Interior designer Dina Holland is known for her refreshingly modern take on New England style. You can often find her posting inspo and sharing wild ideas on Instagram (professionally as @honeyandfitz andas her down-the-rabbit-hole alter ego @pleasehatethesethings with 167k followers), where she entertains thousands with her style and sarcasm. Dina’s bold, brazen approach is exactly what one Massachusetts family needed to transform their two-story Colonial. The house was stuck in 1995 with builder-grade standard features, from tiny track lights and a hexagon island to Palladian windows and layers of sponge paint. In effort to jump two-and-a-half decades forward, the designer pulled out her favorite paints, patterns, and modern-day tricks.
“We really tried to take it from ‘90s blah and add more traditional New England elements to the house,” Dina says. “The biggest way we did that was incorporating built-in details where we could.”
Custom built-ins—window seats, bookcases, and paneling—added instant architectural interest. The biggest change was in the living room, which had a huge, vaulted ceiling that stretched two stories high. “It made the space feel really cold. Literally. In New England, that’s a lot of space to heat, and figuratively, it just didn’t feel cozy,” Dina says.
To give the room better scale, they had to create a new ceiling, which subsequently added newfound square footage up top, allowing for a more casual area they call “the pajama lounge.” Down in the suddenly sophisticated living room, Dina flanked the fireplace with built-in bookcases and window seats that are dressed up with punchy paisley drapery. For a final formality, Dina drenched every wood surface in her signature navy blue (Benjamin Moore’s Hudson Bay, in case you’re curious).
“If you have a room that doesn’t have a lot of interesting architectural details, painting the entire room one color will elevate the entire space,” she says, stressing the word entire, to include walls, crown, baseboard, and windows. “Don’t skip the windows! It creates a cozy and really luxe base to build on.”
In the formal dining room—a Boston commonality—they kept the layout but updated the shell of the room. Ditching the former maroon and forest green color scheme, they echoed the established blue and white palette with fresh, Kelly green tones—the client’s favorite. They swapped out tired grapevine wallpaper for a Christopher Farr print that adds instant prep. A traditional dining set carried over from the family’s last home looks current thanks to the lively, leafy pattern, plus hits of brass on the drapery rod, mirror, and oversized geometric light fixture, which replaced a heavy crystal chandelier. “There’s not much that’s more New England than navy blue and brass!” she says.
Riffs of blue and brass pop up in the powder blue powder room and in the kitchen where the color palette skews lighter and beachier with sky blue pendants and Chippendale-style barstools. The old hexagon ‘90s island got 86’d for a new, sleeker rectangular one, taking those odd angles out of play. An adjacent breakfast room was “super dated with sad window treatments and an equally sad light fixture.” Here, Dina opted to keep the crazy vaulted ceilings since they were surrounded by windows that overlook the backyard. Because the clients don’t need privacy, Dina tossed the floral valance and opted to leave the windows bare. To give the room a wow factor, she accented the space with a big, beaded light fixture (in navy, of course) that’s cool and elegant yet seems less stuffy than the frosted-glass version before.
If you were to do one thing to go from blah to whoa, Dina says to pay attention to scale and lighting. “Nothing gives away a spec home more than bad, tiny lights,” says the designer who sells her favorites as part of her new Honey & Fitz Collection. “Swapping all the lights for over-scaled, statement lights immediately made this house feel more special and like something that someone really spent time putting together—because believe me, we did!”