Material Witness

A touch of suede trim, reams of turquoise velvet, glimmers of mother-of-pearl. No, we’re not inside a style maven’s closet—we’re in an apartment in an 1860 brownstone, where the fashion-forward interior is no accident. The home’s owner and designer, Frank Roop, worked as a merchandiser at Louis Boston for 13 years before switching to interior design. The transition “was the best thing he ever did for himself,” says his wife, Sharon, a former social worker who met Roop two decades ago at Boston’s School of Fashion Design.

For the past 10 years, the mostly self-taught Roop has headed his own firm, Frank Roop Design + Interiors, creating spaces as diverse as an English antiques–inspired home, an eclectic Nantucket beach house, and a modern apartment with lacquered ceilings and a leather platform floor—all to rave reviews. Each space is filled with a mix of vintage and antique décor, as well as custom furniture Roop designs exclusively for his clients.

“My years of working in menswear taught me to put together fabrics and colors in a way that reflects the person who wears them,” says Roop. He uses that same methodology with interior design. “I try to assemble a home the way I would a wardrobe. I view it as a whole, rather than just walls, floors, and furniture.”

His own apartment is a study in that approach, with beautifully textured neutrals accented by splashes of color in soft fabrics. In the dramatic vaulted entryway, for example, bronze-hued Venetian plaster walls, a white marble mosaic floor, and a 1940s French chandelier are set off by that light fixture’s bright green Blanche Field shade. “Basically, I like to torture stuff,” he laughs. “I take simple things and mess around with them to make them into something different.”

Since moving from smaller Commonwealth Avenue digs two years ago, Roop has ratcheted up the sophistication of his design. In the dining room, he replaced heavy floor-to-ceiling bookcases with light, thin cantilevered shelving that he had built for the room. Made from beveled molding and coated with high-gloss white lacquer, the shelves showcase a carefully curated selection of art books.
He then opened up the original enclosed galley kitchen to create an airy space in which white glass cabinet doors fade into the background. The new layout allows Sharon, the cook of the two, to interact with guests while they lounge in the dining room. “I wasn’t a big fan of open kitchens,” admits Roop. “Who wants to see a bunch of dirty dishes while you’re eating?” To keep the mess out of sight, he installed an extra-deep sink. The kitchen’s clean lines fit naturally
with the home’s classic bay windows and moldings. “Modern kitchens can work well in older, traditional spaces if they’re subtle and not too designer-y,” he says.

“Most people think of modernism as cold and stark,” Roop adds. “But there’s no reason it has to be that way.” He warms things up by working with unexpected materials like blue paua abalone shell (which he used to cover his TV stand), soft brown suede from Edelman on his custom poster bed, and Japanese washi paper wall coverings made by Larsen. Vintage lighting elements, he says, “give the place soul.”

For Roop, rooms are made to be used, not just admired. “We entertain a lot,” he says. “We want our guests to feel like they can hang out without stressing about spilling a glass of wine.” The same holds true for the hosts themselves. As Roop and I walk through his home, I notice a small stuffed chew toy resting in the living room doorway. “We know he’s going to jump up on the furniture,” he says of their five-year-old Havanese, Remy. “But we used mostly dark fabrics, so it’s not a big tragedy if something gets stained.” The dog, says Sharon, has similar taste. “Remy loves cashmere and velvet.”

The large, sunny living room holds the couple’s favorite pieces, a set of low-slung 1960s Mathieu Matégot black opaline glass tables they purchased from a Paris dealer. “The tops are slightly beat up and scratched,” Roop says. “But that’s what we like about them—they’re comfortable-looking.” Most of the seating, including a pair of boxy Great Plains by Holly Hunt linen-upholstered chairs, is topped with velvet throw pillows in eye-catching blues and greens.
“I like to combine velvet with humbler fabrics like linen,” Roop explains. “To me, that looks more sophisticated than having everything be superluxe.” His gaze moves to the room’s centerpiece, a large sofa entirely swathed in indigo Donghia velvet, and he breaks into a slow smile. “Except in very special cases.”