Past meets present in Jenny Minns' New England Victorian, where modern and bohemian pieces balance the home's historic roots.

By Marni Elyse Katz
June 23, 2020
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Interior designer Jenny Minns loves the "fancy feel" of her coastal Victorian home, with its period moldings, bay windows, and tall ceilings. But a strategic use of modern elements meant it didn't go stuffy. "I wanted to counteract the darkness and heaviness a Victorian can have," she says of the 1890 home in Cohasset, MA, that she shares with husband Brian and their 7-year-old twins, Isabelle and Oliver.

black-and-white staircase in entryway with table and peacock print
Credit: Joyelle West

The starting point was simple: lightening walls and most of the trim with Benjamin Moore's White Dove paint and contrasting it with high-gloss black. The treatment provided a crisp, blank slate and accentuated the woodwork. In the entry, for example, glossy black brought a mahogany banister back to life. "It disappeared before," she says.

The subdued color and grass-cloth finish of the console mellow the high-contrast entry, which also gets touches of whimsy from claw-foot stools and a peacock print.

white living room with natural and blue coastal accents
Credit: Joyelle West

Jenny enlivened her living room with bright white and coastal accents. "I kept the whites from looking sterile by layering in black, blue, and beachy textures," she says. She repeated the formula throughout the house.

wood beaded chandelier hanging above rustic dining table
Credit: Joyelle West

Jenny is drawn to the yin and yang of black and white but softens the combo with warm tones in the beaded chandelier, worn wood dining table, and gilded mirror.

Jenny also played up contrasts with light fixtures, where her taste skews big and bohemian. She hung fixtures fashioned from wood beads, twisted jute, and fringed tassels in the dining room, breakfast nook, and her daughter's bedroom as counterpoints to the formal architecture. "I'm drawn to boho-style lighting because I can go oversize for drama, but the organic materials keep them from feeling fancy," she says. "A crystal chandelier would take the look in a completely different direction."

breakfast nook with built-in banquette and white table
Credit: Joyelle West

Most of the windows are bare for the same reason. "A heavy curtain would push toward the extreme end of Victorian; clean windows modernize it," Jenny says. Bare windows also keep original stained glass on display. They are part of the inventory of what she calls the "razzle-dazzle moment" in every room. In the living room, the golden coffee table gleams against white slipcovered sofas. In the dining room, the bold black-and-white rug is the statement. ("Pattern on the floor doesn't overwhelm the senses," she says.) And then there is the moody portrait of a rabbit dressed in a tuxedo in the kitchen. "My husband smiles every time he sees it," Jenny says. "Art offers that final quirky layer."

Jenny's husband built a banquette in the breakfast nook. Installing period trim salvaged from a demoed wall makes the nook feel like it was always there.

white shaker kitchen cabinets and modern range hood
seagrass stools and white shaker kitchen cabinets
Left: Credit: Joyelle West
Right: Credit: Joyelle West

Beachy touches in the rush seats, a rattan chair, and seagrass stools counter bright white Shaker cabinets and subway tiles. "A kitchen by nature is hard, so I softened it with warm, natural textures," she says.

nautical blue kitchen island and seagrass stools
Credit: Joyelle West

Jenny painted the kitchen island Benjamin Moore's Newburyport Blue. "It references historical New England, but the shade is current." The blue sconce above the sink echoes the island color.

white hanging rattan chair in girls pink bedroom
pink girls room with traditional spindle-spool bed and blush walls
Left: Credit: Joyelle West
Right: Credit: Joyelle West

Bohemian-style pieces, including the tassel-trimmed chandelier, hanging rattan chair, and shaggy rug, set off Isabelle's traditional spindle spool bed in front of the bay window (a quintessential Victorian feature).

dormer home office with blush pink walls and black accents
Credit: Joyelle West

Benjamin Moore's Warm Blush casts a subtle glow in Isabelle's bedroom and the home office. "It isn't sticky-sweet, and I grounded it with black accents in the office," Jenny says. The velvet chair pulls in the blues from the rest of the house.

black four-poster bed with damask wallpaper in master bedroom
Credit: Joyelle West

Damask-inspired wallpaper makes a dramatic accent wall in the master but "doesn't drive you crazy" when it's behind you in bed.

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