A Rental Rescue at Boston’s Rowes Wharf
Making a rental feel like home
Interior designers Caitlin Flynn and Elyse Parkhurst of North Fork Design Co. faced a unique challenge. Their client and her husband were moving to Boston for his new job and wanted to give their long-term rental—a 1,900-square-foot condo at Rowes Wharf—the feel of a fully furnished home. Flynn and Parkhurst had two months to decorate the space while adhering to strict rental restrictions. “We weren’t able to paint anything or change anything within the original space,” Flynn says. “Our client wanted the rental to feel permanent, be functional, and have modern, coastal style. We achieved that with furnishings, art, and accessories only and within a much tighter timeline than many of our other projects.”
At the start, the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath open-concept condo was a clean slate with off-white walls, hardwood and tiled floors, and intricate millwork, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows, twin fireplaces, and a private balcony. “Our expectations were for the space to be contemporary, casual, and comfortable,” says the client, who prefers to remain anonymous. The designers looked out the condo’s windows for initial inspiration. “The condo is surrounded by Boston Harbor with stunning water views,” Flynn says. “It was something we wanted to highlight with the color palette, textures, clean lines, and sophisticated materials.” Their detailed design plan included selections for major pieces in the entry, living room, dining room, library, balcony, and bedrooms. “We fully designed these main spaces, from wall treatments and lighting to furniture and accessories.” The designers introduced gray and blue, hues and “they also kept the fabrics simple—primary, no busy patterns—and minimal window treatments so the water views remain the focal point of the apartment,” the client says.
As a rental, “we had to keep existing materials in mind when sourcing,” Flynn says. “For example, the flooring tile in the entry is a green marble, and the items we chose, like the console and rug, are fairly neutral.” They also added what Flynn calls “a great conversation piece” on the walls—a Boston and New York City vintage map mural. “It gives the entryway a lot of pizazz and reminds us of our roots in New York/New Jersey, as well as our new life in Boston,” the client says. “Since the mural is temporary, removable wall covering, it can be easily peeled off the wall when we move out of the unit. Perfect for a rental apartment!” In addition to the wall treatment in the entry, “we added a grasscloth-inspired wall covering to a long, uninteresting wall in the dining and family room areas.” The designers also used wallpaper that can be easily changed or removed in the future in the master bathroom.
Throughout the condo, Flynn and Parkhurst had specific goals for each space. The living room has a sectional with a bumper chaise and two ottomans, providing “ample seating for entertaining and somewhere comfortable to relax,” Flynn says; there is also a telescope for checking out boats plying the busy harbor. In the dining room, the designers wanted the statement-making walnut table “to function the same when it was just the two of them—four of them, when their two grown sons visit—or when they are entertaining for a larger dinner party,” Flynn says. She and Parkhurst turned a small space nearby into an office for the client’s husband. “The layout is very creative,” the client says. “[The designers] were able to find the perfect desk to fit in front of a window, a beautiful rug, two brown leather swivel chairs, an ottoman, and some good reading lamps.” The master and guest bedrooms are both calming retreats with comfortable furnishings and inviting bedding. The condo’s balcony was furnished to create a living area with sofa, coffee table, and two chairs and a dining area with a table and four chairs—“we really love to spend as much time as possible outside enjoying the view,” the client says. Finally, the bathrooms and kitchen received a personal touch with details like luxurious linens in each bath and barstools at the breakfast bar—“just enough changes to make them feel finished and cohesive with the rest of the space,” Flynn says. As the last step, the designers added the trimmings. “Decorative objects, books, and plants bring a layer of interest to the design that makes it feel complete.”
The client appreciates the result. “They did a beautiful job accessorizing, and they also placed a variety of picture frames throughout that we filled with family photos,” she says. “It’s so nicely appointed and personalized. With our new home set up so quickly—down to the last details—it allows my husband and me to spend our free time exploring and enjoying Boston.”
Make a Rental Feel Like Home
Elyse Parkhurst of North Fork Design Co. shares a trio of tips for making any rental feel like home:
1. Include art and accessories to personalize the space. “Books add so much and are always a conversation starter when guests visit—they can be perched on a shelf or stacked on a coffee table,” Parkhurst says. “Also, every room needs a bit of green things, like houseplants and fresh flowers.”
2. Paint, if that is an option. “It is inexpensive, especially in smaller spaces,” she says. “Also consider adding removable wallpaper, which is easy to install on accent walls.”
3. Invest in key pieces that fit the space and can move easily, like a bedframe or coffee table. “These are things that can be incorporated into a rental now and a new home in the future,” the designer says. “Mix in different but complementary design styles and materials, and try not to buy sets of anything, except perhaps for items like a pair of chairs, side tables, and lamps. The goal is to make it look like everything did not drop into the space at once, giving it layers of history and interest.”