Designers reimagine New England ski house decor to create a modern ‘man cave’ up north

Josh E. Linder and Thomas Henry Egan III liken reaching Rangeley, Maine, to a trek to the North Pole. The designers, principals of Boston-based Evolve Residential, drove up in Linder’s hybrid right before the pandemic to install the finishing touches on a client’s new home. “It was a long, slow ascent up a mountain on black ice with fresh powder on top,” Linder said. “We didn’t see any other cars, just a tractor carrying logs barreling at us.”



a living room filled with furniture and a fireplace: evolve-residential-rangeley-maine-mudroom


© Sean Litchfield
evolve-residential-rangeley-maine-mudroom

It turns out there is a less precarious route; reassuring given the region gets an annual snowfall of 200-plus inches. Linder and Egan’s clients, a Cambridge family of five, purchased the four-bedroom home last year, primarily to take advantage of the snowmobiling trails that crisscross the area, which also boasts a series of lakes. “The views are showstopping,” Egan said. “There are towering pines, and everything is covered in snow.”

The house, however, was nothing special. Although nestled in the trees on a hill, the structure itself was essentially charmless. “It was a 1980s developer house in the most pristine natural setting,” Linder said. The first step was to remove the unsightly pressure-treated wood deck, which wrapped from front to back. To replace it, Egan designed a wide, covered front porch inspired by the Adirondack-style cottages that dot the area. “It needed a defining architectural feature,” he explained. “Now it looks homey and warm.”

The revamped façade, now stylish and welcoming, set the tone for the interior scheme. While the whole family convenes here from time to time, the husband, teenage sons, and their friends visit most often. The directive was that the rooms feel relaxed. The décor was not to echo that of the stylish summer home the firm designed for the family on Massachusetts’ South Coast. “We had to reinvent the concept of a ‘man cave,’ ” Egan said.

The question became how to infuse their signature vibrancy into spaces that felt laid back and approachable. “It had to be tamer overall — less colorful and not too primped,” Linder said. The solution was to embrace the color blue and lean into natural materials, including fir, birch, leather, and jute. “Navy can go in many directions, but at the end of the day, it’s a masculine color,” Egan said. “The house had to be comfortable for men from the moment they entered.”

Knowing everyone would enter from the side door, the designers turned the mudroom area into a cozy place to hang out. Two George Smith chairs that came from the wife’s parents are at the ready in front of a cast-iron wood stove against a new stacked-granite wall. The storage — baskets and hooks and a live-edge wood bench — happens behind them. “You can relax on the chairs while you warm your feet; it’s not just a repository for wet clothing and shoes,” Egan said.

In addition to dressing up the space with local stone and woodwork painted Benjamin Moore’s “Hale Navy,” the designers

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Designers reimagine N.E. ski house decor

Josh E. Linder and Thomas Henry Egan III liken reaching Rangeley, Maine, to a trek to the North Pole. The designers, principals of Boston-based Evolve Residential, drove up in Linder’s hybrid right before the pandemic to install the finishing touches on a client’s new home. “It was a long, slow ascent up a mountain on black ice with fresh powder on top,’’ Linder said. “We didn’t see any other cars, just a tractor-trailer carrying logs barreling at us.’’

It turns out there is a less precarious route; reassuring given the region gets an annual snowfall of 200-plus inches. Linder and Egan’s clients, a Cambridge family of five, purchased the four-bedroom home last year, primarily to take advantage of the snowmobiling trails that crisscross the area, which also boasts a series of lakes. “The views are showstopping,’’ Egan said. “There are towering pines, and everything is covered in snow.’’

The house, however, was nothing special. Although nestled in the trees on a hill, the structure itself was essentially charmless. “It was a 1980s developer house in the most pristine natural setting,’’ Linder said. The first step was to remove the unsightly pressure-treated wood deck, which wrapped from front to back. To replace it, Egan designed a wide, covered front porch inspired by the Adirondack-style cottages that dot the area. “It needed a defining architectural feature,’’ he explained. “Now it looks homey and warm.’’

