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Elegant, European-Inspired Home

Boston interior designer (and 2015 New Trad!) Kristin Paton infuses classic, European-inspired interiors with inventive chic

Written by Mara Boo

Whenever interior designer Kristin Paton yearns for a trip to Europe, she need only walk through the rooms of her 1892 Boston home. Evidence of the 11 years she lived in London with her husband and their then-tiny trio of children is everywhere—from her richly paneled entrance hall inspired by the great houses of Europe to her collections gathered on Portobello Road and now displayed on bookshelves and tabletops. 

In fact, though 3,269 miles away, Paton’s home—just around the corner from the house where George Washington once headquartered—could be mistaken for a Victorian-era London townhouse. Except, of course, for its modern, sexy glamour and its easy acceptance of three now-teenage kids and two shaggy sheepdogs. 

A charcoal stair runner and espresso-hued floors announce Paton’s penchant for dark colors. A collection of European glass tops an antique console table.

“We wanted an elegant house that would remind us of Europe,” Paton says, “not a plastic-covered house that was all about the kids. We had to pick and choose what would be practical for them, while keeping things quietly sophisticated for us.”

More salon-style library than formal gathering space, the living room evinces designer  and homeowner Kristin Paton’s trademark mélange of fine and found.

European antiques provide the room’s elegance; a vintage orange lampshade from Paris injects a little verve.

And so, to her clubby family room with its RH sofa—which welcomes movie night and popcorn—she added cashmere draperies trimmed in leather. Her family gathers around an expandable Art Deco kitchen table where they sit on a sponge-friendly leather banquette—which comes in handy when it’s Paton’s turn to host the kids’ soccer teams. Even the mudroom bears her elegant stamp—it’s secreted behind heavily paneled doors that conceal its existence. 

A hearth-style range wall is a focal point of the kitchen, part of a new addition to the house. “Some of our favorite art is here, since this is where we spend most of our time,” Paton says. “It helps make the room feel more like a room for living rather than just a kitchen.” Calacatta marble and coffered ceilings are elegant appointments.

A bistro-style dining nook was specifically designed to recall fond memories of weekends spent in Paris.

Paton’s confidence in mixing periods, styles, genres, and provenance is a result of her classical training. A self-professed “artsy kid” who studied architecture in college before switching her focus to interior design, she began her career working at venerable design firms Parish-Hadley and McMillen Inc. “I was trained by real interior designers,” she says. “We worked on authentic period interiors and bought fine antiques. It was the real deal, and I was very fortunate to have been a part of it.”

Silk wallpaper Paton spied years ago in Hong Kong adorns walls in the “sexy, irreverent” dining room. Antique chairs from Europe wear horsehair seats and silk backs; the rosewood dining table is from Dessin Fournir. Antique bell jars are massed as a unique alternative to a chandelier.

Living in Europe intensified the designer’s appreciation for classicism. “I was surrounded by Old World everything,” she says. “Even buildings that had been restored still retained their architectural bones. That helped inform my own style, which I’d describe as classically rooted and slightly glamorous, with a dark, masculine quality to it.”

“Everything here is either from England or France,” Paton says of the celadon green retreat. Silk draperies, velvet upholstery, a grass-cloth wallcovering, and a working fireplace—one of five in the home—underscore its elegant sensibility. 

Paton installed panels and abundant mirrors. Polished and refined, it evokes a luxurious European hotel.

Indeed. From her chocolate brown, silk-swathed dining room to the gray flannel pillows dotting sofas, Paton’s trademark aesthetic is founded upon good architecture layered with meaningful objects, artwork, books, and travel mementos. Still, the designer notes, “There are modern surprises here and there. I’m not an ikat-of-the-moment person, but I do like people to do a bit of a double-take now and then.”

Ideal for entertaining (or for some downtime for Fred, one of the family’s Polish Lowland Sheepdogs), the side porch takes full advantage of its treetop views. Hand-carved teak mushrooms from Spain (available at Kristin Paton Home) add an organic touch. 

 Part of an addition that updated the house, the terrace is crowned with a wisteria-entwined trellis. Plastic Philippe Starck chairs surround a concrete table from CB2.  

Fred and Harry enjoy their majestic perch.

Kristin Paton’s advice for traditional rooms that are anything but stuffy:

  • Mix it up. A blend of antiques from different periods, mismatched wood furnishings, fine antiques, and favorite finds impart personality to any room.
  • Embrace dark paint colors. Paton appreciates the way dark walls “give a level of richness and an elegant evening feel” to rooms.
  • Layer. Start with good bones. Apply wainscot and moldings to your walls. Then add color, fabric, art, and books “so your home doesn’t look like you bought it out of a catalog,” Paton says.

Photography: Eric Roth

Traditional Home