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Interiorssneak peeks

In Marblehead, MA, A Growing Family Honors the Past & Adds Their Own Twist

by Kelli Kehler

For a 1927 home only ever owned by one family, you could say that the hands of and her family would be the best to embrace it when it was time to change ownership after 85 years. Jen is well versed in the art of honoring the past, as she works as co-founder of , an online interior design studio specializing in vintage finds and under-the-radar-brands alongside her business partner, Annabel Joy. Jen’s daily work finds her imbuing spaces with timeworn treasures, items found at estate sales, and furnishings otherwise doomed for the dumpster.

The special and rare history of the family’s Center Entrance Hip Roof Colonial home in Marblehead, MA was not lost on Jen, her husband Andy (who works in commercial real estate in Boston), and their daughters Kate (13), Elise (10), and Sophie (7). Jen explains, “We loved the historic, architectural details of this old home — the beautiful staircase, the corner china cabinet, the wood-burning fireplace, all the loving details the previous homeowners added over time. But what really sealed the deal for us was the family story of this home. We are only the second family to ever live here — and that’s saying a lot since the house was built in 1927. The son and daughter of the previous owners sold the home directly to us. They’d grown up here, their father had grown up here, and their great uncle built the house. Their mother grew up in the house across the street — her entire life, she never left the street where she was born! When we replaced the wallpaper in the front entry this year, the family name and the date they’d moved in (1929) was inscribed on the plaster (along with the number of rolls of wallpaper first needed to cover the entry!). It’s that type of personal history in the home that first connected us to it and made it special for us. It’s like we’re the caretakers for the next generations to come. The moment we walked through the front door, this felt like a home, never just a house.”

It’s been seven years since the family moved into this 2,300-square-foot home, and since then they’ve been careful to keep its past top-of-mind while still adding their own style and the necessary functionality for a growing family of five. As such, the family finished the basement to serve as a den, and renovated the kitchen to be more open and provide space for eat-in dinners and homework at a newly added peninsula. “As we design our home and make it ours today, we try to make decisions that honor the integrity of the home, its history and architecture,” Jen shares. “But at the same time, we’re making it livable for our busy family who uses the space in [a] much different way than people did in 1927!”

Jen and her family have added warmth and depth to this home by layering in meaningful finds they’ve picked up on their travels — something that’s a crucial part of what makes Jen and Andy who they are. “My husband and I are former global nomads who spent much of the first decade of our adult lives living overseas in Singapore and Tokyo teaching at the American Schools there. We traveled extensively back then! Now that we’re back in the States and our girls are at good ages for traveling, we’ve been working hard to impart that same wanderlust and appreciation of culture, place, and food in them.” That same global influence marries with a passion for vintage decor, two prominent aspects Jen and her partner Annabel work to incorporate in each project they take on. “Our mission is to make sure your home doesn’t look anything like your neighbor’s,” Jen adds. “That’s our secret sauce!”

That very ethos is carried through this family’s home, but the strongest theme of all is that it’s a warm and welcoming home for a family to grow and feel safe together. “I’m a huge Ina Garten fan, and in one of her books she describes home as this: ‘A good home should gather you up in its arms like a warm cashmere blanket, soothe your hurt feelings and prepare you to go back out into that big bad world tomorrow all ready to fight the dragons.’ To me, that’s it,” Jen says. “That’s how I want my whole family to feel when they walk into this home.” —

Photography by Megan Booth /

Image above: “I just had this Kyoto wallpaper from Pierre Frey installed in our front entry. I love it for so many reasons — it reminds me of the years we lived in Japan. Each bonsai tree is a work of art — it feels like I’m walking through a gallery of watercolor paintings when I come in the house,” Jen says.

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“Painting the ceiling Benjamin Moore ‘Palladian Blue’ adds an unexpected touch and sets off the white plaster finish of this Aerin flushmount. This, and the two Visual Comfort sconces in the entry, are my favorite light fixtures in the house,” Jen says.

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Jen shares, “I love the empire […] shade on the Hackney Sconce from Visual Comfort. To me it’s both modern and classic at the same time.”

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“That exuberant fern in our dining room gets me every time! The top of the mirror hanging behind the fern is made from an old Chinese door. There are so many interesting stories associated with the pieces in our dining room. The table and chairs were made in Singapore. My husband surprised me with the set on my 27th birthday when we lived there — I’d been eyeing it for some time. I love its simple, classic lines. But, I’m leg crosser. [It frustrates me] when I’m sitting at a table and I can’t comfortably cross my legs underneath. So Andy had the woodworker notch out the frame so I could cross my legs easily. That thoughtful solution makes me happy every time I sit down to a meal at this table!”

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Looking from the dining room into the living room, a Victorian children’s rocker serves as a sculptural piece, drawing the eye across through the foyer.

I love scouring estate sales for treasures, bringing them into my home and playing around until I find just the right place for them.

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“The yellow and blue ginger jar lamp is one of a pair — they’re one of the first home decor pieces I purchased when we lived in Singapore,” Jen recalls. “I’ve found a place for them in every home we’ve lived in since. If you love something and think it’s beautiful, you’ll always find a place for it in your home.”

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In the family’s living room, which is on the first floor of the home, the design acts as a display of estate sale finds and treasures collected from when Jen and Andy lived in Asia. “With the exception of the throw pillows, everything in this photo is either from an estate sale or was purchased when we lived in Asia.”

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Also on the first floor is a family room with beautiful open shelving and abundant natural light. Jen explains, “Lining the backs of the bookshelves in blue grasscloth added much-needed depth to the built-ins in our family room. When we moved in, the whole room was a big white box, without any character at all.”

