Before and After: Modern Americana in Boston

Before and After: Modern Americana in Boston

Before and After: Modern Americana in Boston


In one of Boston’s most charming suburbs, Hingham, Homepolish designer Helen Bergin helped an expecting couple transform their classic home into an old-meets-new stunner.

Photos by Joyelle West.

Chances are you know the old nursery rhyme—make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. It’s technically for little ones, but even design-minded adults can learn something. Homepolish designer Helen Bergin applied the inclusive ethos to a growing family’s all-American Cape Cod-style home by injecting layers of classic details with modernity.

“Lauren and Jeff were pregnant with their first child when they purchased the home,” Helen explains. “They fell in love with Hingham, as it is a quaint town on the water, close to their Cape Cod summer home and the city. The homeowners purchased this 1880s Cape home in hopes of keeping its original charm, but also planning to give it a major design overhaul to update it to current times.”

To maintain that charm but breathe some life into the space, Helen focused on the home’s gorgeous bones.

“The pine wood details wanted to become to star of the show,” Helen explains “So we brightened everything around them to really make them come to life.”

Priority one was lightening the space with a few architectural alterations. The pine wood accents that give the home its warm, cozy personality make for perfect backdrops in rooms like the living room and breakfast nook, but for the kitchen the vibe was much more modern.

“They knew they wanted a clean kitchen with lots of blue and whites,” Helen tells us. “They also wanted a sophisticated, baby-friendly space, which meant avoiding sharp edges and including wipeable, durable surfaces while maintaining a clean and sharp design.”

That didn’t mean chucking everything though. Helen smartly chose to make the most of some of the original cabinetry to leave room for plenty of changes elsewhere.

“We held on on the the frames of the cabinetry but swapped out door fronts, hardware, counters, appliances, backsplashes, fittings, and added an huge island,” the designer explains. “Updating all of the lighting and painting every surface went a long way.”

To highlight that new details, Helen chose accents and hues that amped up the effect of the updates—but kept the tone approachable.

“We have a lot of natural textures paired with blue and white hues to keep the setting casual in the main area of the home,” Helen explains. “In the kitchen, the deep blue tone on the island and window shade make the white cabinetry appear more crisp. We then added in contemporary ghost stools and a Saarinen table with updated Windsor chairs to balance old and new.”

The kitchen’s era-walking act was perfect—but the challenge was keeping it threaded throughout the rest of the house.

“I loved that we kept the old charm running through the new kitchen,” Helen shares. “There are exposed beams running throughout. The palette of the family room is very inviting while the textures and tones of the library make you want to curl up by the fire all day.”

To keep the family room fairly neutral and harmonious, Helen focused on welcoming hues that complimented the home’s best features.

“The blue faded rug and pillows in the living area make for soothing accents, and they help break up the room’s palette of neutral upholstery and wood tones from the beams,” she explains. “We then sought to warm up this area by using a more masculine tobacco leather for the chair in the family room.”

The formal dining room also features breathy tones that reflect the sunny kitchen. Once dark and dim due to its secluded location, the room was quickly transformed into an airy place to dine thanks to soft gray papered walls and a few well-chosen accents.

“In the dining room, we popped in bright coral velvet chairs to pull out the colors of the yarned and painted skull that the clients found on a recent trip to Sayulita, Mexico,” Helen shares. “We paired our papered walls with a modern, abstract table and a globe light fixture for a complementary backdrop.”

The moodier vibes return in the darker, more masculine library-slash-man cave. The room pays homage to the home’s historic side by leaving large swaths of pine wood intact and nodding to various eras of Americana. The decor hails from several different time periods; leather campaign chests, spherical Mid-Century floor lamps, and a banana leaf-wallpaper ceiling reminiscent of the luxury of 1940s Los Angeles. Pop art pieces give the space an edgy (and of course completely American) update.

“Jeff was very set on incorporating pop art into his ‘man cave’ or the library,” Helen explains. “This piece in the library by Campbell La Pun was one of the first pieces we found to really set the tone of this space.”

While the artwork was a firm yes, the wallpapered ceiling was up for debate.

“Jeff really wanted to incorporate the banana palm leaf wallpaper into the library from the beginning but hesitated,” Helen says. “We ended up painting the space dark green to really show what adding wallpaper to the ceiling could do. The paper looked so refreshing next to the deep green tone, and the Vintage Hans Wegner chairs complement the pine wood perfectly. The ceilings are not high, but they offer such depth now that they are covered in such an iconic paper. Lastly, we added in pops of red lacquer, pale blue, and contrasting black and whites to help bring the space to life.”

In the end, iconic era-inspired pieces come together to create a true-blue American space that represents the overall home’s ties to history and the family’s future-facing outlook.

“I loved that Lauren and Jeff wanted to be involved and really make their home feel like them,” says Helen. “You get the feel that this is an antique home but with all the amenities you would want in today’s world.”

Feeling inspired to spruce up your own space? Get started with a Homepolish designer today.

Click through the gallery below for additional photos and sourcing information and head over to PureWow for even more of the story on this home. 

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