Abby's Fabled South End Townhouse

House Tour

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Location: South End; Boston, Massachusetts
Size: 1,975 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year

Abby Ruettgers has seen a lot of change in recent months. A year ago, she was simultaneously renovating her new home and creating a new business. But if you think that's tough, just try wrangling her Bernese Mountain dogs, Cooper and Keegan.

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Abby's store Farm & Fable, specializing in vintage cookbooks and cookwares, opened in November a mere 46 steps from her front door. One might expect a more maximalist style from someone who owns a shop full of vintage, but Abby's home is purposely low on knickknacks. With 200 pounds of pups running around, anything precious runs the risk of getting knocked out by a rogue tail wag. Instead, her style shines through in bold fabrics and artwork, mixed with new and antique furniture pieces.

Unsurprisingly, Abby spends most of her time in the spacious garden-level kitchen, where a fraction of her ever-growing cookbook collection is on display. Abby loves to entertain, and the bright basement space has already seen its share of parties. In warmer months, guests can easily spill out onto the enclosed patio. Cooper and Keegan are rarely far behind.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Is dog-friendly a style or just a way of life?

Inspiration: Dorothy Draper’s book Entertaining is Fun, the film Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russel, and my mother’s incredible eye for fabric.

Favorite Element: My favorite element changes with the seasons. In the warmer months I love to sit on the roof deck with the dogs and a glass of wine. Since there is a park right across the street, once the leaves are on the trees it feels very private, a little like a Swiss Family Robinson tree house. In the colder months (which in Boston can be most of them) it would have to be the game table in the living room. I love doing puzzles (particularly vintage Gourmet magazine covers) and I wanted a dedicated spot for that. Now, if the dogs would just stop eating the puzzle pieces!

Biggest Challenge: The layout of the house is a bit challenging. The house has great square footage, but it is spread out over four floors. That means most of the rooms are on the smaller side and the staircase is very narrow. All of the furniture for the second and third floors had to be craned through the windows. I think it was karmic payback for all the times I sat on my old front stoop with a glass of wine and watched people crane sofas over five story brownstones.

What Friends Say: I think when people come to my house for the first time they expect it to be filled to the brim with antiques because of the type of shop I own. Everyone seems surprised to find that it’s a bit on the sparse side in terms of knick-knacks, etc. I spend my days in a space that is filled with so many things that are visually stimulating that I like to come home to something that is calmer and less cluttered. That’s particularly true for a space like my master bedroom. I’m a chronic insomniac, so I have dark walls with nothing on them and no television or alarm clock. I think other people can find it a bit severe.

Biggest Embarrassment: No matter how hard I try to keep Cooper and Keegan’s shedding under control, invariably a giant doggy dust bunny will come rolling out from under some piece of furniture when I have guests over. It’s also why I have yet to reupholster the hideous chair in the master bedroom. Cooper uses it as a dog bed and, while I have found the perfect fabric for it, I can’t bring myself to spend all that money on something that will likely just get ruined again.

Also, I don’t like the tile in the guest bathroom. I must have been in some sort of renovation fugue state because I truly don’t remember picking it out. It is way too busy for the space. Part of me still thinks that my contractor installed the wrong tile and just managed to convince me I was crazy. I was renovating the shop and the house at the same time so I was, in fact, slightly crazy.

Proudest DIY: To be totally honest, I’m not really a DIY kind of girl in the traditional sense. I always appreciate it when I see people doing IKEA hacks or making their own curtains, but it just isn’t something I want to spend my free time doing. I’d much rather be in my kitchen cooking. That being said, this is the third home I’ve owned, and over the years I’ve had to become fairly handy. Leaky faucets, running toilets, weathered decking, etc. are all things that come with owning a home, and you should know how to fix them yourself.

Biggest Indulgence: I think fabric can really make a room so I spent a big chunk of the total budget on fabric, particularly in the living room.

Best Advice: Admit when you’ve made a mistake. The two chairs in the living room were originally orange. I bought them for the last house I had. I loved the shape, but they didn’t have the color I really wanted. Instead of spending the money upfront on a custom fabric in a color I loved, I bought them in orange and then spent two years resenting them. I actually spent emotional energy resenting a piece of furniture. I’m sure a therapist would have a lot to say about that.

Dream Sources: DeGournay. I would wallpaper my entire house in Art Deco Monkeys if I could afford it.

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Resources of Note:


PAINT & COLORS

  • Master Bedroom Walls: Benjamin Moore Mink
  • All Other Walls: Benjamin Moore Dove Wing
  • All Trim: Benjamin Moore White Dove

  • ENTRY

  • Artwork – Nama Rococo French Dot Wallpaper Sheets

  • LIVING ROOM

  • Sofa – Room & Board Hutton Sofa in Vance Indigo
  • Game Table – Oomph Southport Game Table in Foothills
  • Cabinet – Noir Blake Bookcase
  • Game Table Chairs – O&G Studio Wayland Arm Chairs in Anchor Blue
  • Upholstered Chairs – Jonathan Adler Parker Side Chair in Custom Fabric
    • Console Table – Room & Board Parsons Console
    • Chandelier – Jonathan Adler Meurice Chandelier in Brass
    • Lamps – West Elm Glass Jug Table Lamp in Green
    • Ottomans – Mitchell Gold Marakesh Ottomans
    • Coffee Table – Vintage from Stuff Vintage
    • Mirror – Vintage from Hudson
    • Sconces – Wisteria Oyster Shell Sconce
    • Drapes – Custom Drapes from Hudson
    • Patterned Pillows – Custom from Hudson in Christopher Farr Carnival
    • Artwork – Joerg Dressler from Gold Gallery
  • KITCHEN

  • Counter stools – Crate & Barrel Delta Aluminum Counter Stool
  • Table – Knoll Saarinen Table in White Laminate
  • Dining Chairs – Vintage Kai Kristiansen Chairs from Reside
  • Paper Mache Pig – Twelve Chairs by Stray Dog Studios
  • Ikat Vase – Twelve Chairs by Jill Rosenwald

  • MASTER BEDROOM

  • Bed – Serena & Lily Alta Bed in Oat Linen
  • Bedside Tables – Vintage from Stuff Vintage
  • Lamps – Currey & Co Hazel Table Lamp
  • Dresser - Mitchell Gold Hughes 8 Drawer Chest
  • Chair – Hand me down
  • Linens – Serena & Lily Border Frame Duvet and Shams in Chocolate

  • GUEST BEDROOM

  • Bed – Crate & Barrel
  • Linens – Serena & Lily Bergen Duvet and Shams
  • Lamps – Pottery Barn Stacked Crystal Table Lamps
  • Chair – O&G Studio Wayland Arm Chairs in Anchor Blue
  • Bedside Tables – Can’t remember!

  • OFFICE

  • Rug – Overstock.com
  • Desk – Crate & Barrel Spotlight Desk in White
  • Desk Chair – Crate & Barrel
  • Bookcase – West Elm Parsons Tower in White
  • Chair – Crate & Barrel

  • PATIO

    • Bistro Table and Chairs – Charleston Gardens Gelati Bistro Set in Citron

    ROOF DECK

    • Sofa, Chairs, Coffee Table – Crate & Barrel
    • Side Table – Overstock.com
    • Poufs – Overstock.com
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    Thanks, Abby!

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    (Image credits: Tara Bellucci)