Conventional wisdom holds that small spaces and an abundance of tchotchkes don’t mix. For nearly two decades, however, interior designer Frank Hodge and his partner, Michael Nest, have been defying that notion in their South End home, filling their 900-square-foot unit—located in an 1860 brownstone—with a dazzling array of antiques. Here, Hodge explains how to create a comfortable, elegant urban abode with plenty of character.
Hodge has carefully edited his antiques collection to represent many eras. “You can put stuff from different time periods together and have it look good,” he says, but “you don’t want to have so much that it takes over the space.” The artfully arranged living room mantel, for example, displays a Biedermeier clock, 1960s pottery and sculpture, and 19th-century turquoise eggs.
Sneak in Storage
With just one closet in the home, Hodge chose furnishings that could also stow away everyday essentials. Instead of placing a bench at the end of the bed, he designed a reproduction of a deep French linen chest. And under the bow window he placed custom octagonal nightstands fitted with drawers and cabinets.
The Older, the Better
“Some people are afraid to use antique furniture,” Hodge says. “But these pieces have withstood the test of time—they’re better than the things you can buy today.” Case in point: Hodge’s American Empire–style dining table dates back to the early 19th century, and the chairs are 18th-century elmwood. The living room, meanwhile, showcases a 1920s French desk.
Unify and Define Spaces
When Hodge bought the unit, there were three disjointed areas that had been separate rooms in a boarding house. To create cohesion, he added molding in the dining room similar to the living room’s original 19th-century pattern, and made the rooms open to each other. Columns now distinguish the spaces.
“In a small space, it’s all about scale and proportion. When you buy furniture off the rack, it’s never quite the right fit,” Hodge says. The living room’s extra-deep custom Knole sofa, for instance, has arms that drop down to become the frame for a comfortable twin-size guest bed. The narrow end tables, crafted by Savoy Design Custom Cabinetry, do double duty as bookshelves and sit snugly against the sofa.
Deck the Walls
To make the space feel cozy and personal, Hodge adorned the walls with a variety of original artwork. “If you have a wall, I say, cover it,” he says. The mostly vintage pieces are of various mediums—18th-century engravings hang near a 1940s French drawing and a more-modern watercolor. The key to unifying a collection is to use similar frames, says Hodge, who opts for gilded, white, or cream ones.