All Things Bright and Beautiful

Designed to make the most of its water views, a hingham home blends timeless coastal elements and colorful, contemporary style.


Splitting her time between Boston’s bustling South End and small-town Mendon, Vermont, interior designer Elizabeth Swartz has experience fusing sleek metropolitan style with rustic elements. In her first project on the South Shore, this seasoned professional (with a dossier spanning more than three decades) redesigned a home on Hingham’s tony waterfront, infusing it with vibrant colors and a coastal sophistication.An existing 3,500-square-foot split-level was razed and replaced with a stylish white- cedar, shingle-style home with rich emerald trim and a fieldstone façade. Today, with a new second story added and a finished basement, the palatial retreat offers some 7,500 square feet of living space. Swartz was hired in the summer of 2011 and worked in conjunction with TSBeard Architecture and Brookes + Hill Custom Builders for approximately 18 months. The team replaced the then-retro-style home with a sun-drenched dream, complete with a spacious kitchen, cozy butler’s pantry and sweeping views of Hingham Harbor.

“This home was built to have beautiful views of Boston and the islands,” says Sam Kachmar, the builder’s onsite project manager. “The old floor plan did not take advantage of the landscape.”

Inside the airy foyer, azure wallpapered walls soar 19 feet to meet a hip eyebrow dormer. Brilliant light dances into the home through two custom designed sidelight windows (there’s a toplight too) with swirls of pink flowers and vines. The look is dainty, feminine and reminiscent of the French countryside.

“I wanted this house to be timeless,” the homeowner says. “I wanted something I could dress up and something that could be ‘beachy,’ but I didn’t want a beach house with starfish and cream.”

Dark oak floors and white woodwork lend a contemporary look. The grand living room, with upholstered chairs in muted pastels, invites guests to sit for afternoon tea. Banks of floor-to-ceiling windows overlook an expansive deck extending to the opposite side of the home, and a row of built-ins illuminates antique treasures.

A white-washed sunroom pops with magenta, coral, turquoise and a lavish chandelier designed by MacKenzie-Childs. The conversation piece was a splurge, the homeowner says, but it was a must-have. Very much like the other details, it brings the outdoors in with its ceramic birds and intricate flowers. “My young grandson is just drawn to it,” the homeowner says. “I bring him in here when he’s fussy.”

The kitchen serves as the hub of the home, so creating a functional space was important. Once the flow was achieved, Swartz worked with the homeowner to select cabinets in a gray pickled oak that was paired with bold cerulean walls and an ecru and slate-colored granite called Neptune Bordeaux. “It looks like low tide and the way the water washes back,” the homeowner says of the stone.

Connecting past and present, Swartz chose a copper foil glass backsplash that paid homage to the homeowner’s ancestry, mainly her grandmother who arrived in the U.S. by boat from Sweden. “She was a cook and brought three copper pots, a cookbook and a stone mortar and pestle,” says the homeowner. A playful breakfast nook features a built-in booth and darling round table. Swartz designed a valance and matching seat cushions in a rainbow-motif fabric of watermelon, tangerine, lemon and lime.

“I felt blue was the best choice for the wall,” says Swartz. “We tried several shades and the one we selected has the same bright hue as the pink and orange found on the seat cushions and valance.”

The indoor kitchen flows seamlessly into a second kitchen on the deck. Complete with a stainless steel built-in grill, massive burner made to accommodate oversized pots (especially for lobsters) and candy-colored furniture, the outdoor space gets lots of use in the warmer months by the homeowner and her large family.

Adding to the charm of New England living, a right-of-way leads from the manicured lawn to a sandy beach where seaweed is sometimes harvested. A seasonal dock gives the family easy access to their boats. “We take our little skiff across the harbor to the farmers market,” says the homeowner, “and buy our lobsters from the back of a truck.”

The home’s walk-through butler’s pantry leads into a formal dining room where a contemporary chandelier hanging over a vintage table bridges generations. Mahogany Centennial Queen Anne dining chairs, designed to commemorate America’s 100th birthday, were the first pieces of furniture the homeowner purchased when she was newly married.  A tole tray painted by the homeowner’s mother has rich colors that Swartz mirrored in custom window treatments and a lively striped pattern for the chair cushions. “I like incorporating family heirlooms,” says Swartz. “That’s personal history and it’s so important to honor those traditions.”

At the end of a long hallway, the serene white-and-gray master bedroom suite gets lots of natural light and has just enough color to keep things fun. The homeowner admits the one thing she wouldn’t allow the architect to change was the placement of her bed. “When you lie down you have Boston on the left and World’s End in front of you,” she says. “You have all the water and it’s just the most magnificent place to begin and end every day.” says the homeowner.

The en-suite bathroom flaunts an unexpected raspberry ceiling, double sinks, soaking tub, tiled walk-in shower, and every woman’s dream—a built-in vanity with generous storage. The custom valance and stool cushion boast a feminine design of sea shells and pearls. Secret pocket doors in the bedroom slide apart to reveal a swank office showcasing a flirty pink accent wall and matching desk chair.

“We spent quite a bit of time looking for a bold floral window treatment for the office that wasn’t traditional, and wasn’t ‘mod’ either. Once we found the perfect one, I selected the bold raspberry wall color to match,” says Swartz. Within this expansive space, there’s an office for the homeowner’s husband and a massive walk-in closet. A private deck leads to the backyard and in-ground swimming pool.

Back in the foyer, an attractive staircase leads to three generous bedrooms and two full bathrooms. The first guest room has a nautical approach and houses an alcove with a bed for the homeowner’s grandson. A glass door leads to a deck that sits under a leafy oak tree and offers breathtaking views.

The remaining bedrooms are situated behind double doors. One room takes guests on a trip down memory lane with family collectibles displayed throughout. The other room is sizable with bright yellow walls and sea-themed window treatments in salmon and teal.

“The color choices were based on the fabrics I presented to the homeowner,” explains Swartz. Her personalized design approach and creative eye made it possible to stay true to the homeowner’s sophisticated style while incorporating vivacious colors and alluring textures that give the coastal home a refreshing look.

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