Boston’s North End neighborhood is the oldest in the city and is filled with quaint Italian eateries, historic sites and charming architecture. Recently, a Minnesota couple scored a narrow lot in the heart of the North End and enlisted Minneapolis-based interior designer Bruce Kading for the grandiose project. Here, he shares with us a deeper look at the design process of this stunning home.
Do you feel like you have more responsibility as a designer to respect the past when working on a project like this?
Absolutely! I love walking through a historic neighborhood to absorb the spirit of place then building on it to create a functional and beautiful modern living environment that reflects the way we live today.
Did you look to any historic designers or figures for inspiration?
While my inspiration always begins with my clients, I can’t help but be influenced by all the legendary interior designers: Nancy Lancaster, Rose Cumming, Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley and Billy Baldwin. They all had such wonderful style and an intuitive sense of how rooms should look, feel and function.
How did you balance both vintage and modern design within this home?
Design, like cooking, is an intuitively organic and technical process. For this project, we started with the wonderful colors and textures of the North End then added the elegance, simplicity and clean lines of modern New England with elements of vintage industrial-warehouse style to create a unique spirit of place.
Are there certain materials or design elements that are carried throughout the entire home?
We wanted to give the interiors a cohesive and harmonious look, so we carried the exterior brick through to the inside walls and used gutsy, warehouse-style steel-framed windows, aged hickory plank floors and five-panel knotty alder doors throughout the brownstone.
Did you have any major setbacks or obstacles you had to overcome to complete the project?
The lot was extremely narrow — only 22 feet wide — so we had to be very intentional about the space plan. We designed the six-story building from the top down to make the most of the amazing views of Boston Harbor, downtown Boston and countless landmarks. And because the North End is a historic district, we selected the windows and materials with an eye for compatibility and appropriateness. But I’m passionate about history and authenticity, so even though it was challenging, it was very rewarding.
What was your process for finding pieces for this Boston home?
My team and I love the hunt. We always scour our favorite antique shops and salvage yards all over the United States and Europe to find iconic pieces to make a home feel authentic, established and pedigreed. It was so exciting to find an original coal fireplace from England and an antique cast-iron fireback from 1788, the year that Massachusetts became a state.
What was your favorite room to design?
That’s like asking me to choose between my children and grandchildren. This project was so unique because each room is on its own floor, so they’re all very special to me.
Do you hope the spaces in this home make the residents feel a certain way?
I’m thrilled that the interiors look and feel as though the building was an old warehouse transformed into a modern living environment. I’m also proud that the brownstone has allowed my clients to become part of the historic neighborhood. I love picturing them walking home after dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants nearby, strolling past Paul Revere’s house, the Freedom Trail and the Old North Church, where the patriots hung two lanterns to send the famous “One if by land, two if by sea” message to their Charlestown neighbors in 1775.