Creativity comes to life in customized home decorBy Maria Allen | Photography by Derrick Zellmann
When Diana Cousineau Aveni purchased the historic Bassett House at 44 North Street in Hingham two years ago, the building was in rough shape. There was a hole in the roof and dingy wall-to-wall carpeting covered the floors. Looking past these imperfections, Aveni was enchanted by the building’s rich history and charm and set to work transforming the three-story structure into a new showroom for her business, Hingham Furniture & Design (HFD).
A FRESH NEW LOOK FOR A LOCAL LANDMARK
Situated in the heart of Hingham Square and painted Colonial red, the Bassett House is a local landmark—but it wasn’t always located in Hingham. The historic home was built in the 1600s on Bakers Island, off of Essex, and in the 1700s a Hingham resident purchased the home at auction and had it chopped into three sections and floated to his hometown.
Aveni spent a year transforming the property, taking pains to preserve its historic character while breathing new life into the old home. Interior walls were taken down to create a more open feeling, antique windows were repaired and new flooring was installed. “I am honored to be the owner of this building,” says Aveni. “I have such a spiritual connection with it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into renovating the building as I did 80 percent of the renovations with my own two hands.”
The new showroom, which opened in November 2015, seamlessly blends aspects of old and new. On the lower level, customers can peruse samples of flooring, tile and frames and on the second and third levels, explore room upon room of artfully decorated vignettes accented by unique lighting, accessories and gifts.
In one room, an exposed brick chimney stands beside a beautiful barn-board dining table that is flanked by a set of paisley-print wingback chairs designed by Aveni. In another room, eye-catching artwork and a contemporary couch offer pops of color beside the rough-hewn wood beams.
A skilled painter and potter, Aveni specializes in incorporating art into the decor of her clients’ homes. A full-service design center, HFD offers a wide range of decorating services, from large-scale renovations to custom upholstery and framing. Prior to establishing Hingham Furniture and Design, Aveni operated Framing Concepts, and over the years she established a loyal clientele. “Custom framing is still a big part of the business,” says Aveni, who goes above and beyond for clients, whether she’s hanging a piece of art or creating a gallery wall using family photographs. She has also become known for her ability to cut and shape beautiful beveled moldings to frame mirrors of different sizes and has even built one-of-a-kind frames from scratch.
In one instance, Aveni was hired to redecorate a client’s powder room and was inspired to create a mirror frame that had the look of natural stone. Working in her art studio behind her Hingham home, Aveni built a wire base, covered it with plaster and painted it to resemble chiseled rock.
TIP: Have a dark corner? Lighten and brighten the space with a framed mirror.
Mirrors are beautiful accents for most any room in the house. In addition to being nice to look at, they can also do an important job – lightening and brightening darker spaces. Whether they reflect sunlight from across the room or cast a glow from a lamp or light fixture, mirrors can maximize the effects of available light.
Many people come to Aveni looking for ways to freshen up the look of a space or a piece of furniture. “More and more people are going for a transitional look, mixing the new with the old, which I love,” says Aveni, who is often asked to transform family heirlooms. “I can change up the fabric on the seat cushion of a chair and give it a whole new look,” says Aveni. “I respect antiques and reclaimed wood, but for me, I need more from it. I need fabric and color to bring out contrast and texture. It needs to sing to me.”
Aveni sketches out ideas for clients and puts together style boards to help them envision how different paint colors, fabric patterns and moldings work together. Aveni has a warehouse where she stores much of her large furnishings and an art studio where she paints and creates pottery pieces that are sold at the store. She’s currently working on a collection of custom knobs to be used on refinished furniture, in addition to creating custom backsplash tiles and porcelain sinks.“I enjoy working with my hands,” says Aveni. “And being able to help my clients turn their house into a home is very satisfying.”
Hingham Furniture & Design, 44 North St., Hingham, 781-875-3255, hinghamfurnituredesign.com