Contemporary art and bold color invigorate this New England home.

By Grace Rigdon and Stacy Kunstel
May 06, 2020
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Visions of 19th-century charm danced in Susan and Michael Caraviello's dreams. The soon-to-be empty nesters wanted a home that embodied the appeal of New England's winding cobblestone streets and gabled abodes. The headaches and heartaches of renovating an old home, however, they could live without.

So Susan and Michael, who owns custom building firm Verdant Properties, decided to make history by constructing a home with classic 19th-century Greek Revival looks and 21st-century amenities.

Credit: John Bessler

"The greatest compliment is when people ask when we renovated our historic home," Susan says. "That's how much we cared about weaving in the tiniest details to re-create our piece of history, and then we tell them it was built from scratch."

Credit: John Bessler

Outside, the Wellesley, Massachusetts, home offers august columns, mullioned windows, crisp shutters, and a gracious porch furnished with antique wicker pieces that celebrate traditional style and transport Susan back to her sunny Southern childhood. Vibrant pillows on the furniture entice the homeowners to spend time lounging in the summer sun.

Credit: John Bessler

Inside, paneled walls and crown molding continue the home's classic bones. But rooms (and the Caraviellos) are far from stuck in the past. With designer Liz Caan, they layered in jewellike color, mid-century touches, and a wealth of contemporary art to put a modern spin on their traditional home. In the entry, Caan introduced the vivid blue that runs through the home on an upholstered Oly Studio bench.

"I was able to take the family's menagerie of contemporary artwork and use those pieces as the foundation in each room," Caan says. "Michael and Susan have gifted each other artwork from their brother-in-law's gallery for the past 23 years, and they have it to show in almost every room."

Credit: John Bessler

That includes the living room, a space the Caraviellos wanted to serve as both a formal gathering space and a home office. "My goal was to create the look of a Parisian parlor," Caan says. Deep blue walls, painted in Dutch-inspired "Hague Blue" from Farrow & Ball, serve as a canvas for art, sophisticated furniture, and Susan's elegant baby grand piano. Attention to detail shines in touches like decorative tape trim on sumptuous Roman shades. An acrylic writing desk keeps the work nook in the living room unobtrusive. Panels beside the desk infuse stately architectural detail and smartly cloak file drawers.

Credit: John Bessler

Like Susan's office area, the formal dining room layers mid-century elements on top of a traditional envelope. "I wanted to play with modernizing the space while sticking to its conservative roots," Caan says. A clean-lined Parsons-style dining table juxtaposes pleated draperies and chinoiserie chairs while an effervescent glass bubble chandelier from Apparatus Studio speaks to mid-century form and modern-day energy. Walls are covered in a textural sisal from Cowtan & Tout.

Credit: John Bessler

The adjacent cooking space continues the thoughtful amalgam. "Susan wanted a very white and traditional-looking kitchen yet chose a stunning black soapstone for the waterfall island that correlates to sculptures and artwork around her home," Caan says. Lantern-style fixtures from Urban Electric create visual contrast and collected pieces add to the feel of age and character, while just-cut flowers keep the mood fresh.

Credit: John Bessler

A white subway-tile backsplash and beaded-board ceiling evoke a homey New England atmosphere while touches of brass infuse subtle glimmer. A custom eat-in banquette keeps things cozy as it also celebrates a mid-century aesthetic. "We used our existing Saarinen table and embedded it into the nook, creating an intimate eating area," Susan says. Jet black indoor-outdoor fabric on the bench and stools shrugs off messes and repeats the black on window sashes.

Credit: John Bessler

Continuing the kitchen's light painted walls, the family room uses throw pillows and paintings to create pops of energizing color. A custom-made velvet ottoman ties to the love of blue seen throughout the home. Cushioned furniture pieces, an expansive fireplace, and sweet window seats make the room even more inviting.

Credit: John Bessler

In the powder room, Cole & Son's "Nuvolette" wallpaper sets a dreamy backdrop for glimmering brass on lighting and the slim vanity.

Left: Credit: John Bessler
Right: Credit: John Bessler

Throughout the home, garden views entice the Caraviellos outdoors, where they love to host gatherings of family and friends. Lush foliage and picturesque pergolas shade backyard barbecues and impromptu wine tastings. No matter the season, the Caraviellos know how to throw a party.

"Our goal was to create a welcoming place that our two children could come home to," Susan says. "We are delighted with how it turned out—I can’t imagine living anywhere else."

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