Newly milled paneling — a collaborative design created by the
homeowner and interior designer Martin Potter and fabricated
by Van Millwork — is given a decidedly antique French look by
finishing it as faux boiserie, the term for carved paneling and
decorative woodwork popularized in 18th-century France. The
living room’s blue-paneled oak walls were finished by Boston-based decorative painter Christopher Faust using glazing and strié
techniques. A special primer allows the wood grain to show
through, and coats of indigo blue paint were glazed over coats of
bright blue to create the desired effect. In the dining room, Faust
finished the woodwork to resemble antique pine.
rom the very start, a penchant for things French inspired the design of this home in a neighborhood full of historic 19th-century houses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Built in 1868 in the Second Empire style with elements
that mimicked the building fashions of the day — distinctive mansard roof, triangular dormers, and decorative eave brackets, to
name a few — the house was distinguished by its Gallic details. But as the years marched by, the house’s fine French airs diminished, and its structure was on the verge of crumbling when the current owners bought the property in 2005. Fortunately, they
brought an appreciation of French art and architecture with them, and after a multiyear transformation, the house once again evokes Second Empire
beauty — this time combined with the comfort of a family home and the precision of high-performance mechanical systems. Vive la différence!
At holiday time, a fire crackles under the living room’s antique French mantel, and elegant desserts fill the table in the toile-papered dining room.
“The homeowner loves to decorate this house for the holidays — with family ornaments and collections,” says designer Martin Potter, who with his
partner, Jon Hattaway, handled the interiors. “She takes the holiday tradition very seriously.” The festive mood is fueled by the comings and goings of