Junior League show house brings designers together
The Potter Mansion, a Newton landmark built in 1862 at 71 Walnut Park, is a Victorian/ Second Empire-style home with a lot going on under its Mansard roof.
The home’s current owners, the Sisters of St. Joseph, offered the historic home to the Junior League of Boston for use as a show house. If you’ve never been to one, a show house introduces potential clients to designers, makes furnishings available for purchase and serves as a source of home decorating ideas for visitors.
The Potter house underwent a total transformation, with 36 gorgeous spaces renovated by local design talents. It is now open to the public for design inspiration.
Dianne Ramponi and Susan Welch designed the entry hall and grand foyer to show off the home’s architecture and endow it with contemporary shimmer. Furnished in Victorian style with a round mahogany table at the center, the foyer is illuminated by a glorious Maria Theresa chandelier, so large it almost didn’t make it through the front door.
Even the grasscloth wall covering has a subtle shine. A cowhide rug grounds the space, and wool drapes with hand-braided tiebacks separate it from adjoining rooms.
Walk straight through a hallway to the conservatory, designed by the award-winning Gerald Pomeroy as a room filled with music and natural vistas. Pomeroy was inspired by the light streaming through the windows and the asymmetrical architecture of the space. He chose furniture from Dessin Fournir to complement the room’s lines and used texture for extra interest.
A Steinway baby grand curves into the room from the left. Palest gray walls contrast with the dark stain on the paneled ceiling. Pomeroy cleverly hung curtains in turning leaf colors draw the eye around and frame the view of the property’s mature trees.
Luminous stained glass windows tie the room to the adjacent gentleman’s library, with its neoclassical wallpaper and inlaid marble mantel. The Theo and Isabella Design Group took advantage of the room’s great angles, creating numerous seating nooks where readers could make themselves comfortable.
The mother-daughter team of Paula and Kate McCusker converted the home’s former chapel into a formal yet relaxed living room, decorated in blue and cream. Removing the old altar to expose a bay window, the pair brought in enough light to let guests focus on the art, including a graphic black and white work by Picasso.
Some of the most creative rooms in the home are the narrowest. Marilyn MacLeod’s flower room, with its trowled and crackled tea-stained plaster and acanthus motif, has one wall devoted to a Monet-inspired waterlily mural. Nearby, Jeanne Finnerty turned an old coat room into a Roman bath, using its original hooks and new wallpaper pilasters. Gorgon heads carved from floral foam watch over everything from their stations above hand-built pediments.
All the bedrooms are wonderful. The garden guest bedroom has sloping walls from the Mansard roof above it. Designer Hillary Bovey used muralist Susan Harter’s landscape wallpaper to bring a bit of the outdoors into a romantic space. Pale blue silk and linen curtains give the room additional airiness. The carpet seems magical – its greens, grays and fuchsias look different when viewed from different angles.
The master bedroom gave Kristen Rivoli a chance to create a Moroccan honeymoon at home, with a curtained and canopied bed built into a bay window. Standouts in the room include bedside lamps in vivid turquoise and an exotic daybed sporting a bright pillow. The wallpaper has faux rivets, echoed by the metallic sheen of the ceiling.
Houses need rooms for children and this one is no exception. South African designer Mally Skok designed a fun young woman’s bedroom with colorful Massachusetts-made fabrics and wallpaper from her own line. Skok used a pillow-strewn bed, modern dresser found on eBay and an acrylic table to furnish the room. A beaded mirror from South Africa brightens a corner.
Everyone loves a baby room and Kate Maloney Albiani’s nursery is adorable. Tiny painted fairies alight on striped lavender walls. Winning details in the room include double glass pulls on the built-ins; a poem made from old-fashioned reading cards and a closet filled with teeny clothes.
A house like this might need a room for an au pair. The cobalt blue painted mini-apartment is furnished with lovely pre-owned furniture from Diana Frucci’s Furniture Consignment Gallery. Dogwood blossoms on the curtains and pops of lime green around the room add a touch of spring.
All of the home’s four bathrooms are amazing redos. They share an overriding theme: work with what you have to create something new. Newton-based designer Kris Shaffer did a brilliant makeover on a miniature guest bath. Keeping the original subway tile, she added large-scale flocked wallpaper and curved accents. The finishing touches included a Bolon floor and a granite counter with a leather-like finish.
In the show house, visitors flock to the kitchen for imaginative ideas. Sticks & Stones’ kitchen and pantry is refreshing in parrot green and blue. When a cabinet door opens, a light goes on inside it. New trends in this kitchen include refrigerator drawers and, of course, a wine chiller, stocked for now with bottles of Perrier.
One of the small jewels of the house, Elizabeth Benedict’s charming green room is located off the kitchen. It provides a place for a 21st century lady of the house to relax. A wall-mounted framed fabric panel in a lilac print is actually a full-sized headboard, proving that you can repurpose a nice piece for almost any room.
There are 23 other spaces to admire at this year’s Junior League show house. It is open to the public until Nov. 18. Proceeds from ticket sales go to support the Junior League’s programs promoting the well-being of women and girls. For information, visit their website at www.jlboston.org.
Cindy Bailen is an architectural color consultant at Oranges&lemons Colors (www.orangesandlemonscolors.com)