Metropolitan Living in New England Home


Text by Louis Postel | New England Home | Jan/Feb 2016 |

Photography by Greg Premru


From Nothing to Something Else


But I have nothing,” protested the newly married woman. Her designer, Kristen Rivoli, had emphasized how important it was to incorporate furnishings the young couple felt an emotional attachment to. Her client’s new 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom condo on Battery Wharf overlooking Boston Harbor would be that much more unique and comfortable.

But nothing meant nothing. How could this be?

"Deep Water" and a view of Boston Harbor from the entry.
“Deep Water” and a view of Boston Harbor from the entry.

Ironically, the qualities that make young urban professionals launch their careers successfully—the ability to travel light, to relocate again and again—are the very ones that work against them when creating a nest for the first time it’s time to settle down and start a family.

So how to begin? Through the power of art.

Through their broker, they had found Theresa Brown of Dreamscapes to create their window treatments. Brown advised them that she usually came in after things were further along and suggested they contact Rivoli, which they eventually did, after putting the nest-building project on hold for months in response to demands at work.

Designer Kristen Rivoli took many of her cues from an oil painting.
Designer Kristen Rivoli took many of her cues from an oil painting.

Once onboard, Rivoli brought them to Jules Place, a gallery in Boston’s SoWa district, owned by art consultant Julie Mussafer. There, it was a matter of love at first sight: an oil painting by Kathy Soles called Deep Water inspired by a sabbatical the artist took from Emmanuel College in Boston to Paros in Greece. A strip of sunlight illuminates the jewel tones of Soles’s take on what lies beneath the surface of the Mediterranean. Rivoli gave the painting pride of place in the living room, then built the home’s palette around it.

“My clients loved the city and were looking for an urban feel. I created a neutral palette of grays, greens, and creams with pops of color,” the designer say.

One thing she didn’t do was overstate the blues in Deep Water. “More blue would have watered down the painting,” she explains. “Instead, I picked up on the purples and golds for the cushions, and did the walls and drapes in cream so they wouldn’t distract from the water view outside.” The one blue exception was the custom-made, deep-blue, high-gloss, lacquered console Rivoli set in the entry under a white, diamond-patterned mirror with raised edges.  It took a designer with a good eye to mount it on a dark brown wallpaper decorated with silver circles that had come with condo. 

KRiD_BatteryWharf-03A pair of Donghia lamps with bases of etched Murano glass crowned by large shades delineating dining and living areas  are suggestive of columns in Renaissance interior court.  Additional light comes from tiny recessed spots embroidering the ceiling edges, which says Rivoli is a nice departure from the pock marks left by larger fixtures.

A striped painting by Michael Hoffman, also found at Jules Place, presides with a good-natured sense of order and authority over the dining table. Its  metallic oval base joins Hoffman’s painting giving off a wide spectrum of colors in high contrast with the opposing grey lacquered walls by decorative painter Lynda Stevens.

One more blue exception — on the wall in the bedroom there’s a masterful Fiji blue strie by decorative painter Lynda Stephens, who also did the opposing grey lacquered walls in the living/dining area. A charcoal colored bed frames the white and cream bedding, the lamb’s wool rug, and a black and white flower photograph by Debby Krim floating overhead. Another rug by Carini Lang — too exquisitely silky and reflective to reproduce here.  

KRiD_BatteryWharf-09“The wife wanted a place where she could sit if her husband was off in the living room watching a game. She didn’t want to have to go to be in bed to be alone,” said Rivoli. “So opposite the bed, I created a seating area with the classic Knoll womb chair by Eero Saarinen. I also had some leftover Suzani pillow fabric from Donghia, which I framed in triplicate as artwork for the space.”

The guest bedroom soon evolved into a baby’s room, as the couple welcomed a baby boy. “Though I designed it not so babyish that he couldn’t grow up in it,” said Rivoli. Fabric from Boston’s Mally Skok depicting the Botswana trees of her home country set the African motif repeated by the wall decals. “Kids often play on the floor,” added Rivoli, “so I custom-designed a hand-knotted wool rug that brings in all the colors of the room and with strong graphic lines so the baby boy could travel on it like a road.”

For Rivoli the power of art leads in many directions.

KRiD_BatteryWharf-11As for her clients, she not only helped them begin married life with beautiful art and beautiful home, but also encouraged them to see the beautiful world and to bring back the things they saw to make their furnishings even more their own. This they proceeded to do, as evidenced by the Thai copper and jade lidded vessel on the coffee table in the living room paired with a jolly silver teapot on the side table. Clearly, if the wife had nothing before, she has nothing no more. In fact, said Rivoli, the couple had to put their condo on the market recently, and are now seeking a larger space.  Baby boy is about to encounter a baby sister.