The first thing a pair of homeowners did after buying their house in the North Shore suburbs was to have it torn down to the studs. The plan was to rebuild, modernize and add to the existing footprint in order to create a custom home suited for both their lifestyle and young family. “The owners wanted a home where they could plant roots and raise their three children, as well as entertain with family and friends,” says designer Martin Horner, whom the homeowners brought on board after admiring his firm’s work in a friend’s home. “They envisioned something sophisticated and timeless that also reflected their relaxed nature, a lean toward a traditional aesthetic without being too stuffy.”
Horner—along with principal Shea Soucie—had a hand in almost every inch of the house, including the layout, lighting plan and interior architecture, as well as all material and furniture selections, collaborating with general contractor Robert Milke, who worked on the demolition and rebuild. “It was a huge job,” says Milke. “We gutted the entire house, blew out the foundation wall in the back and excavated the lower level.” The team also expanded the existing garage, added a new bedroom suite for the daughter and extended the basement. “Despite the abundant square footage, each room was mindfully scaled to create a sense of intimacy,” Horner says.
To honor the homeowners’ traditional leanings, the floor plan is based upon a classic design: A center hall leads to public spaces on the main floor, family bedrooms are upstairs, and entertainment spaces reside on the lower level. At the owners’ request, extensive trim, millwork and coffered ceilings were added throughout, with some painted a crisp white to balance the oak flooring that was stained a warm walnut. The custom millwork “adds texture and interest while also helping to break up large expanses of wall,” says Horner. “These details also bring instant character to a new-construction home.”
For the color palette, Horner chose a sea of blues (his clients’ favorite color) and soft neutrals punctuated by polished-nickel accents. Layers of texture and a thoughtful mix of traditional, modern and found pieces give the newly furnished rooms the appearance of being collected over time. With its two-story white-painted paneled walls, glossy black staircase railing and splashes of blue, the foyer sets the polished yet informal tone found throughout the home. A sofa covered in a cut-pile diamond-patterned fabric, facing an antique Louis Philippe chest, reflects the owners’ fondness for an aged patina paired with present-day elements.
The blue hues and laid-back vibe continue in the family room, where a wall of windows allows natural light to pour across a generous seating area anchored by two sofas with an outer shell upholstered in blue mohair; a custom walnut coffee table sits in the center. Fanback wing chairs covered in an Opuzen Design textile flank a double-sided fireplace accented with Ann Sacks mosaic tiles, while ottomans featuring fabric made from an antique Japanese kimono offer additional seating. Horner visually connected the adjacent conservatory through the continued color palette and identical window treatments of soft sheer panels with woven Roman shades. “I like window treatments to be simple and clean,” he says. “I think they should be a backdrop, not a statement.”
Rich walnut envelops the study, offering a cozy contrasting counterpoint to the lighter spaces. In addition, Horner incorporated a feast of textures and finishes for added warmth. Blue wool-satin curtains look striking against the horsehair wallpaper featuring metallic flecks, while a leather Chesterfield sofa gets a contemporary edge when paired with a navy lacquered desk; both are perched upon a hand-stitched, hair-on-hide rug. In the dining room, the designer took a break from the blue hues, opting instead for notes of citrus green and soft gray along with 10 coats of champagne-colored metallic paint. “Getting the paint color just right was a challenge but well worth it,” Horner says. Champagne is befitting in this glamorous space, where silk curtain panels and a chandelier resembling bubbles mingle with elegant klismos-style armchairs covered in a combination of patterned silk with wool and velvet.
Another color detour was taken upstairs in the daughter’s bedroom, where turquoise and yellow dress the expansive space. “It’s the size of a New York apartment,” the designer quips. Indeed, the substantial three-room suite boasts a bedroom, study area and entertainment space sporting mod swivel chairs, a plush wool carpet and an Italian chandelier.
While the upper levels are where the family does most of their living, the lower level is all about having fun. The underground basement, which boasts 11-foot-high ceilings, features a cushy television area, a fully stocked bar, video gaming room, dance studio, gym, indoor basketball court and a cozy niche containing a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game, yet Horner approached this level with the same attention given to the rest of the house. For example, an art installation of Tibetan temple flower reproductions hangs near the sectional, and a mirror-tiled backsplash was installed behind the bar. “The quality is the same in this space as throughout the rest of the home, and there’s just as much detail,” says Horner, who believes that the finished house now suits his clients to a tee. “It’s the perfect blend of hip and modern, while still classical at heart.”