Stepping into the entrance hall of this renovated Colonial Revival is a compelling reminder that first impressions matter. Inside, a wide pathway of polished checkerboard marble strikes a sophisticated note, seeming to proclaim: “You have arrived.” The entry’s previous hardwood floor read too contemporary to designer Lucie Ayres, but the newly installed black-and-white squares “give this house a formal feel and create a standout moment—exactly as it should have,” she states. That glam factor, palpable throughout this 1920-built home with Art Deco origins, is what had initially captivated her clients. “We wanted to strengthen our home’s connection to that era and architecture without making it feel like a Great Gatsby set,” recalls homeowner Alisha Ranen.
She and her husband, Jeff, desired formal yet unfussy interiors that would honor the residence’s heritage while remaining functional enough for their two children aged eight and nine. Tapping Ayres for the project was an easy decision: Having designed the interiors of their prior home, she was already well attuned to their tastes. As Alisha hails from the Bay Area and Jeff is a Massachusetts native, the brief called for a balance between California casual and New England formal—all in the spirit of the Roaring Twenties.
With its vertically oriented massing and three slim dormers, the Ranens’ house quietly stands out among historic Windsor Square’s predominantly low-slung Craftsman-style residences. Architect William Hefner had completed a down-to-the-studs renovation for previous owners just a few years before the couple purchased the property. “Everything was high-quality,” Alisha says of the work that had been completed. As a result, they opted not to alter the kitchen beyond fresh paint, and most elements of the bathrooms remained.
To channel the 122-year-old home’s glitzy birth decade while aligning with her clients’ sensibilities, Ayres conceived the interiors with tailored exuberance in mind. For example, in addition to the entryway’s checkered flooring, the designer chose a subtle gray-and-white wallpaper with an Art Deco-inspired geometric motif, topping it with feather-like ceiling fixtures reminiscent of flappers’ dresses. Such elements nod to the era without crossing the line into kitsch or theme, and establish a strong identity for the foyer while allowing other rooms to have their own distinctive personalities.
And they do. The formal dining room’s original egg-and-dart crown molding and Murano-glass chandelier offered the ideal canvas for a sumptuous scheme—resulting in a space Alisha calls “the Bridgerton room.” There, chinoiserie wallpaper displays an enchanting series of vignettes set against a light blue background, while cyan shantung drapery adds to the room’s jewel box atmosphere. Opposite the dining area is the formal living room, where a playful take on 1920s French and English design showcases a peacock-inspired palette. The room’s French Deco-style faux-shagreen-covered coffee table brings in a whimsical touch—as if its ebonized cabriole legs might come to life and comically tiptoe out of the room, leaving swivel chairs and a curved velvet-covered sofa in imaginary conversation.
In smaller spaces, Ayres encouraged the Ranens to embrace lush patterns, notably in a powder room and library tucked between the family and living rooms. CW Stockwell’s iconic banana-leaf wallpaper adds panache to the bath, while House of Hackney’s historic Honeysuckle wallcovering establishes the library’s contemplative air. And in the family room, which opens to an eat-in kitchen and backyard, “we pulled some of the colors from other key spaces, but toned everything down,” Ayres explains of the sunlit space in the rear, where the home metaphorically kicks off its heels and removes its feather boa. “It was important for the kitchen and family room to feel cozy,” adds the designer. “We didn’t want either to be overwhelmingly formal or too precious to enjoy.”
The skylights upstairs—one of Hefner’s additions—illuminate the stairwell and second-floor hallway. At one end, the serene primary suite’s cathedral ceiling amplifies natural light. Ayres designed a custom upholstered bed frame and settee, turning to local expert workshops for the task. Sun also pours into a smaller room within the suite which serves as a reading and relaxation space for Alisha. It’s a departure from Jeff’s office down the hall, which is painted Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal, a deep aubergine. These contrasting personal spaces are another example of how the designer synthesized different tastes and needs into a cohesive home that honors the past and is well-adapted to the present. And the homeowners couldn’t be more satisfied. “There was so much collaborative communication with Lucie, we loved working with her,” says Jeff. “And we’ve found that good design makes things functional—not to mention fun,” adds Alisha.