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Jen shares about the family room decor, “Fun side story: that glass-topped bamboo coffee table came from the set of Robert Redford’s movie, The Old Man & The Gun! We added the gas fireplace to our family room a couple of years ago. There was a cubby in that space that housed the old TV. We moved the TV above and used to throw the girls’ toys in the cubby when we ‘cleaned up’ for guests! One day I thought how amazing it would be to have a fireplace in here — the vaulted ceilings always made it seem cold and not cozy. The cubby was just deep enough to be retrofitted for a small gas fireplace from Regency Fire. Let me tell you, my husband was very leery of my idea of putting one in. I had to push hard to get that decision through. But now, it’s hands down his favorite part of the whole house!”

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In the family room, an example of Jen’s knack for reimagining vintage items — two blue tweed club chairs that she found at an estate sale on the water in Lynn, MA. “One of my favorite parts of the 1985 addition to our home are the skylights, vaulted ceilings, and beams. And those are the $15 club chairs I found at an estate sale and had re-covered,” she says. “They were originally clad in bright orange velvet (kind of cool in and of itself, but the arms were filthy), and they were skirted. They are true gems.”

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The bedroom on the first floor was recently renovated as part of the . Jen shares, “It was a small office/guest room before, but when we decided to let each of our three daughters have their own bedroom upstairs, we made this our room on the first floor. The grasscloth-covered Bermuda tray ceiling is probably my favorite part. I pretty much woke up one morning with the idea for this project. I knew I wanted a grasscloth ceiling and I knew I wanted blush colored walls that almost glowed like candlelight. I balanced the blush with shades of olive green in the pillows and vintage dressers.”

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“Because of the small space, wall sconces and custom floating night stands were a top priority. I love faux bamboo furniture! So I had two of these style dressers painted a high gloss dark olive green.”

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Jen shares more about one of the large changes they made to the home after moving in: “By far the most loved and used part of our kitchen is this table/peninsula we added. I love that it’s open like a table at one end and we can gather around it as a family of five and face each other. At most kitchen islands you have to sit lined up in a row. Yes, I would’ve loved to have had that beam removed, but not when I learned the exorbitant cost it would be to remove it! I hardly notice it anymore anyway.”

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An alternate view from the kitchen peninsula, this time looking across into the living room. “A couple of my favorite finds in this perspective: a pair of Alfred Birdsey water colors and these custom counter stools,” Jen notes. “Birdsey was an artist known for painting scenes of Bermuda, but these harbor scenes remind me of the boats that fill Marblehead Harbor each summer. The rush seat stools are made in Bethel, ME by S. Timberlake. I like to source pieces from small artisans when I can, and Maine will always be special to me –Andy and I met way back when we were students at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME.”

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On display on the kitchen countertop are more examples of Jen’s knack for discovering unusual/unique pieces and styling them to achieve a refined look. “These three pieces on my counter are all recent fun finds. The ceramic French mustard jar housing my spoons came from a church rummage sale and the wood canisters I found in a dusty basement at an estate sale. Using Citristrip, I removed the dated, dark oak finish from the canisters to let the variation in the wood’s grain really show through.”

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Jen shares her design philosophy when it comes to keeping a streamlined, clutter-free aesthetic that is still rich and interesting. “Edit. Edit. Edit. At least that’s what I have to tell myself! My biggest problem is that I fall in love with too many things and I want them all out at the same time. I’ve learned, though, that it’s okay to put special pieces into rotation. Let certain things shine, then put them away for awhile. I like to keep Coco Chanel’s famous line in my head when I decorate: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ The same goes for decorating a room, styling a bookshelf, a coffee table…”

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Jen, Andy, and their daughters Kate (13), Elise (10), and Sophie (7) together in their favorite spot, the kitchen peninsula.

SOURCE LIST

Entryway
Wallpaper – Kyoto by Pierre Frey
Hackney Sconce – Visual Comfort
Small Hampton flushmount – AERIN for Visual Comfort
Walls – done in a plaster finish
Ceiling -Benjamin Moore “Palladian Blue”

Living Room
Coffee table – made in Singapore of Indonesian Teak
Everything else – estate sale
Wall color – Benjamin Moore “Navajo White”
Woodwork – Benjamin Moore “Mascarpone”

Kitchen
Cabinetry – Crown Point Cabinetry, in Sherwin-Williams “Whitetail” paint
Countertop – Perla Venata Quartzite, fabricator is EarthWorks Granite
Refrigerator – Sub-Zero
Wall Ovens, stove top, vent – Bosch
Hardware – Top Knobs, German bronze finish
Island Pendants – Canton Pendant by Hudson Valley Lighting
Wall color – Benjamin Moore “Revere Pewter” (half strength)

Bedroom
Wall color – Benjamin Moore “Warm Blush”
Vintage dressers’ paint color – Benjamin Moore “Fatigue Green”
Sconces – Robert Abbey Sofia Sconce
Bedding – Pine Cone Hill
Floral throw pillow fabric – Jasper Showroom, Indian flower
Leopard print fabric – Schumacher Madeleine in Verdigris
Roman shades – Hunter Douglas

Family Room
Sofa – Lee Industries in Crypton fabric
Paint – Benjamin Moore “Revere Pewter” (half strength)
Gas fireplace – Regency Fireplace
Pillow fabric – Schumacher Katsugi
Wallpaper in bookshelves – York Wallcoverings grasscloth

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Comments

  • One day my grandkids will sell the house I live in right now, and I hope a family just like this buys it. Beautifully done, Dulac family.

  • lovely, lovely home. I just wish paint companies would stop calling pink “blush” . It is so Caucasian centric. Like the Crayola crayon “flesh” which was beige-y pink. Time to retire that term. But what a gorgeous tint of dawn, or innershell pink, or Cecile brunner rose pink, or strawberry icecream pink! I would love to wake up in that bedroom.

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