Photographs by Francesco Lagnese
Written by Candace Ord Manroe
Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick
It’s the best of birthday presents. Just in time for its big 200th, the Federal home built in 1812 on a marshy point on Massachusetts’ Duxbury Bay underwent a redesign that shaved decades off its appearance and added useful livability. This face-lift, executed by Boston interior designer Gerald Pomeroy, did not compromise a single inch of the neoclassical clapboard house’s historical integrity. Refreshed and energized, it’s still age-appropriate—just what longtime owner Frank Wineski and his new bride, Lynn Dale (they married in February 2011), envisioned.
“We wanted the house to be lighthearted—not safe but not disco-ball-in-the-dining-room,” laughs Lynn. Proceeding with sensitivity was in order, and not only because of the house’s age. Frank and his late wife bought the house in 1976 and raised their two now-grown daughters there. “I had no problem moving into Frank’s house. I know how much family history took place here, and I wanted to be respectful of that. Before she passed away, his wife was a good friend of mine,” explains Lynn.
Instead of living full-time in the house, as Frank previously did, the couple call Boston’s Beacon Hill their permanent residence. “But Duxbury is definitely not a summer home. It’s a second home and a family base. We move here in April, spend weekends and all the holidays here, and stay far past the end of summer,” says Lynn, principal of Lynn Dale Events. “There is plenty of room for Frank’s and my children, his grandchildren, and for friends. We love to entertain. It’s all parties, all the time.”
Pomeroy got it. “The design doesn’t take itself too seriously,” he says, noting the high-octane pumpkin walls in the dining room, as well as the living room’s insouciant Billy Baldwinesque avocado linen slipper chairs and informal ikat draperies. “I walked a tightrope between balancing the age of the house—choosing only things I felt were appropriate for its vintage—and adding unexpected pattern and color,” notes the designer.
The ikat curtain fabric, for example, “hits just the right note. It’s stylish, fresh, and bold—but classic,” he observes. Its lavender, apricot, beige, and daffodil palette also spans enough of the spectrum to integrate Frank’s fine collection of Hudson River School oil paintings. “What wonderful inspiration,” Pomeroy says of the collection. “These 19th-century paintings share a sensibility with the 19th-century architec-ture. As a passionate collector, Frank was adamant about making his art the focal point.”
By swapping a smaller painting above the mantel for one with heftier scale, then sandwiching it between English hurricane lamps, Pomeroy dramatized the living room fireplace. Then he streamlined the wall to increase attention to the art by ripping out distracting built-ins that flanked the fireplace. “But houses of this age inherently have a shortage of storage, so we added a wonderful breakfront to meet that need. It also was a great opportunity to introduce some strength and architectural impact. The Gothic nature of the breakfront’s fretwork was also a jumping-off point we referenced elsewhere, such as on some of the fabrics.”
The breakfront’s shimmery gold-leaf glass doors inject a lightness that plays into one of Pomeroy’s favorite design devices. “That juggling of light and dark is something I try to do in all my work. It creates a more unexpected space.” Another light note is struck with a ribbed-barrel side table finished in gold leaf. “It’s a good balance to the room’s classic elements,” the designer observes.
He updated the window’s conversation area by reinventing an old tuxedo sofa with a single long cushion “reinforcing that modern sensibility.” A long, lean ebony custom coffee table with an almost palpable Zen aura underscores the sofa’s newfound sleekness. “Now a clean line flows all around the spaces,” he says.
Pomeroy knew when to grease the wheel instead of struggling to reinvent it. A pair of fauteuils already in Frank’s family look fresh with a new dark finish and light-hearted upholstery. Traditional side tables welcome the 21st century in the same dark, modern finish. Even Lynn’s curvaceous Asian planters are reinvented as stools covered in apricot moiré.
“We cut down the legs and finished them with a beige glaze that shows the marmalade-colored crackle coming through,” Pomeroy explains. “Now they provide additional seating while echoing the room’s other Asian elements.”
As livable as the living room is, the master bedroom is “ethereal,” says Lynn. “Waking up, we can watch the sky change colors and change the color of the room.”
Even so, her favorite space—and really the heart of the home—is the dining room, the hub of all those family holiday dinners and parties with friends. “It’s a show-stopper,” states Pomeroy. “Lynn wanted it to sparkle, so we took a long time to find a chandelier with the right scale and tone. This one is sophisticated and sparkly, but not too serious.”
Lynn’s favorite furnishing, a tall 18th-century Asian chest, is in the dining room. “This piece appeals to the romantic in me. I can imagine a ship’s captain spotting it on a voyage and saying, ‘I’m taking that home for the missus!’”
If the design philosophy wielded throughout the house had to be distilled into one reductive example, look no further than the dining room’s pumpkin walls. “I think they’re a kind of bold statement you don’t really expect in a house this age,” says Lynn. “For me, the color is reflective of the sun when it goes down over the marsh.”
Which is to say, even this bold color is ultimately appropriate, like the overall design—a taut face-lift, neither pinched nor plastic, that avoids appearing disingenuous. Instead, it’s a genuine celebration of a fresh start—and a happy 200th birthday.
Interior designer: Gerald Pomeroy, Gerald Pomeroy Design Group, 21 Milford St., Suite 2, Boston, MA 02118; 617/227-6693, geraldpomeroydesigngroup.com.