by Erin T. Gates
| May 17, 2010
As collaborative partners in the brand-new design firm Orange Street Design Studio, old design-school friends Laura Watson and Brooke Richard took on the makeover of a family’s Beacon Hill brownstone with one very important rule of thumb: reduce the décor to only those items the inhabitants truly love, and then build consciously from there. It’s a lesson that could and should be applied to anybody’s home — from a studio rental to a suburban mansion. “Eliminate what isn’t special, and then add back in pieces that feel right and authentic,” advises Watson, who did just that in this serene and natural-feeling space.
After consulting with the family as to what should stay and what should leave or be repurposed, Watson and Richard layered in new lighting and art, custom window treatments, and custom furniture, which is something the design duo suggests everyone consider. “Not only will you be getting exactly what you want, but you’ll be supporting local craftsmen,” Watson says. Surprisingly, pricing on custom items can often be in line with store-bought furniture, but the personalized result can be passed down to other generations. “We love how the custom furniture pieces came out,” says Watson. “They fit into the space seamlessly, and we can’t imagine the design without them.”
Having carefully considered the floor plan and layouts, Watson and Richard performed a gut renovation on the master bathroom, dramatically increasing the size of the existing small window to allow in the maximum amount of natural light and drastically improve the view to the garden down below. As in the more public spaces, beautiful natural wood and sleek modern finishes were used to craft a space that is both luxurious and understated. The dining room echoes this feeling with an antique cabinet juxtaposed against a shiny chrome light fixture, abstract art, and a modern row of small glass lights that dance down the table. With their wine glass bases, the lights ever so subtly hint at the homeowner’s occupation as a sommelier. This was no coincidence, but rather evidence of the designers’ effort to make the space as personal as possible. Continuing on this theme, the designers took old family photos and reworked them in Photoshop, layering washes of color over them to create modern artwork from family history. Such details make even the most highly stylized residence feel like a real home.
The living room was a place for Watson and Richard to showcase one of their favorite parts of the project: custom-made timber stools that were crafted from a huge tree trunk they had delivered to their furniture maker. Pairing them with the high-design BBDW floor lamp, overscale modern art, and simply designed upholstered pieces, they created a room that is minimalist yet warm — a tough balance to accomplish. For these longtime friends, who gained experience working for bigger Boston design firms with the underlying promise that they would someday go out on their own together, finding that cohesive tranquility seems effortless — and to us, their rocketing stardom in the design world seems imminent.