A Star is Born

Josh Linder and Tom Egan of Evolve Residential look to the drama of the movie industry in designing Linder’s Bay Village abode.

Color-splashed fabrics infuse a sense of abandon amid the antiques in the upstairs sitting area. The Roman shades are made in Knoll’s Arezzo, a digitally printed velvet inspired by the work of late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The sofa pillows are in Pierre Frey’s Utopia, a cotton velvet printed with abstracted flowers meant to evoke the psychedelic spirit of the ’60s and the ottomans are upholstered in Pierre Frey’s Eighty Thirty, a printed linen designed by an ’80s graffiti artist. 

A luxurious jade green animal print velvet pillow and a Flexform Morgan chair by Antonio Citterio with a zebra wood-style finish add texture and organic pattern to the monochromatic ebony backdrop of the kitchen. 

In the powder room, a watercolor of a wild hyena is an edgy juxtaposition to bird wallpaper and water spigot. Linder says, “Before the painting, it felt a bit precious. Now it’s like the birds are frightened and scurrying away.”

Linder’s well-appointed closet

It took four electricians to hang the Japanese rice paper light sculpture created by Chicago artisan Andrew Stansell. Linder designed the wool and silk rug, which Landry & Arcari produced. 

In the bedroom are a Biedermeier chest from an antique shop in upstate New York and a tiger print velvet pillow on the bed by Scalamandre.  

Having last designed a place for himself in 2012, when he gutted a small condo in a 19th century Victorian town house, Josh Linder, a partner at South End-based studio Evolve Residential, was ready to take on something new and different. In fall 2015, he purchased a 1,080-square-foot loft duplex with double-height ceilings in Bay Village.

Linder and business partner Tom Egan developed the design concept leveraging their signature style—richly layered luxe materials, saturated colors, statement artwork and striking silhouettes—along with the home’s history and architecture. “We listen to what the space tells us,” says Egan. “This felt very theatrical.” Egan explains that the neighborhood was the epicenter of the East Coast movie industry in the 1930s, and so they channeled their inner set directors to create a Hollywood movie set scheme. Linder says, “The drama hits you the second you open the door.”

One enters on the upper level into a sitting room and workspace, where the duo set the stage with an enveloping palette of moody hues. They painted the plaster walls Farrow & Ball’s French Gray, whitewashed the exposed brick, stained the wood floors black and added substantial glossy black moldings. “If we had simply painted the space white to make it seem brighter, it would have felt vacant and empty,” Linder says.

An oversize antique mirror from Restoration Resources in the South End anchors the wall on the left, where a pair of stunning Biedermeier china cabinets flank a white lacquered desk shaped like an artist’s palette, designed by Linder. The cabinets, which were the starting point for the space, hint back to the historical nature of the city. Egan says, “There’s a pivotal antique in each room, meant to ground the house, so you know you’re in Boston.”

The sitting area furnishings strike a similar balance of edgy and elegant. The contemporary Chesterfield sofa, also designed by Linder, is upholstered in four different fabrics, with sheen. “One is metallic printed with a mini peacock feather design,” says Linder. “It’s pretty glitzy.” Walnut barrel chairs with leather interiors echo the gravitas of the cabinets; the 18K gold-plated Platner table and leggy polished brass ottomans with graffiti-printed linen cushions provide reflectivity and shine; and a geometric-patterned sisal rug keeps the room from feeling too fussy.

To accentuate the windows and draw in light, the designers took advantage of the building’s 16-inch-thick walls. They lined the side panels of each of the four window niches with mirror and inserted window seats. It’s a neat trick that offers a sort of house-of-mirrors effect by infinitely extending the view.

A large-format aerial photograph of a toxic waste site by environmental activist and artist J Henry Fair adorns an exposed brick wall at the back of the home. “It’s a magnificent image with a dark secret that resonates with me on many levels,” explains Linder, who, along with Egan, laments that creating beautiful spaces sometimes results in creating waste. Egan says, “It’s one reason we love antiques. Those Biedermeier cabinets are still doing what they were intended to do, 200 years later.”

On the lower level, Linder gathers with friends for cocktails, lively parties and movie nights. A B&B Italia sofa faces a 75-inch flat-screen television hanging over an antique flamed wood credenza. To counterbalance the scale of the large screen, Linder designed floor-to-ceiling built-ins with “X” shelves inspired by rigs for stage lights, a motif that refers back to the movie set concept.

The kitchen—a swathe of ebonized walnut cabinets with a black cooktop, sink and faucet that melt into the honed absolute black granite counter and backsplash—is barely discernible at the back end of the room. Linder loves the handcast gun-shaped handles on either end, calling them “fantastic conversation starters.”

The master bedroom has an almost womblike, underwater feel, with walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Galapagos Turquoise. Drapery panels, fashioned to suggest that the room has windows, hang on either side of the bed. Above, a faux bois screen lends a polished, earthy touch. Deeper still is the walk-in closet, which resembles a high-end haberdashery, complete with Biedermeier chest, seat belt webbing pendant light and ample slots for Linder’s sneaker collection.

Linder moved in two years ago, yet he’s already browsing real estate listings. He’s not sure where he’ll go next. However, he notes, “it will be vastly different, so I can do something totally new and fresh.” As they say in show business, this will be a hard act to follow.

Single-family home

Bay Village

Evolve Residential

The Holland Companies

Andrew Stansell
Mezzanine light fixture

Living room cocktail table

B&B Italia
Living room sofa

Chairs on upper and lower levels

Upper-level Roman shades

Pierre Frey
Upper-level sitting area ottoman upholstery and pillows

Philip Watts Design
Kitchen cabinet hardware