My Back Bay Project: The Living Room

I'm so excited because today I'm finally able to share not only the after pictures from my best friend's Back Bay condo, but also the before pictures and tell you how we got from one to the other. This is a story about design but also one of friendship and it's a story that I've been waiting over a year to share! The hardest part for me has been figuring out where to start, but just like with any good story, it's best to start at the beginning. Let's take a look at where this project began... This is where this project started. I will say that this isn't a fully accurate "before" because of course, my friend didn't live with paint swatches on the wall, but the rest of the space is pretty accurate. 


About ten years ago, around the time I met my best friend in baby class, my bff Maria and her husband purchased a beautiful apartment in Boston's Back Bay. Before they moved in they completely renovated the condo from top to bottom. They had purchased the home from a friend, and it was the first that Maria and her husband had owned. When they moved into the home they had only one child and six years later they had four. 


As the couple and their children began to grow, my friend started to feel that their home didn't reflect who they were as a family. Like most of us when we were starting out, they furnished their home with a mix of inherited pieces and those that existed in their previous apartments. Neither my friend, or her husband had any real interest in design and the truth is that they also didn't have the time. Maria was busy building their family at the same time her husband was building his career. A few years went by and eventually this home housed four children under the age of six, and everyone agreed that it was no point in investing in furnishings, only for them to get destroyed by young toddlers.

About three years ago, I began to consider turning my love of design into a career and it was my friend who I went to for advice. I felt like I had a strong eye for interior design after renovating my own space, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to work for someone else. We were on a yoga retreat together and somehow the conversation went from me starting a business to me designing my friend's entire apartment. We left that weekend fully committed, and true to our relationship we both followed through, and did so immediately. There wasn't really that much discussion about how this all would work, I just asked her to trust me and she just asked me not let her down. After that handshake agreement (hahahaha who am I kidding, it was probably a five minute cry fest) I was let loose!

I knew the first room I wanted to start with was the living room because that was the one space that everyone in the family used. Because I was such a newbie, I wanted to take this project one room at a time so I could prove myself to Maria, and also allow myself to really focus on each individual space one at a time. We began by choosing paint and settled on Ben Moore Swiss Coffee. It's a creamy white and I knew it would be the perfect hue to brighten up this home. While my friend's family was away for Spring Break the entire home was painted and both she and her husband were so impressed with the difference that the paint made when they returned, I knew I was on the right track. After rearranging their existing furniture and deciding on what pieces we would keep, I then began the task of choosing furnishings for the space. 

The first piece that I chose is that GORGEOUS velvet sofa by Jonathan Adler. I had already decided that I was going to build this entire room around the painting that was initially on the wall in the dining area. It was the couple's first piece of fine art, and not only was it super meaningful, it was also incredibly beautiful. I loved the colors in the painting and pitched the idea of the green sofa. My friend had seen how much of  difference a sofa could make after I recovered ours in navy, so she was game. I moved the painting from the wall in the dining area to over near the sofa so it would become the real star. While choosing the sofa, I saw an insane burl wood console in the store and I knew that it would be stunning with the paining. (The wood actually mimics the "sand" in the bottom!) 

painting by  Robin Luciano

painting by Robin Luciano

Once those two pieces were chosen, it was game on. I decided to paint the existing built-ins in a blue / black so they would pop against the warm colored floors. I added new brass hardware to the built-ins and gave the existing cushions a little makeover with some beautiful Kelly Wearstler fabric and pillows. We had the drapery custom made and I chose the charcoal color because I thought it would make the white walls really pop.  I also felt that they heavy drapery would really anchor the room. So the room didn't look too busy, I brought in more gray with a Parasian inspired rug and the oversized ottoman which was custom made in gray. The one request from my friend's husband was that he be able to keep his much loved Stickley Audi chair that his parents had gifted him, and I happily obliged. 

The one part of this room that had always challenged the couple was an inset behind the sofa that existed because of the internal structure of the building they lived in. In the past, they had put a bookshelf in the inset to try to mask the part of the wall that stuck out. Rather than making it, I decided to highlight it with that beautiful sculptural art piece. It was a small thing, but it really made a huge difference in the space. I finished the area off with a great little side table (again from Jonathan Adler) and a few of the couple's existing accessories. 

Like most modern dwellings, this home doesn't have a separate dining room, so I knew I wanted to incorporate the couple's existing dining table and console in a way that would make it equally as glamorous as the other side of the room. At the time I had been lusting after that Ochre chandelier for my own home, but knew that it would be PERFECT for this space. It's so elegant and so dramatic, it really became the star of the entire room! I wanted the rest of the details to remain simple so I chose marble lamps and an abstract piece of art that would tie in the green sofa. My best friend and her family love to travel, so to make the room feel more personal I created a simple gallery wall that my friend could fill with pictures of her beautiful family. The chairs and rug were both chosen because of their durability but the rug does double duty in that it also divides the dining space from the living. 

hardware  // mirror vintage

hardware // mirror vintage

From day one this project was one that was created from love, and I really think the room reflects that. There was so much thought that went into each piece, which allowed the space to be glamorous and family friendly at the same time. I think it's a great example of how you can live in a small space with children but keep an elegant and "grown up" feel. This is a room that is used often but it's stood the test of time, and I think it's just as beautiful now as it was three years ago.

It has been such a gift for my friend and I to have the project be so well received (it's even made its way to China!!!!!) and I will forever be grateful that she and her husband took a chance on me. Her trust with this project has allowed me to gain the confidence to take on so many more, and it is a true testament to the incredible friendship that we share. Luckily for you all, this room is just the tip of the iceberg and next week I'll be sharing the transformation of her boys' room. Trust me, this is one you have to see to believe! Xx


Images by Sabrina Cole Quinn Photography (@SabrinaColeQuinn on Instagram)