Home Design

A Lexington Home Gets a Surprisingly Modern Makeover

Outside, it's a classic New England farmhouse, but inside, it's a contemporary family home courtesy of designer Atsu Gunther.


The pale-gray ceramic backsplash tile with white grout adds a hint of texture to the sunny space. / Photograph by Michael J. Lee

In the kitchen, Paul Rousso’s Campbell’s soup-can sculpture makes a striking conversation piece. “Everyone who comes over comments on it,” Yolanda says. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

After living in a classic Shingle-style house in Lexington for more than a decade, Yolanda and Brooks knew one thing for sure—they no longer wanted a traditional New England abode. “My frame of reference was the house I grew up in, with a fancy dining room and a hutch,” Brooks says. “We finally realized we didn’t like that.”

So they sold the house, opting to build a more modern space for their family of six on a vacant lot just down the street. To avoid disrupting the aesthetic of the neighborhood, the couple worked with Lexington-based architect Colin Smith to design a six-bedroom home with a typical New England farmhouse exterior. The interior, however, would reflect the way families live today. “Our other house had a lot of wasted space, so we wanted this house to be super functional,” Yolanda says. “That meant no fancy dining room or formal living room, but a massive mudroom and big kitchen were musts.”

In the kitchen, the homeowners’ sons sit on steel Powell & Bonnell “Alto” stools, upholstered in easy-to-clean vinyl. A pair of oversize Artemide dome pendants adds drama and modern flair. / Photograph by Michael J. Lee

Polished stainless steel drawer fronts dress up the cooking area beside the kitchen’s Lacanche range. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A steel charger from Vancouver artist Martha Sturdy’s sculpture collection hangs above the fireplace in the
music room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Although the couple’s new home is quite large at 7,800 square feet, it’s the epitome of elegant, easy living. That’s thanks to Atsu Gunther, the interior designer Yolanda and Brooks hired during construction. To satisfy the couple’s modern leanings, Gunther shied away from traditional forms and finishes, infusing the space with a contemporary blend of regional and West Coast design elements instead. “I equate modern New England with California clean,” says Gunther, who conceived the home’s Napa Valley–inspired scheme. Rustic materials such as reclaimed-wood beams, limestone, zinc, and steel enhance the effect, while white walls and gray floors pull everything together.

The couple tasked Gunther with tweaking interior architectural details and layouts, too. Realizing the mudroom would be the hub of the family’s comings and goings, for example, the Boston-based interior designer transformed what would have been a large unused foyer into a music room. A studded grasscloth wallcovering—inspired by Yolanda’s taste in clothing—cocoons the cozy space, where a grand piano (which two of the children play) basks in light from the rear window. A fireplace, complete with a Gunther-designed concrete surround, forms the focal point for the seating area, anchored by a cherry-red “Ploum” sofa from Ligne Roset. “If you want to read a book, that’s the place to sit,” Brooks says.

His desire for a giant U-shaped sofa dictated the design for the adjoining family room, which lies beyond the archways that flank the fireplace. Gunther chose a family-friendly Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams number, upholstered in synthetic velvet for durability and finished with a satin-nickel nailhead trim for a little flash. The fireplace’s corrugated limestone tile lends an earthy, soothing feel, and the edgy Jonathan Browning polished-nickel chandelier adds shine.

Sourced from Boston’s Lanoue Gallery, a piece by local artist Jane Maxwell provides a pop of color in the back stairwell. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A David Weeks mobile and an image by local photographer Glen Scheffer adorn the music room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A custom linen-wrapped console table designed by Gunther, paired with blue-velvet chairs on wheels, functions as an occasional homework spot in the family room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A Molteni & C sectional, a B & B Italia rocker, and a Martha Sturdy coffee table anchor the seating area in the sunroom, decked out with radiant-heat flooring and a Kyle Bunting cowhide rug. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

The family room opens to the airy kitchen, which Gunther configured to function for cooking, eating, and entertaining. A pair of parallel islands—one topped with zinc and the other wrapped in Caesarstone—keeps those who are snacking or doing homework from interfering with food prep. The scheme also incorporates Yolanda’s love of metal finishes: Instead of installing upper cabinets between the windows, Gunther opted for a trio of cantilevered stainless steel shelves—a modern alternative to the bespoke Shaker-style cabinets found elsewhere in the space. She also used the reflective material on two drawers near the Lacanche range, where Yolanda and Brooks whip up the family meals they often serve in the breakfast area. Outfitted with a custom banquette, it includes four Gubi chairs and a durable painted-wood tabletop on a glam polished-nickel base. “The kitchen is rectangular, so an oval table allows for the best flow,” Gunther explains.

The flow continues in the adjacent sunroom, lined with crisp, white V-groove paneling. The room, which includes space for lounging and dining, features a sliding barn door that references the home’s exterior architecture, while its color honors Brooks’s love of green. As for Yolanda, she favors gray and white with hints of silver. “If left to me, the house would be completely neutral,” she says with a laugh.

Still, despite their diverging color preferences, both husband and wife feel great about their foray into a new aesthetic. “As we went through the process, our appreciation for modern grew,” Yolanda says. “We likely would have gone even more modern now.”

Appealing to Yolanda’s love of metal, Gunther hired Boston-based Studio FKIA to line the fireplace wall in the master bedroom with a sheet of heat-rolled steel. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A Phillip Jeffries wallcovering lines the backs of the dark-walnut bookshelves flanking the fireplace. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

The home’s exterior blends with other houses in this Lexington neighborhood without skewing Colonial. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

In the family room, the rustic tone of Jeremy Holmes’s bentwood sculpture—commissioned through Lanoue Gallery—mimics the unfinished wood beams in the kitchen. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Upholstered in a washable synthetic fabric, dining chairs surround a Berman Rosetti “Equis” extension table in the sunroom. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Roman shades made from Holland & Sherry fabric block the strong sun in Yolanda’s study. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Gunther stands on the main stairway, which features steel rails and posts painted black, steel cables, and dark walnut treads. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Topped with Caesarstone, the master bath’s cantilevered wood vanity continues the modern aesthetic of the home. / Photo by Michael J. Lee