The revamped façade, now stylish and welcoming, set the tone for the interior scheme. While the whole family convenes here from time to time, the husband, teenage sons, and their friends visit most often. The directive was that the rooms feel relaxed. The décor was not to echo that of the stylish summer home the firm designed for the family on Massachusetts’ South Coast. “We had to reinvent the concept of a ‘man cave,’ ’’ Egan said.

The question became how to infuse their signature vibrancy into spaces that felt laid back and approachable. “It had to be tamer overall — less colorful and not too primped,’’ Linder said. The solution was to embrace the color blue and lean into natural materials, including fir, birch, leather, and jute. “Navy can go in many directions, but at the end of the day, it’s a masculine color,’’ Egan said. “The house had to be comfortable for men from the moment they entered.’’

Knowing everyone would enter from the side door, the designers turned the mudroom area into a cozy place to hang out. Two George Smith chairs that came from the wife’s parents are at the ready in front of a cast-iron wood stove against a new stacked-granite wall. The storage — baskets and hooks and a live-edge wood bench — happens behind them. “You can relax on the chairs while you warm your feet; it’s not just a repository for wet clothing and shoes,’’ Egan said.

‘We had to reinvent the concept of a “man cave.” ‘ –– Thomas Henry Egan II

In addition to dressing up the

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Interior Designers Are Helping Businesses Reimagine Their Workspace

covid-19 workspace
Walled off: Glass or acrylic partitions in a workspace create a sense of separation that makes people feel safer. // Photograph courtesy of MarxModa

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push businesses to reimagine their workspaces into more hygienic, socially distant environments, interior design professionals are busy helping metro Detroit companies transform offices, community areas, and more for a new age of working.

Whitney Marx, 33, CEO of MarxModa, a Michigan-based interior design business headquartered in Detroit that creates workspaces for commercial, healthcare, and small-business clients, among others, first saw a need for COVID-19 workspace redesigns in February, with the demand intensifying in March and remaining steady since.

“Best practices continue to evolve, and we continue to design for flexibility in the workplace,” she says. “We expect new information almost daily, so design with the ability to adapt is critical.”

Marx and her team of interior designers partner closely with clients to change or adjust their spaces to help employees feel safe at work. “The first clients we helped were the essential businesses, especially healthcare-related clients and organizations looking to set up temporary COVID-care facilities very quickly,” she explains.

MarxModa formed a focus group early on that included clients, manufacturers, experts, and some of its team members to discuss challenges created by the pandemic and possible solutions that space planning and design could offer. Since then, they have worked with hundreds of clients to implement these strategies as people have returned to work.

“We’ve tried to be a resource to help our clients sift through the noise and understand things like new space allocation requirements and density danger zones in their office,” Marx says. Critical locations for COVID-19 safety consideration include common areas where people gather, lobbies, elevators, kitchens, restrooms, and print areas.

Updates to floor plans to meet distancing recommendations, such as furniture reconfigurations to move people farther apart or change their orientation, have been common changes. Other popular additions to workstation layouts are clear glass or acrylic boundary screens for physical separation and psychological support. Demand for furniture and accessories that can be easily cleaned has increased as well.

But “one design does not fit all,” says Marx, who says her team is working with clients to understand the number of employees who want access to spaces at the same time. Determining capacity limits, defining “safe spaces,” and tapping into technology to track space utilization have helped MarxModa create custom designs.

Solutions are modified as new data on how the virus spreads emerges. “There was a big push in March for higher screens, panels, room dividers — any form of physical boundary that could be installed immediately within workplaces to help prevent the spread of the virus,” Marx says. “More recently, research has shown that while these physical boundaries can create a sense of safety psychologically and serve as good reminders to maintain physical distance, they don’t actually block airborne particles.”

Physical distancing, wearing masks, and regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces are more effective for containing virus spread,

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