10 Ways Boston Can Teach Us to Live Stylishly

As the largest city in New England, and one of the oldest in the country, Boston is rich of history and full of life. But the infamous Bean Town is more than just a city with great Chowder and renowned sports teams. It is also a hub for great interior design talent.
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As the largest city in New England, and one of the oldest in the country, Boston is rich of history and full of life. But the infamous Bean Town is more than just a city with great Chowder and renowned sports teams. It is also a hub for great interior design talent. We turned to our friend and distinguished interior designer, Christine Tuttle, to share a few tips on how we can live as stylishly as Bostonians.

What influences interior design in Boston? How does the city inspire living spaces?

Boston is traditional, but certainly an international city; students come from all over the country and the world come to attend Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, and all of the other, great institutions. We have a world-class art museum, great restaurants, and we are an hour from both the mountains and the beach. As a result, there are a lot of different influences going on in all areas of design.

I've seen a huge push recently for great casual areas of the home; mainly family and breakfast areas, which are always the heart of the home. I also feel that city living in Boston has lightened up, and that even the most traditional clients are looking for designs that are much more transitional than ever before.

What up and coming trends do you see in Boston interior design, and interior design in general?

Although our climate certainly restricts us, more and more we see true outdoor living spaces incorporated into design plans. Fire pits and outside living room furniture plans with teak or all weather wicker are the norm not the exception.

The other trend that you can't deny is wallpaper! I get requests weekly for grasscloth or interesting wall coverings. I recently toured four private homes with a local architect to look at flooring, yet the overwhelming theme in all were patterned, colorful, or bold wall coverings in the main rooms (Hall, Living, Dining).

What's the best way for a budget-conscious homeowner or renter to spend $100?

I would purchase a large vintage poster or map from Ebay or Etsy, and buy a gallon of paint. Changing the wall color and adding interesting art is completely possible to do on ones own, and makes more of an impact with less of a budget than switching out pillows or accessories, which can end up to, be quite expensive. Additionally, an accent wall in a wallpaper or paint always adds an element of style.

If someone isn't handy or isn't ready to commit to changing wall colors, for instance in a rental, then I say go smaller and more focused on details for a specific space like the dining table. I recommend incorporating woven placemats and adding new cloth napkins will, which will give punch to the dinner table and add a great element of decor. Or you could buy a fantastic serving platter from Simon Pearce in pottery or glass. But lastly, for a fraction of that $100 you can get a wonderful scented candle from Diptique or even a teeny, tiny one for $14.00 in a beautiful glass container from Red Flower. I discovered these recently while at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica; I love candles and the rose scent in that particular candle is romantic and made the hotel feel much more like home!

What's your favorite "mass market" furniture piece or accessory?

I love to use side tables from Crate & Barrel, but the single easiest mass market and wildly inexpensive chair to add into any casual room is from IKEA. The EKTORP JENNYLUND is a traditional slipcovered, small frame chair for $199.00. I order it in white but then I have a slipcover made in a great fabric. It works in small spaces, kids rooms, or a nook in a breakfast area.

What is your favorite luxury or high-end piece to splurge on for your clients?

I feel there are a few things you shouldn't skimp on, and all areas of bedding would be one of them. We spend a lot of time sleeping so why not be comfortable? I order my down pillows and duvets from The Company Store and adore Matouk sheets.

One particular high-end splurge for any client would be something that is both practical and functional (albeit somewhat mundane): kitchen appliances. It's no fun when lesser quality versions break down when you least expect it, so I urge clients to get the best they can afford since you don't want to constantly upgrade your kitchen. Miele dishwashers and Sub Zero refrigerators really are solid state and, in my experience, never break down.

If a homeowner or renter is going to splurge on one thing, what should that be?

If it is a room with lots of natural light, for walls I splurge on a can of Farrow & Ball paint. Their formulas are heavily pigmented and with certain off-whites, greys and blues from their line, you can truly tell the difference.

For homeowners staying in their home for the longer haul, a splurge would be to look at the quality of light in the home and install new recessed lights. Another option would be to embrace smart home technology and have traditional thermostats swapped out to Nest thermostats that can be controlled remotely (I control mine from my iPhone). Lastly, consider replacing doorknobs or cabinet hardware with gorgeous, tactile pieces from lines like Rocky Mountain Hardware.

For renters or homeowners with shorter term stays in their place, I always advise to put the bulk of the budget into items you can take with you to the next location and that will be neutral and timeless to fit anywhere, like a great Belgian linen covered sofa.

What's the biggest mistake people make in their homes?

Color and scale. With regard to color, so many homeowners look for a quick change and end up getting paint colors wrong. It takes more than a tiny chip to determine if a paint color will work in any room. And often scale is overlooked by adding small paintings on huge walls, using hand-me-down furniture that may be too big for spaces, and having light fixtures that don't relate to the scale of the room.

What's the best way to incorporate colors and patterns?

The pedestrian way is to add some throw pillows, and that is fine, but it is often too small a detail to create impact. I love using bold patterned fabric for custom tablecloths; it gives you much more surface area for the design. I also love when rooms have the patterned "trick" in the floor -- be it a stained or inlayed wood design or a fantastic carpet -- with neutral upholstered furniture on top of the flooring. Again, thinking in terms of a bigger surface area is the key.

What's the quickest thing a person can do to improve their living space?

Edit! Edit, declutter, and arrange items to their best advantage.

If you could describe Boston's interior design style in one or two words, how would you describe it?

Heritage, redefined.

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