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Bold Palette and Pattern Add Personality to a Classic Home

This article was written by Jeanine Matlow and was featured in our May issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Michael J. Lee. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.


With a palpable knack for pattern and color, Amanda Reid, designer and founder of Mandarina Studio in Boston, Massachusetts knew just how to refresh a circa–early 1900s Colonial Revival home in nearby Cambridge. Luckily, her clients—a couple with two young boys—were ready to take some design risks with their 5,800-square-foot residence. Working on the renovation with Sam Kachmar Architects, Reid was able to focus on creating interiors she describes as “contemporary eclectic, but not cluttered.” Adding, “They were really open to incorporating bolder patterns, so we were able to mix different styles and eras in a really curated way.”

The original goal for the remodel was to update the kitchen and bathrooms while respecting the classic architecture of the house. The timeless lines remained, but color and pattern now play a significant role throughout. For starters, an alluring mural wallpaper makes its way around the study where an antique desk claims a prominent spot on an angle and lighter features make the scenic backdrop shine. “I wanted to keep it bright with a white ceiling and trim,” says the designer.

In the kitchen, white cabinets and quartzite countertops put more dramatic elements—like the design springboard black French range and hood—in the spotlight. Brass accents on the appliances and cabinetry join others such as the glass pendants with brass details that make a statement above the shapely island with tapered legs. “Lighting and hardware are the jewelry of the space,” says Reid.

An adjacent mudroom features ceramic-tile floors in a classic black-and-white harlequin pattern; it punctuates the functional space and plays well with the organic wallpaper in a metallic-gold bee motif. In addition to the kitchen and mudroom, other classic black-and-white combos weave their way throughout the house. “I also used a lot of green, like the lacquered cabinets in the coffee bar,” she says.

Eye-catching patterns are another constant. Even the private spaces, like the main bathroom, benefit from these beauties. “With vanities that have tall, tapered legs, it looks more open that way, and you can see more of the gorgeous stone mosaic flooring,” says Reid. In the shower, marble tile with distinct markings almost resembles an abstract painting.

Nature makes a repeat appearance, too, as seen in a shared dressing room for the husband and wife that features foliage wallpaper in burgundy and blush. The ebonized walnut that tops the white vanity and the center island echoes the materials in the main bathroom. Underfoot, a rug made from wall-to-wall carpet delivers a subtle pattern and a little texture to the space.

In the laundry room, an organic touch lends a sunny disposition. “It’s so cheerful with Kelly-green accents and wallpaper that is happy by nature with butterflies and lemons that are so appropriate for a laundry room,” says Reid. “They make the task more cheerful.”

Wallpaper awakens more than one bathroom, including a third-floor location that has an anything-goes attitude with a whimsical leopard print. “The cheerful-red vanity adds a fun pop of color [to] that classic black and white,” she says.

This skillful mix of color and pattern stretches to the kids’ bedrooms. One son has a yellow metal bed backed by dachshund-themed wallpaper and orange pillows that pop against a slate-blue comforter. The other has wallpaper with a safari theme in a neutral shade. “We painted the trim green to add some color,” says Reid.

The playful pairings may vary, but Reid still prefers some cohesion for the overall flow of the home. “I like to have a common thread,” she says. “Even if the space is neutral, there should be some harmony with one or two colors repeated throughout the house. It’s almost calming to me.” Harmonious hues unite here for a modern take on a Colonial classic.

Amanda Reid with Mandarina Studio shares some pointers for working with pattern.

Fresh Start. “When using wallpaper, I pick that first and it informs all of the other design choices in the space,” she says. “If not [using wallpaper], I usually start with the rug.”

Balancing Act. “I’m not afraid of mixing a large pattern and color and scale,” says Reid, mentioning the mudroom from this featured design as an example. “The floor has a larger scale than the wallpaper, and black-and-white is a classic pattern.”

Escape Room. “I love murals because there is not a repetitive pattern,” she adds. “It’s almost like a scene, which just feels whimsical and magical to me. It transports you to another space.”

Test Strip. For those who are hesitant to introduce pattern and color, Reid says a bathroom or a powder room can be a good place to start. “It’s a smaller space and you don’t spend a lot of time there.”

Subtle Touch. Smaller patterns don’t read as bold. “You can soften a kid’s bedroom and keep it a soothing space with an animal pattern that is fun, but not overpowering,” she says.