White Trim and Gold Accents Complement This Condo’s Vintage Pieces
A longtime antiques collector invigorates a historical Back Bay condo with scavenged finds that feel anything but dated.
Beth Stevens loves nothing more than an antiques store. “Wherever I am—New York, Florida, Ireland—I find places to do my hunting,” says the interior decorator, who recently founded EllenMarkDesign. “My antenna goes up.” Oftentimes discoveries end up in Stevens’s shop/studio, Tea Stains at Hooper Fields, in New Boston, New Hampshire. So when it came time to dress up the Back Bay pied-à-terre she and her husband purchased when they became empty-nesters, she had a whole inventory from which to choose. First, she had to rid the 990-square-foot one-bedroom of its English library vibe. Once contractors painted it, swapped out damaged parquet flooring with gray-toned floorboards, and built a new kitchen and bath with clean-lined cabinetry, Stevens furnished the condo with a mix of modern-day staples and vintage treasures. “I incorporate items that at first may seem odd,” she says. “But, as everything unfolds, it’s clear that these elements belong together.”
Paint It White
Disregarding the traditional notion that painting woodwork is a sin, Stevens used Benjamin Moore’s “Chantilly Lace” on every piece of trim, including the crown and dentil moldings, the detailed wainscotings, the paneled doors, and the wood mantlepiece in the bedroom. The high-gloss finish provides a subtle contrast against the walls in the main living spaces, which are painted the same color in an eggshell finish. “The condo is airy and inviting,” Stevens says, “and it looks twice the size.”
Builders at Sleeping Dog Properties used a couple of tricks to ensure that the kitchen cabinetry wouldn’t feel like it was towering over the room. A row of cabinets with solid doors tops the main tall ones, which sport glass fronts that make the arrangement “feel cozy instead of overpowering,” firm co-owner Matt Rapczynski says. The crew also aligned the top of the cabinetry with the casing around the bedroom door rather than marry it with the room’s dentil molding. “It would have made the kitchen seem out of scale in relation to the rest of the space,” Rapczynski explains.
Go for Gold
After brightening the shell of the living room, Stevens added gleaming gold accents, starting with statement lighting. A burnished-brass chandelier with faceted-crystal orbs hovers overhead. Sculptural gilded-iron sconces punctuate either side of the refurbished fireplace, as well as the trio of tall casement windows overlooking the Charles River. “The warmth of brass is befitting of the space and adds pizzazz,” she says.
Pile on Patina
In addition to her signature gilded-wood frames, Stevens layered favorite vintage finds throughout the condo to balance out newer pieces. The bedroom dresser, made from reclaimed elm, came from a boutique in Los Altos, California, and the Virgin Mary painting above the bed, which Stevens says is one of her most unique treasures, hails from a shop in Vermont. “I like eclectic pieces with great patina,” she says. “I wanted the supporting pieces to be different and unexpected.”
Bring the Eye Up
Because the condo features 12-foot ceilings, Stevens sought to adorn the top halves of walls to keep them from appearing cold and empty. A tall mirror with a dark wood frame in the living room helps create a focal point over the mantlepiece, for instance, while a European tapestry echoes the mirror’s shape and tone to its right. Across the room, a carved gilt frame surrounds a wooden animal head. “The head doesn’t crowd the space, but it’s eclectic so people are drawn to it when the TV is off,” Stevens says. The decorator also employed the technique in the bathroom, where she hung a quirky painting picked up at Brimfield above the towel rack and the medicine chest.
Sleeping Dog Properties