Dana & JB's Single Family Home + Studio Gem

House Tour

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Name: Dana, JB and son
Location: Milton, Massachusetts
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 3 — owned

Since most of my house tours for Apartment Therapy are condos, I love the opportunity to check out sweet single family homes, like Dana and JB's place in Milton. This petite gem includes a surprising DIY crown jewel — an enviable garage-turned-art studio for Dana. The studio is also rumored to host summertime dinner parties!

Dana and JB's home is a reflection of their shared love of creating beautiful things. JB is a sustainable architect by day, but he's also designed and produced a number of modern furniture pieces throughout their home. My favorites include the stereo cabinet in the dining room, and the striking orange and white coffee table which grabs your attention as soon as you walk in their front door. Dana's paintings, large and small, also add a beautiful, original element to many rooms of their house, especially the large focal point pieces in the den and the bedroom. Dana's works are joined by an amazing array of artwork by others, including many friends, making the home feel like an informal art gallery. Respectfully, no room is left untouched by original artwork, including their young son's room. This is a place that what was hard to whisk in and out of quickly. I would have loved to spend hours really relishing each piece, whether it was art on the wall or furniture on the floor.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: 20th Century. Though we are drawn to mid-century modern pieces, our home was built in the early 20th century and there are elements like the built-in china cabinet, chandelier and tiled bath from the 40s that we have mixed with pieces from more recent decades.

Inspiration: Beyond a love for vintage furniture and designers who are beyond our budget, our home is a product of our life experiences, from work by our artist friends, and by Dana, to pieces we brought back from travels, to the two of us making the kinds of things we want to live with. After our son was born, JB wanted modular, modern, non-character-themed soft furniture for him to play with. JB spent a year designing and having a set of nesting chairs and tables made (locally). Five years later, they are still in constant use by our son and his friends who like to pile them up or make forts. The art on the walls remind us of artist friends, or places we've been, like Dana's paintings from the Tate Modern in London, the vintage map we bought in Japan ten years ago or the posters that JB bought during a trip to the Soviet Union in the late 80s (which happens to be where/how we met). Neither of us like or have time to shop, though Dana has a weakness for looking for gems at thrift stores. The matching chairs in the living room were $15 each at Goodwill, and the vintage Lightolier lamp cost $2! Though chance bargains play a role in our design inspiration, we have sought out some iconic pieces like the Eames shell rocker bought from Modernica when our son was born.

Favorite Element: I love looking around and seeing all of the furniture that JB designed and built over the years — culminating in the studio project in the back of the house. I am reminded of different times in our lives together and our shared love of creating things. Even Dana's rolling studio cart was a former desk built by JB (as is the plyboo studio table that used to be in the dining room).

Biggest Challenge: Time! In 2009, JB devoted many weekends to turning the little garage in back into an art studio for Dana. We tend to DIY, for good or for bad, so there is always more to do than we have time for given our full time jobs and the time we want to spend with our child on the weekends.

What Friends Say: Did you make that?

Biggest Embarrassment: In regard to things that people can see: the futon couch in the play room. It should have left our lives years ago. Dana's mother made pillows from vintage fabric that are almost large enough to hide it. As above, there is still more to do so this list could include much larger items like the attic with so much potential and way too much stuff.

Proudest DIY: The studio! Standing in the bright white room with windows on both sides, it's hard to remember the dark garage and strange carpeted office space that was there before. All of that went into a rented dumpster, and over a period of weeks JB jacked up the studio to replace the rotten sills (with much-appreciated help from a contractor friend). The floor was extremely uneven, so we laid down gravel and a layer of insulation under the plywood floor. JB did everything in the building process — including roofing and putting in two skylights — except for the foam insulation and electrical wiring, The windows were free from Craigslist, and the french doors were found there for half price. The floor is still raw, and there are still details to take care of (including deciding whether to add a cupola to the top to bring in more light), but Dana prefers that the space feels like a work space.

Biggest Indulgence: JB grew up with a black Eames chair. Buying one for ourselves is a future indulgence, especially because we missed the one sold on Craigslist for $200. Currently, Dana's favorite 'extra' purchase every year is to buy art at James Hull's 150 x 150 fundraiser (first for Green Street Gallery and now for Laconia Gallery). This can't really be called an indulgence because each piece of art is only $150, far below what any of the pieces of art are worth. Buyers only need to stand in line and get ready to run for the tag next to the piece they want. Last year Dana got the Scott Listfield astronaut painting for our son's room after missing out on one the year before — and a painting by Craig Lupien with built-in bicycle horns chosen by our son as his first art purchase.

Best Advice: Buy original art!

Dream Sources: The Milan furniture fair.

Resources of Note:

LIVING ROOM

    • Couch: Chiasso (found through Apartment Therapy)
    • Shell rocker: Modernica
    • Cabinets and coffee table: built by JB
    • Orange pillows: brought back by a friend from India

DINING ROOM

    • Table: Craigslist
    • Stereo cabinet: built by JB

PLAYROOM / DEN

    • Framed pieces: Kim Beck (above) and Stacy Fisher (below)
    • Painting above couch: Dana
    • Soviet poster

MASTER BEDROOM

    • Dresser: Heywood Wakefield
    • Bedroom set: Malm, IKEA
    • Painting over bed: Dana

SON'S ROOM

    • Pink painting above bed: Scott Listfield
    • Painting above keyboard: Craig Lupien

Thanks, Dana & JB!

Images: Kyle Freeman

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