Before and After: A Historic Sitting Room Makeover

Peep a transformation that's part of the Junior League of Boston 2016 Show House.

The sitting room / Before photo by Eric Roth. After photo courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

Interior designer Gerald Pomeroy has a special appreciation for designing for show houses. A several year veteran designer for the Junior League of Boston’s annual Show House fundraiser, Pomeroy enjoys the free rein over his room’s design.

“I really get to showcase what I’m excited about,” he explains, since he doesn’t have to incorporate the needs or tastes of clients.

This year, Pomeroy designed two connecting rooms in the historic Nathaniel Allen House in West Newton. The Greek Revival home was built in 1854, and housed the earliest coeducational school in the nation. It also was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“It was the architecture, the Greek Revival, that really drew me to the space,” says Pomeroy.

The two rooms, dubbed the “sitting room” and the “receiving room,” are bathed in light by three-on-three windows, and exhibit a wealth of original architectural details.

“Very early on I wanted to do something that had some classic references but also very modern elements as a counterpoint and juxtaposition,” says Pomeroy. “And to really inform people how to design and decorate homes with significant age and have them feel fresh, timely, and exciting.”

The first element in his overall vision was the hand-painted wallpaper in the receiving room, a design by de Gournay called “Earlham.”  Pomeroy aimed for a clean, airy, and almost ethereal look, while keeping the color palette simple and fresh. The adjoining sitting room has a lacquered wall paint to match the base color in the wallpaper.

Photo courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

The receiving room / Photo courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

Both rooms feature hand-embroidered curtains, an updated crown molding that expands the trim into the ceiling, and new details in the original wood floors. Pomeroy introduced an enlarged Greek key design on the floor’s perimeter to reference the house’s architectural period. While an authentic design would have been inlayed in the wood, the keys were added with a template and oils.

“It really added this wonderful graphic quality throughout and connected the two rooms,” says Pomeroy.

In connecting them, Pomeroy aims to conjoin classic and modern looks.

“I made a very conscious decision to do very clean, contemporary lines in my furniture,” he explains.

While there are classic touches throughout the rooms, the gilded 18th-century console in the sitting room is a showstopper.

Perhaps most striking of all are two elements that weren’t touched—the twin fireplaces. Pomeroy chose to celebrate the rooms’ original dominating features.

“I’m always a firm believer that every room should have something black in it,” he says. “To have the original black marble fireplaces was sensational. It just added to the elegance that I could jump off from and introduce other elements with.”

Pomeroy followed suit with a black chinoiserie console in the receiving room, upholding the old guard aesthetic while still maintaining a contemporary feel.


Photos courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

A series of abstract, hand-painted plates that hang over the second fireplace were a last-minute addition.

“It’s always a trick to determine what to put on (de Gournay wallpaper) to sort of celebrate them and add something,” says Pomeroy.

He went with the Christopher Spitzmiller plates a few days before the Show House opened, carefully placing them around the bird designs.

In combining these contrasting elements, Pomeroy aimed to create an overall cohesive “melting pot” feel. More than that, he hopes the rooms will strike a chord with Show House visitors.

“My hope is that (the room) enables people to say, ‘Oh, that’s something I could do,'” says Pomeroy.

Photos courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

Photos courtesy of Gerald Pomeroy Interiors

Visit this year’s Junior League of Boston 2016 Show House, the Nathaniel Allen House, at 35 Webster Street, Newton, until June 5. More information is available at