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.
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.”
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.
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.”