Kay's Curated Somerville Nest

Kay's Curated Somerville Nest

Kyle Freeman
Nov 21, 2011

Name: Kay McGowan of Mohr & McPherson and A Curated World
Location: Somerville, Massachusetts
Size: 1500 square feet
Years lived in: 4 — rented

When it comes to eclectic furnishings and housewares from around the world, Mohr & McPherson is a Boston institution. One of the forces behind that institution is Kay McGowan, the general manager for the past 15 years. This woman knows her imports.

Having frequented Mohr & McPherson for a number of years, I was delighted to finally make acquaintance with Kay and invite myself into her home for a house tour. Not surprisingly, her warm, inviting apartment reflects a global aesthetic. Her sophisticated palette and textured decor was a welcome departure from the more saturated, modern spaces I'm accustomed to photographing. In fact, Kay's aesthetic is kind of where I've been pointing my own design compass lately.

And for those who join me in a curiosity about decorating with objects from around the world, we will soon have an amazing new resource. Kay has been hard at work preparing to launch her newest adventure, A Curated World.

I'll let Kay's words best describe this exciting new project: "A Curated World is a 'living magazine' and travel show highlighting artisans of the world and providing our audience unprecedented direct access to high quality global home and lifestyle wares through online trunk shows. A Curated World strives to connect consumers with the history, people and processes behind the goods they buy and create sustainable working collaborations with artisans from all corners of the world."

Lucky us. Can't wait.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Elegant Bohemian, hints of global influences from the middle east and Asia. I want a home to have layers, for each object to have some character, and you discover more details the longer you look. I want the well edited home of a traveler. I have not traveled nearly as much as I hope to. I can't wait to see what my house looks like when I'm 80!

Inspiration: Mohr & McPherson. I have managed the venerable direct import retailer for 15 years. We have shopped in India and China and countless other counties for 20 years. When you see so many beautiful pieces it makes you really think about what is timeless. I love vintage Teak wood cabinets from 1930's India, natural finish, glass front sliding doors. I love pairing aged Teak's handsome and understated elegance with a red lacquered and gold painted antique armoire from China. My time 'shopping' at Mohr & McPherson is the inspiration behind my new project hosting international trunk shows, A Curated World.

Favorite Element: Having two bedrooms. My screened in back porch is set up with a bed and I often sleep down there on cool summer nights.

Biggest Challenge: That I don't own the house, and the super ugly wallpaper throughout the hallway and stairwell from the 1st up to the 3rd floor. I didn't put any nails into it until recently. Now I can't stop. I just installed a six panel antique Japanese screen. It will cost me a good deal some day, but it is so worth it.

What Friends Say: My new venture, A Curated World, is about telling the stories of your travels through what you bring home. My friends say the space is curated, everything has a history. And It's a great place to gather, eat, drink and talk. I like to host and I love my always-growing collections of serving pieces.

Biggest Embarrassment: Really it is that every object has a very specific place and position, etc. I could stand to loosen up about that, but I really don't want to!

Proudest DIY: Hanging art straight and in the right spot on the first try every time! Not kidding, It's a gift.

Biggest Indulgence: Flowers. I love the smell of Lilies and buy three fresh bunches every Sunday. They last so long that the healthiest overlap so I usually have like five bunches going.

Best Advice: Buy furniture like you would buy art, let it speak to you. If you follow that rule and edit accordingly the pieces you do buy find their place within your collection. A common thread starts to define your taste and it becomes easier to spot what is actually right and not just a fleeting whim. Look for the intrinsic value in something, look for quality craftsmanship because it looks better forever. The details matter. A quality crafted item has a different presence than home furnishings made poorly out of second rate materials.

Dream Sources: Shackleton Thomas in Vermont for Miranda Thomas pottery, the Charles Shackleton desk of my dreams and Juliska glassware. Also pottery by Frances Palmer.

Resources of Note:

From Kay: I have spent so many years with Mohr & McPherson in Boston MA. I also am a shopper when I travel. The majority of the items in the house have come from either Mohr & McPherson or have been carried back by me. Many items are one-of-a-kind, but are the type of items I sell at Morh & McPherson. Anyone should feel free to ask me about sourcing something similar to pieces seen here.


    • black vintage sofa: Abodeon in Cambridge
    • upholstered armchair: Salvation Army with Cisco Brother's Fabric
    • tripod brass lamp with large shade: Mohr & McPherson
    • Indian vintage camel cart coffee table: Mohr & McPherson
    • Indian vintage wooden office chair: Mohr & McPherson
    • painting over couch: street seller Essaouira in Morocco
    • painting in corner: Buenos Aires, Argentina


    • 3 etchings: early Nona Hershey
    • rug: loaner from a friend who is allergic


    • cloth hanging: bark cloth carried back from Fiji in 1996
    • white leather moroccan pouf: Zid Zid Kids, Marrakech Morocco

Thanks, Kay!

Images: Kyle Freeman

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