Nina Farmer’s Historically Sensitive Style is Hip2Save

Boston designer Nina Farmer has been hot for quite a while now. Her name has become synonymous with Beacon Hill and a sleek, historically sensitive style. And while the design blogosphere has been buzzing with Bailey McCarthy’s big reveal of her home in this month’s House Beautiful (I admit, I’m pretty smitten myself. That DINING ROOM! But you can take the bathroom and the kitchen, imo. Too much bling for me.), I was drawn in by Nina’s latest project, an 1880s shingle style home in New England.

What I love about HB’s coverage of this project is that it actually shows the “before” pictures, so you can see just how much of the home’s original details she kept and then creatively worked around.


I grant you, the house has some unarguably amazing bones.

But Nina does go on to work within the home’s character to more fully realize its potential. She uses colors that feel right, not just those that are popular right now, to truly make it glow.

Nina Farmer Respects the Architect

This ain’t a lady to throw the baby out with the bathwater! You’d think most people, in their quest to lighten up this living room (in spite of those killer windows!), would paint the woodwork and the fireplace bricks white.


Not Nina! She uses a rich, saturated palette to complement that radiant woodwork. Understated jewel tones like deep teal, burnt umber, and warm silvery gray in tactile things like velvet and grasscloth.


She even keeps the brick fireplace, char and all. “It’s all about soul,” people (Billy Joel).


I would kill for a dining room with built-ins and beams like this. And, again, the windows!


Even though the room is dark, because the room had so many windows, Nina chose a dynamic horsehair paper that changes color over the course of the day depending on the light, blue to green to silver. Stroke of genius — she used a metallic paper on the ceiling between the beams to bounce the light around. To balance the dark walls and window treatments, she used a light rug, table and chairs. (For more thoughts on how to lighten up a home with dark woodwork, see my post on knotty pine paneling.)


The kitchen “before.” Really, except for the red, not too shabby.


Nina didn’t think so either, so she just tweaked it with paint and a new light fixture. But what a difference! (I notice she either took out the can lights or had them photoshopped out, too. 😉 )


The woodwork in the rest of the house was already painted, so Nina had more color freedom there. Keeping the cute corner sink and adding a vintage mirror reference the past and the charcoal paint and marble wallpaper are definitely fashion forward.


Apparently the fireplace that we can’t quite see in the below family room is also brick. To work with the color, Nina went with an earthy tan grasscloth and complemented it with a deep powder blue. Definitely not the usual colors I see on Instagram, but gah! how rich looking. Once again, anachronistic touches like the midcentury sofa and Moroccan rug shake up the historical character just enough to make it feel current.


Master bedroom “before.” Nice wainscot. Bad fan.


I LOVE this bedroom, and I’m not even a gray person. Shimmery and earthy at the same time. Sophisticated and serene. Brown furniture (side tables, settee), smoky blown glass, saturated art, camel and warm silver. Everything tactile. I want it.


This has to be my favorite quote from the article:

“Don’t buy an old house if what you really desire is a brand-new one!” (Nina Farmer)

Well said, sister!

I could finish here, but I just had to show you a few more of my favorite Nina Farmer spaces. It feels like only yesterday that HB showed us her to-die-for Boston Brownstone. If you had your head in the ground then three years ago, here’s a reminder.

Beige walls, art deco club chairs, a Maria Therese crystal chandelier, Lucite coffee table, goblet pinch silk drapes, and a mirrored cabinet above the marble mantel (conceals TV). She “gets” the mix.


The foyer/dining room gets the all-over paint treatment in Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter. Wouldn’t you like a skylight like this? Well, you need an 1850 row house then. Classic furnishings with a crystal sputnik chandelier.


Nina lets the bones of a house stay true. The headboard fabric was chosen to mimic the tile surround of the fireplace.


Beige doesn’t have to be boring my dear. Here, it’s classy and understated.


While most of us aren’t as blessed with houses with such amazing bones and moldings as the above, it behooves us all to take a cue from our home’s architecture when we’re decorating. Just because something’s on Fixer Upper doesn’t mean it will work with where we live.

You can see more of Nina’s beautiful work here. ‘Til next week, enjoy!


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