A New Twist on Traditional

By Anne M. Downey | Photography by Joseph St. PierreMany things about Diana and Mark Ginnard’s home in Amherst are unique: the architecture, the layout, the furnishings and the relationship Diana has with their interior designer, Diane Hughes.

When the Ginnards were ready to build several years ago, they bought the lot across the street from the house in which they were living. Mark used his skills and contacts as the owner of New Hampshire Steel Fabrications to act as general contractor. He also has an architecture background, and owned plans for an eight-thousand-square foot, contemporary Tudor-style home that had all the elements he and Diana love: stone, stucco and wood. He tweaked some of the interior construction—adding pillars, arched doorways and a stunning circular wood staircase with mismatched spindles and ebonized treads.While Mark worked on the house’s structure, Diana threw herself into the interior design. She met Hughes through a mutual acquaintance, and they have been working on the house together for six years (they plan to continue to do so for many more). Their relationship is unique because they both see Diana’s house as a work-in-progress. Both say they like the other’s honesty. Diana says Hughes “is genuine, respects my opinion, and perfects everything, down to the light switch plates.”

“We have a very open relationship,” Hughes says. “Diana has a good eye and a real appreciation for design; she gets excited about each piece. She energizes me.”

Style That’s Ahead of the Curve

Diana has an eclectic style and is drawn to pieces that put a funky spin on tradition. “I like combat boots with my Chanel,” she says. She also has three teenagers, and her house is very lived in—her children bring their friends home and the library serves as a home office.

Diana is fearless about living with beautiful things, and Hughes does the worrying for her. Recently, they worked on recovering the barstools that accompany the island in the kitchen. Diana chose a purple silk ikat fabric made by New York textile designer Madeline Weinrib. “Don’t you let anyone spill anything on those stools!” Hughes warned.

“Diane has become a friend,” Diana says, “and we have a lot of fun together.”

The purple ikat is an accent color in the open-concept kitchen/family room, where—like the rest of the house—the color scheme is unconventional and fashion-forward. The walls are painted in Van Buren Brown by Benjamin Moore; the cabinetry is white with a chocolate glaze, giving the room a Mediterranean feel; and the window treatments are a chartreuse, eggplant and brown stripe. The glass, octagonal table is made by the John McGuire Furniture Company in San Francisco from black bamboo and lashed with rawhide, which complements the bamboo floor. “Diana’s tastes are often cutting-edge,” Hughes says. “She chose a bright aqua paint for her son’s room before those bright hues were fashionable, and now they’re everywhere.”

The Right Furniture

One of Hughes’s challenges in the Ginnards’ house is choosing and placing furniture in rooms that are unusual shapes. “Because the house has turrets and pillars, there is very little symmetry, so you have to create it,” Hughes says. “But I’ve always twisted tradition a bit; I’m not afraid to plop a piece in the center of a room and let it float.”

Consequently, Hughes has created many wonderful conversation areas, with various exquisite—and funky—chairs. The library—which is paneled in a dark mahogany—has a pair of curry-colored, tufted slipper chairs covered in mohair velvet that have a curved shape reminiscent of the 1940s and ’50s.

In the living room, two wing chairs are upholstered in green and cream floral; the seats, however, are covered in a fuzzy wool. The texture mix gives the conventional chairs an unconventional look. Another armchair, from Century Furniture, has a traditional, eighteenth-century shape, but is upholstered in embossed black velvet and has chain mail hanging down from the seat.

In the upstairs hallway, an armchair made by Casamidy—a Mexican furniture company—has a brushed steel frame, and the cushions are covered in luxurious, steel-blue cut velvet. There is a beautiful tension to the mix of materials.

Diana reads a lot of design magazines and finds many of her treasures in their pages. For example, her upstairs hallway is covered in a blue-gray, herringbonepatterned grasscloth made by Kneedler Fauchere, which she saw in a photograph of the interior of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The fragmented mirror that hangs just outside the master suite was pictured in a feature about designer Catherine Malandrino’s home. The Ginnards’ pool house has a pair of Hickory chairs that Diana saw in a feature about Gwyneth Paltrow’s home. Hughes covered the chairs in an indoor/outdoor animal print from Kravet Couture, added silver nailheads and placed them around a white Roche Bobois cocktail table.

“One of the great things about Diana is that she’s patient,” Hughes says. “If she falls in love with something that’s a bit pricey, she’ll wait until she can afford it. I’ve met so many wonderful people in the industry because she likes to pick out individual pieces for her home, and I love working with a client who’s fully involved. I did tell her not to let anyone sit in that Hickory chair if they were covered in sunscreen, though.”

Supporting Local Artists

The Ginnards love contemporary art and like to support local artists. Diana is a regular patron of McGowan Fine Art in Concord, and owns work by Gary Haven Smith, Bert Yarborough, Barbara Wagner and Frederick Lynch.

In the spirit of the abstract work Diana collects, she often hangs her art in an unconventional way. For example, the last painting in a series hung over the mantel in the living room is lower than the others. “It just looks right that way,” Diana says, and in her house, it does.

The Ginnards’ house is far from a museum—it is too comfortable and fun for that—but, like a favorite museum, you want to go back to see what Diana and Hughes have added to the collection.