and water — to inspire his organic and luxuriant design. He employed natural materials like limestone, rattan, and sisal rugs throughout the house, while letting the color palette derive from the shades of water, pebbles, and sea glass. What results is an interior that flows beautifully from the rooms to the beach beyond, drawing natural rays of light into the deepest recesses of the house.

“With the first floor so open, it feels like the living room extends all the way to Long Point,” Cappoli says. This is due as much to the designer's skill as it is to the house's orientation. The living room walls are sea-glass green, while underfoot lies a 10-by-14-foot Tibetan rug of taupe wool accented with flecks of green silk diamonds. Sea turtles swim across a nubby fabric of chocolate brown on the ottoman and throw pillows, while watery blue velvet pipes the edges of the French 1940s-inspired club chair. Paintings by local artists Anne Packard and John Dowd echo the surrounding seascape.

While the Cape is synonymous with sun-soaked vistas in the summer, the winters can turn gray and dreary. Cappoli's clients, who are year-round residents, looked to color choices to convey tone and atmosphere. “The light in every room changes at different times of the day and year,” says the designer. “The colors have to be perfect in both gray weather and sun. They have to be warm and inspiring all the time.” The Venetian red entrance hall provides a welcoming pop of color. And the blue hue on the walls in the master bedroom (which Cappoli perfected after several painting attempts) provides a springboard for the skylights to filter light into the dining room two floors below.

Limited in space, the bathrooms rely on custom vanities, bold wall patterns, and exquisite materials to make an impact. The master bath, which opens onto the wraparound third-floor deck, features Scalamandré wallpaper and a trompe l'oeil of robin eggs, further expressing the organic theme of the décor. In the guest bathroom, another bold Scalamandré pattern — imitating a mosaic of fish, squid, and octopi — meets the clean lines of a Barbara Barry for Kallista sink and a vanity of Cappoli's own design. The bath features a shower of quartzite slate with a glass diamond border, bronze fixtures, and granite countertops. Every inch of the powder room exudes richness, from the striped walls in buttery yellows to the retrofitted furniture chest to the Italian marble mosaic floor. “The bathrooms are small,” explains Cappoli, “so they needed to be breathtaking.”

Often the biggest challenges breed the most creative solutions. In the study, old meets new where the addition joins the original house, creating a 12-inch drop in the height of the ceiling. Cappoli's answer is to “bring your eye to other things,” like the maple-paneled walls and window seats upholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric. A plasma-screen television over the fireplace adds a touch of 21st-century luxury to the otherwise quaint lair. “It reminds me of an old sea captain's home,” says Cappoli. “Now it's my favorite room in the house.”

The most entertaining room in the house, however, is the kitchen. On the floor, Cappoli put down pillowed limestone rock to imitate the look of sand and dressed the walls in harlequin-patterned tiles to capture every shade of the beach at low tide. Christopher Peacock custom cabinetry disguises walnut-lined Sub-Zero refrigerated drawers, and a Lagos Azul limestone counter rests on top. The show-stopping travertine farm sink, hand carved from one solid piece of marble, embodies Cappoli's distinctive mix of earthiness and opulence.

A setting this inviting draws guests regularly, which prompted the construction of a separate guest house on the property. Cappoli carefully mapped out a brick walkway edged with granite pavers to gracefully wind its way between the two residences. Despite their cathedral ceilings and mahogany-stained cherry floors, the rooms have an informal feel. Guests gather on slipcovered sofas to leaf through piles of books or climb the spiral staircase to their own deck. The warm, creamy interior seems to soothe everyone — including a designer bent on perfection. “I loved going there during the project,” says Cappoli. “It just releases stress. You can even walk in with sand on your feet.”