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How to go modern in a traditional living room

Sleek lines and a gray, black, and white color scheme help create a contemporary atmosphere in an older house in Chestnut Hill.

Michael J. Lee
Michael J. Lee

The size and location of this expansive home in Chestnut Hill were perfect for a house-hunting family of four — yet it didn’t check all of their boxes. “Built in 1950, the house is very traditional in style,” says interior designer Annie Hall. “The homeowners really wanted a house that was more modern. But it was in the right place, so they opted to make the best of it.” The new homeowners relied on Hall to infuse the interiors with the sleek lines they craved. They decided on a gray, black, and white scheme for the long living room, where Hall used furnishings and decorative elements that suit their streamlined sensibilities. Refined textures, multiple finishes, and mid-century elements combine to create a calm, contemporary atmosphere that belies the home’s traditional facade.

1. Walls are painted Benjamin Moore Mascarpone. “It’s my favorite white because it appears as a true white no matter what the electric or natural light in the room is like,” says Hall. “It never appears green or blue or pink or yellow, like some other shades of white do.”

2. To keep the room feeling simple and open, Hall chose not to dress the windows with drapes. Subtle woven blinds provide privacy.

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3. The 126-inch-long charcoal gray sofa from B&B Italia fills up the room, says Hall. “It has exposed stitching on the arms, which makes it such a gorgeous piece.”

4. The canvas-strap chair, already in the homeowners’ collection, recalls the iconic designs of mid-century master Jens Risom.

5. The earthy quality of a slim walnut-and-steel table creates an interesting contrast with the nearby coffee table. A hand-carved teak basket draws the eye.

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6. Made in Italy, the ample square coffee table, with its mirrored top and interior exposed-leather shelf, enhances the room’s modern edge.

7. A Steven King striated wool rug in tones of light gray grounds the space and feels luxurious underfoot.

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8. A large-scale black-and-white photograph inherited from a relative suited the room perfectly.

9. Transplanted from the family’s previous home, a heavy table with legs that feature animal paws now draws interest in its own corner of the room.

10. A pair of vintage chairs, designed in the 1950s by Paul McCobb, were reupholstered in a black-and-white woven fabric by Weitzner. The fabric is right side out on the outside surfaces, inside out on the seats and inside backs.

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