Ellen & Derek's 'Professor's Row' Home

Ellen & Derek's 'Professor's Row' Home

Catrin Morris
Mar 18, 2011

Name: Ellen & Derek
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

When Ellen and Derek moved with their three children from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia to Cambridge, Massachusetts, they found their dream home on a street known as "Professor's Row". Built in 1902, the home has only had two previous owners — the last of which was a well-known Harvard professor who lived there with his family for 54 years. "Derek and I feel as if we are stewards of this house. We wanted to honor the house by maintaining many of its original elements as well as make it represent our style and lifestyle. I think we have begun to do that. It has felt like home very quickly," says Ellen.

When they were house-hunting, Ellen and Derek knew they wanted a spacious "wonderful old house that did not need gutting" (many of the houses in Cambridge are being gutted). Their wish was granted: their new house was already in great condition, so they have been spared major structural renovations, though the electrical system was updated to adhere to current codes. Every room was painted and the wood floors were refinished. And then Ellen set about redecorating. She emphasized that the decorating is a work in progress and much more remains to be done!

Ellen enlisted the help of a local interior designer, Debra Szidon of Cocoon Home Design. Ellen says, "I had a vision and Debra has helped me fulfill it. We have made many trips to find furniture, fabrics and colors together (and she also has brought a lot to me that she has sourced herself). She has a wonderful eye and is so very talented. She is also a really great friend. We have done all this together while maintaining our friendship!" Debra tends to have a more modern sensibility compared with Ellen's more traditional tastes. "It has been fun working together because we tend to have different styles but we have meshed well and are both really excited with the results," Ellen explains.

The decorating was a collaboration between Ellen and Debra, who was not hired to completely decorate the home. Debra did help Ellen and Derek choose paint colors, wallpaper and some of the furniture; however, many of the rooms (including the living room) Ellen decorated herself, using furniture the family brought with them from their old house in Alexandria.

Ellen and Debra chose not to paint over the heavy wood trim that punctuates most rooms in the home. Rather, they have lightened the home's mood with pale and shimmery wall coverings, cheery fabrics and furniture made from softer, golden wood, either antiques or contemporary pieces hand-made in New England. Lovely little vignettes abound, especially in the dining room, where an apple painting by Grant Drumheller hangs above a solitary dining room chair (Image 4).

Dining Room (Images 1-4)
The dining room had a silver tone on tone wallpaper that was pretty but very dated and old. Says Ellen: "I am not really a 'wallpaper' person but it inspired me to find a wallpaper in gold tones that would complement our furniture and the rug. We love the way it turned out!" They settled on a delicately detailed glass-beaded wallpaper called Stardust from Omexco and had the walls painted in Farrow & Ball Lime White and Off White. The chairs by the window are by R Jones and are covered in Kravet Couture Marble House in sage. The French 19th century dining room table, chairs and buffet were purchased at Hastening Antiques in Middleburg, Virginia. The rug is Tibetan.

Foyer: (Images 5-7)
The grand and spacious foyer has been a major redecorating project, Ellen says. Their first purchase was a French antique sideboard from European Country Antiques in Cambridge. "I knew I wanted a strong piece there to anchor the room, Ellen explains. They found the Hanna bench by Oly at Hudson in Boston. Originally the bench was covered in Kelly Wearstler's Bengal Bazaar fabric but Ellen felt it was not quite right for the space. After mulling over various options (as documented on Debra's blog), Ellen and Debra settled on Brunschwig and Fils Dzhambul Stripe and Romo Delano (blue) with a Donghia Ikat accent pillow. The window seat (original to the house) is covered in Brentano Canyon (Juniper) and has accent pillows in Donghia Sachin and Donghia Ikat. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore White Marigold and the trim is Simple White.

Kitchen (Image 8)
The previous owner's is a carpenter and he custom finished the kitchen. Says Ellen, "we did not have to take on a kitchen renovation, which was very nice since he did a lovely job!" The table in the kitchen nook is from Lake and Mountain Home in Harvard, Massachusetts and the bench cushion fabric was found at Zimmans in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Living Room (Images 9 & 10)
The living room originally had dark wood bookshelves around half of the room. Both avid readers who love books Ellen says she "didn't want that heavy feeling in the living room." The shelves were removed and walls painted a lovely bluish color, Benjamin Moore Silver Sage, to go with the rug and furnishings. "We love the color and think it complements the dark wood very nicely," says Ellen. The room is cozy and family-friendly, with a slightly more masculine feel than the dining room. The coffee table is an antique French iron gate with a glass top. The sleigh chair is by Charles Shackleton. All the accent pillows are covered in Robert Allen fabrics. The built-in bench next to the fire place has a custom cushion covered in Brentano Rapunzel. One of the lamps (the other is in the foyer) is a vintage Venetian glass lamp purchased from Reside in Cambridge. The paintings are by Tom Curry and Grant Drumheller.

Thank you for sharing, Ellen, Derek (and Debra)! Your hard work has paid off beautifully. And we appreciate all the sourcing detail and links!

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