Woodwork and Wallcoverings Steal the Show in This Cambridge Victorian
Designer Atsu Gunther renovated the home for a couple from France.
When a Parisian couple was ready to lighten and brighten the historical Victorian they’d recently purchased in Cambridge, they knew just who to ask about finding a designer—their friend David Guerra, a Boston-based art curator. His recommendation of interior designer Atsu Gunther was spot on. “They have a lot in common. They are innovators [who] make statements through art and design,” says Guerra, who had worked with both parties. He knew that their shared taste for a clean but evocative aesthetic would ensure a match. It did: Gunther reimagined the first floor with a new, modern design while embracing the history of the 1898 house, including its original millwork. She also added drama. “[The clients] have so much character,” Gunther says. “I wanted to reflect that.”
Gunther countered the homeowners’ initial inclination to paint all the dark woodwork white. “I felt they should leave some history untouched,” she says. They painted the baseboards, along with much of the molding and window trim, but the woodwork around the door openings remains a rich gumwood, as do the paneled doors themselves. The stair’s handrail and carved newel are also intact. For a bit of edge, Gunther treated the stringer, balustrades, and treads to glossy black paint.
Conjure a Mood
To juxtapose the crisp living room, Gunther created a smoky salon across the way. “They’re very cultural and like to entertain so a moody salon where they could have cocktails with friends seemed fitting,” the designer says. She chose Benjamin Moore’s “Chelsea Gray” for the walls, trim, and ceiling. “Painting everything one color makes it feel cohesive,” Gunther explains. Sinuous silhouettes and sumptuous materials, from the velvet sofa to the curved table finished with antiqued brass, add to the allure.
Play with Pattern
Newly installed wallcoverings enliven select areas of the home, which—the couple later learned—was first built for the owner of a paper-hanging shop downtown. In the entry hall, the designer incorporated Farrow & Ball’s “Lotus” print, an art nouveau–inspired pattern that matches the era of the house. She also zhuzhed up the powder room with a Hollywood-meets-Paris style by Cole & Son and embellished the interior of the dining room’s built-in hutch with an abstract paper by Zak+Fox.
Seek Out Salvage
Less than enchanted with the clunky wood mantelpiece in the salon, the wife searched for an elegant replacement. “They dreamed of the marble fireplace in their Paris apartment,” Gunther says. An art deco–style solution turned up at Restoration Resources. “This [Carrara marble] one had perfect dimensions, but it was in eight pieces,” the wife says. For installation assistance, Gunther turned to Everett-based firm Stone Doctors, which also created a new black granite hearth.
Paint it Blue
Farrow & Ball’s “Hague Blue” remedied the dated wood cabinetry in the kitchen. “The color feels French,” Gunther says. The deep shade grounds the base cabinets, as well as the bank of cabinets in the corner, and the white uppers disappear into the wall. “Too much blue would have been too heavy,” the designer says. Brass pulls with crosshatch patterning and minimalist marble pendant lights with metallic touches further freshen the scheme.
Atsu Gunther Design
Tyler & Sash