Inimitable art, bold furnishings, and meaningful custom details transform a couple’s Concord home into a one-of-a-kind sanctuary.
The twenty-second time was the charm for Joe and Donna Philipose. The couple had moved from Newton to North Carolina during the pandemic, but in 2021, return-to-office mandates left them grappling with Greater Boston’s wild real estate market. After making nearly two dozen offers, they found a place to call their own in Concord: a 1971 midcentury-modern house with strong lines, sunny skylights, and floor-to-ceiling windows. “It was easily one of those homes you could see be modernized without taking away from the character,” Joe says. The kitchen and bathrooms had been beautifully updated by the previous owner, a professional chef—a big plus for Joe, an avid cook who rolls his own pasta. Other spaces needed some love. “The architecture was there, but their personalities weren’t in it,” says interior designer Ana Donohue, who spearheaded a redesign aiming to make the home feel cohesive, contemporary, and as interesting as the people who live there.
The couple love art and knew they wanted to work with painter Pauline Curtiss of Patina Designs, whom they’d read about in Boston magazine. “We saw with Pauline you could make the house itself a piece of art,” Joe explains. Curtiss worked in several spaces, but her biggest canvas was the living room accent wall, where whorls of blue, gray, and gold evoke stone and sea. “It makes the home way more interesting, way more dynamic, way more alive,” Joe says. Once the paint was dry, Donohue designed an inviting seating area with a three-piece South + English coffee table, the homeowners’ original Barcelona chair, a whimsical frog side table from Ngala Trading, and a tufted Gallotti & Radice sofa from Casa Design. “We wanted one really great piece that was contemporary and easy-living and beautiful from all sides,” she says of the sofa.
Art the couple has collected likewise plays a key role in the décor. That’s particularly true in the dining room, which finds its focal point in Darius Quarles’s painting of famed blues guitarist Elizabeth Cotten, who, as a teenager, wrote a song that became a hit for white artists, returned to music after decades of work as a housekeeper, and won a Grammy at age 90. The Philiposes had seen the painting in a Durham gallery and been struck by it immediately. “Obviously, the scale is amazing, but it was also the use of color, this unbelievable depth in the eyes. Actually, Elizabeth Cotten’s eyes remind me of my mother’s eyes,” says Joe, who put thought into the painting’s placement. “You can see it from the street, and that’s a powerful thing. I think it’s important to showcase art like that—to showcase an old Black woman who is a celebrated artist who probably didn’t get her due in her time.” Donohue used the work as a springboard for her selections, playing off the green on the canvas with a dining table from Old Biscayne Designs. “It was such a statement piece; I only wanted to highlight it with simple sculptural pieces that balanced the colors within the space,” she says.
Joe himself became a subject of a portrait of sorts: In his downstairs office, where he now works remotely full time as a corporate lawyer, Curtiss created a mural based on one of his tattoos, an inverted design on his left arm that took many hours to complete. “It has a lot of meaning to me. It’s a reflection of my wife and my family and things that really matter. I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to honor it in the space where I’m spending all my time?” Joe explains. “The base is black, and then there are florals that are skin tone, my skin tone, throughout the office. So when I look at the office, I legitimately, literally see me.” It’s become a conversation starter, too. “He loves it when he’s on Zoom because people always ask what’s going on,” Donohue says.
Other personal touches—from Joe’s snazzy sneaker collection to a portrait of a beloved dog who passed a couple of years ago—are showcased throughout the home. “We’ve tried to be thoughtful in incorporating our culture and travels and things that matter to us,” Joe says. But he and Donna were also excited to work with someone who’d help them try new things and make bold choices. “I’m very lucky to have clients who like to test boundaries,” Donohue says. “I want to give you something that is so unexpectedly you.” The result is a space that feels totally comfortable but never boring. “It’s my wife’s favorite house that we’ve ever owned. And we move a lot—we’ve probably had seven homes in six states over the past 10 years, totally different types of houses in different neighborhoods,” Joe observes. “It’s just a place we really love.”
Downstairs, where there’s less natural light, Donohue leaned into the moody vibe to create a cozy lounge where the couple could watch movies and showcase their impressive whiskey collection. “This space feels like an updated, modern version of Mad Men,” says Donohue, who used a textured wallcovering in a rich eggplant to remove all traces of the room’s previous use as a kid’s play area (one where giant decals of athletes and superheroes had left their mark on the walls). Leather armchairs and a custom-built credenza that Curtiss painted with an animal print complete the effect.
Ana Donohue Interiors
First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Winter 2024 issue, with the headline “Personal Space.”