Interior designer Thiara Borges is no stranger to historic homes and colorful interiors. The Brazilian-born, New England–raised founder and lead designer of Studio Borges can thank her roots in vibrant landscapes and her appreciation of classic New England design for her unique perspective on restoring historic properties and for bringing bold projects—like one of her latest residential renovations, a Gothic Revival in the Boston suburbs—through her door. Its owners wanted a minimal renovation using pops of color and patterns they love. For Borges, it was a no-brainer.
“When I walked up to this home, the outside radiated an undeniable historic charm,” Borges says. “I immediately felt excited about breathing new life into the interiors in a colorful and unique way.” Built in 1854, the 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom house must’ve had some work done over the years, but Borges says it definitely hadn’t seen a major renovation in a long time—and her clients weren’t rushing for one. They had already been living there for a year, during which they restored some of the original windows and hardware, and the only changes they wanted Borges to make were cosmetic ones: Remove a door here, strip outdated wallpaper there, restore the horsehair plaster where necessary, hang new wallpaper, update the light fixtures, and paint at least part of every single room.
They also wanted Borges to figure out how to decorate it using things they already owned. “One of our main goals is to ensure the final design is a true reflection of our clients and to really tell their story,” Borges says. In this case, a collection of family antiques told it loud and clear. “We were so happy to use some of our clients’ most cherished family heirlooms as inspiration, a way to be sustainable, and also as a way to reallocate cost,” she says. By some, she means a lot. The clients had enough antiques and art to furnish all four rooms on the first floor: the library, family room, dining area, and primary bedroom.
Borges took inventory, then mixed in modern touches. “We played with intentionally pairing modern silhouettes, patterns, and art with [the clients’] existing antique furnishings,” she says. “I love the push and pull of pairing different styles together—it makes spaces infinitely more interesting.”
The end result is “fresh and historically relevant,” she says. “Besides cosmetic updates, the rooms are all pretty true to the original home.”
The majority of the renovation budget went toward built-in bookcases—custom made by Sean Scanlon of Unique Ventures, Borges’s contractor on the project—to hold the family’s extensive library. It’s a gorgeous and authentic example of the so-called bookshelf wealth trend. Wallpaper: Schumacher. Owl print (in entry): Clients’ own.
Borges had an old family rug restored to anchor the space. Chaise: custom, TCS Designs. Artwork (above chaise): Jill Ricci from Jules Place Gallery. Café curtains: custom, in John Derian fabric.
“We love the challenge of creating a space that beckons family members of all ages to a room that was once rarely used,” Borges says. This one is now “a hot spot for the family dog, Ginger; the family’s preteens, who use it for homework in the afternoons; and the parents, who love to unwind and entertain in the space.” New upholstery revived the passed-down settee, wingback chair, and matching footstool. The regulator clock once belonged to the husband’s aunt. Paper pendant: Noguchi Museum.
The gallery wall is a mix of the family’s existing art and mirrors. “We went through their items one by one, coordinated reframing where appropriate, and drew up the gallery configuration,” says Borges. “The only piece commissioned by our office was the textile piece,” made by local artist Lis Sartori. Sofa: Anthropologie. Side table: custom, Holmes Fine Furniture.
Borges had Scanlon “close up an original door from the family room to the primary bedroom that didn’t make sense to keep,” she says. Rug: vintage Gabbeh from Landry & Arcari. Swivel chairs: Four Hands, in Schumacher fabric. Writing desk: clients’ own.
“Anytime a client comes to us and expresses that they love color, we get excited by the opportunity to really come together with interesting and unique pairings that pushes them past a place they thought they might go,” Borges says. “I closed my eyes and just went for it with these citron chairs.” The clients bought the dining table at auction. Rug: custom, Thayer Design Studio. Chandelier: Tracy Glover. Arched windows: from the Brimfield Antiques Flea Market.
The combination of the antique table and original built-in hutch with the colorful chairs and artwork exemplifies the idea meshing old and new. Artwork (next to hutch): Carolyn Evans Art.
“Since we were using a good amount of client pieces, we were able to create some specialty pieces that truly pulled the spaces together,” Borges says of the custom bed and nightstands made by Ian Ingersoll. Roman shades: custom, in Susan Connor fabric. Ceiling light: Hudson Valley Lighting Group.
The neutral Fornasetti wallpaper from Cole & Son adds warmth. Quilt: John Robshaw.
Styled by Sean William Donovan.
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