Boston House Tour: Kyle’s Jamaica Plain Gem

This is from our Boston finalist, Kyle. Comment away!

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Name: Kyle
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA
Size: 1000 sf
Own/Rent: Own

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I've been a serial room-rearranger since I was old enough to wobble. I'm not talking about a few times a year or even once a month. My home can look radically different from week to week. My dog used to get startled when he noticed that he was dozing on a couch that was moving from one side of the room to the other. Not anymore; the little cleopatra doesn't even wake up...

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My habit got so bad that I started a business, Cloud 9 Organize & Redesign, dedicated to helping other people arrange and design things, hoping it would relieve my compulsion to change things around at home. It doesn’t.

So when I announced to my community that I was in search of a house to tour for my AT Boston adventure, I was practically mandated to reveal my own apartment, which is the third floor unit of a 1907 three-family home in Jamaica Plain.

The idea of revealing my domain made me nervous because the decor is NOT universally appealing. For starters, the colors are super saturated and it's girly as all get-out. Even I think, “maybe it’s time to tone things down”. Yet, after five years of living together, the romance between my home and I only gets more passionate, not less.

If I can endure a lifetime of Boston weather and admittedly that's a gigantic if, then I see a long life for me and my place. I'm only 34 but I already contemplate whether a stair glide would fit in my stairwell. It's surprisingly wide, so I think it would...

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AT SURVEY

Style: Though I study and love modern design and fantasize about being a Modernista, the truth is that I’m what I call a Modifista. I can't afford high-end design pieces so I take mass-produced pieces (with eco-guilt in hand) and I modify them. Just a few examples include my faux sectional, made from West Elm daybeds (I chopped the legs down), an abundance of handmade pillows (thanks Mom!) and Ikea comforters sewn into fitted daybed covers; my kitchen window seat made from Ikea refridgerator top cabinets; and my kitchen island built from stacked Ikea Lack side tables and a piece of maple countertop from the Door Store in Cambridge. I do rely on new stuff to supply some of the nuts and bolts of my eclectic décor, but I’d say about 60% of my household objects (e.g. many of my rugs, chairs, couches, lamps, bed) come from secondhand sources like Craigslist, The Cambridge Antique Market, local thrift shops (Boomerangs in JP is a favorite!), yard sales or hand-me-downs. My small but treasured collection of contemporary art was created by my friend, James Pintar, a talented NYC-based artist.

Inspiration: I'm very intuitively driven when it comes to decor. I absorb what I see online and in print but ultimately choose what brings me delight.

Favorite Element: The natural light. I chase it around the house like a cat.

Challenge: I have an incredibly acute sense of smell, on par with that of a search and rescue dog, due to a wacky chemical sensitivity. It's one of my biggest hindrances in terms of design. Even with eco paints, I can't just paint things when the whim strikes. New upholstered pieces are out of the question because the chemical smells linger for too long. But in the end, it's okay because it forces me to be more eco-minded and more creative (e.g. using fabric on walls instead of paint).

What Friends Say:
When friends walk in the door, it's not with a gentle "How are you?"; it's with a pushy "Let me in so I can see what's different." I feel very grateful for the fact that most people, regardless of their personal style or gender, make a point to tell me that they experience an unusual serenity in my apartment.

Embarrassment: My obsession with little white lights. They’re an egregious environmental violation. And no matter how college-era or holiday season they seem, I just can’t seem to replicate the mood they set with any other lighting. I blame on it on the fact that I was born jaundiced and put under those horrific fluorescent lights for too long! (I've begun the search for less power-hungry LED white-wired lights, if you know of any sources.)

Proudest DIY: My determination, in spite of being on the tiny end of the scale and having a messed up back, to move giant things around, even if it takes me 10 minutes to move something that would take someone else thirty seconds. I highly recommend furniture sliders.

Indulgence: Fabric. I often use it instead of paint, like I did beneath my chair rail in my kitchen or to cover formaldehyde-free plywood from Curtis Newton Lumber to create my L-shaped office desk.

Advice: I tend to buck most decorating rules, encouraging people to think outside of the box. When someone says "But I can't put that there..." , I always ask "Why not?" To my way of thinking you should find the balance between form and function. I think natural light is pivotal to well-being so I encourage people to situate themselves near as much of it as possible. My office, where I spend the bulk of my mornings, used to be on the side of the apartment that doesn’t get any morning light. So I moved it to the kitchen pantry, which is flooded with the light for the first 4 hours of the day. I love working in the cocoon of my pantry office.

Dream Source: Jamaica Plain is a vibrant, artsy Boston neighborhood with a high funky factor. The diversity of architecture is fantastic and it's evident that there are a lot of homes with some pretty cool stuff. My dream source fantasy is this: A JP-wide indoor house tag sale (there is a JP-wide outdoor yard sale in the summer) before which I win some lottery that allows me to get first dibs on all the stuff.

- Kyle

(Thanks, Kyle!)

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.