Interiorssneak peeks

A Stylist’s 1830s East Coast Farmhouse

by Lauren Chorpening Day

I love taking a look inside old homes. There’s a level of charm and quirky character that newer builds rarely have. Things like parlor doors, original hardwood floors and built-in details get me every time. It’s not to say, though, that older homes don’t come with their own set of issues — they absolutely do. Necessary updates, original structures that are smaller than current standards, and creaks and squeaks are all part of owning a century-old (and then some) home — but for the right people, it’s a dream. This 1830s farmhouse in Natick, MA was exactly what the Alfanos were looking for.

Emily Starr Alfano is an event/wedding designer and stylist and Bill Alfano is the marketing and outreach director of a nonprofit organization called Pan-Mass Challenge. Emily, Bill, and their dog Bruno found this gem in July 2014 in the sweet town of Natick. They toured the home the same day it went up for sale and put in an offer the next day. This house was move-in ready with a beautifully redone kitchen, which made finding such a great, historic home even more exciting. “Since I spend so much time here, and use various rooms for work and staging pictures, it was important the house either had certain existing elements or could be transformed,” Emily says. “We just straight up lucked out with this house. I don’t think either of us ever dreamed we could have a house with such character but many modern updates…especially in our first house!”

Their good luck hasn’t come without work and adjusting to the home. “Despite many updates and upgrades over the years, at the end of the day the house is almost 200 years old — there are obvious challenges! Among them are super small doorframes which make moving couches, tables and other large items fairly difficult. We’re pretty sure our staircase is the original and it’s essentially a straight line up. We’ve got wonky walls and ceilings that aren’t straight!” says Emily. “We found this perfect-for-us piece of real estate. I think more than anything we wanted to create a space that reflects us a family and honors the original design…quirks and all.” I love the way they have embraced their house, with the wonderful things and the challenging things, and have made it uniquely their home. —Lauren

Photography by Joyelle West


– open shelving: done by the previous owners, but they built with wood + brackets from Home Depot
– paint color: Behr Salt Glaze
– shades: were here when we bought it!
– island: DIY
– farm sink, butcher block counters + cabinets: IKEA
– black cabinet pulls + knobs: Home Depot
– Persian runner: Rugs USA
– specific items on the open shelving, counters + island: Anthropologie deer vase, wood fruit trays from H&M, wood + gold trays by Diane Von Furstenberg, vintage soda bottles from Magnolia Market, marble pastry slabs from Crate & Barrel, cutting board from Terrain, and lots and lots from HomeGoods!
– vintage floral prints over sink: Brimfield Antique Market
– Bruno’s teepee: PetWaki on Etsy
– various plants: Russell’s Garden Center
– olive topiary: TuscanyTopiary on Etsy

Dining Room
– paint color: unsure (we kept it when we moved in)
– farm table: custom from Wooden Whale Workshop on Etsy
– chairs: Overstock
– chandelier: Wayfair
– rug: Rugs USA
– metal stag: HomeGoods
– Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names: Pop Chart Lab
– shelving: IKEA
– wood cup display + side table: HomeGoods
– lavender plant: Russell’s Garden Center
– wire basket + weathered pitcher on table: HomeGoods
– succulent + cactus vases from Anthropologie + IKEA
– Bar bookcase: HomeGoods

– paint: Benjamin Moore White Dove
– white shelving: IKEA
– desk: IKEA
– Bertoia-style desk chairs: Amazon
– sheepskin: IKEA
– black floral wallpaper: Anewall Decor
– wood + white stool on bookcase: Serena & Lily

Living Room
– paint: Benjamin Moore White Dove
– fiddle leaf fig tree from Russell’s Garden Center (displayed in a Nate Berkus for Target fringed basket) + IKEA
– disco ball leftover from an event
– driftwood stools: HomeGoods
– tripod lamp: Wayfair
– clipboard frames: Michaels
– succulent notecards: Edtya Szyszlo purchased at Paper Source
– sectional: Jordan’s Furniture
– black + white stripe pillow: H&M Home
– geometric pillow + light coral pillow: HomeGoods
– sheepskin pillow: IKEA
– navy blue rug: Hayneedle.com
– Persian rug: Rugs USA
– coffee table: World Market
– coral blanket: Target
– cable knit blanket: IKEA
– pendant chandelier: Lowe’s
– “Bentley” driftwood stag: some random website that we can’t seem to find anymore!
– driftwood garland: One Kings Lane
– feather prints: TheClayPlay on Etsy

– paint: Benjamin Moore Calm
– blue nightstand: Target
– headboard: reclaimed table top
– duvet cover: HomeGoods
– linen sheets: Crate & Barrel
– sequin blanket: West Elm
– white linen pillows: IKEA
– picture ledge: IKEA
– framed wrapping paper: Paper Source
– bedside lamp: HomeGoods
– jewelry display: HomeGoods

A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
The home has been updated over the years by previous owners, but a lot of the original elements are still intact - like the great exposed beams in the living room and kitchen, the turning doorbell, and hardwood floors.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"I like finding unique ways to display things…in this case, the guest book tags from our wedding found a home in shadow boxes from Michaels," says Emily. "The shelves are just one of two built-ins in the house and I love where they're located in the room."
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily loves styling small moments throughout their home. "Truth be told, we eat most of our meals at the coffee table, but I love having the chance to style it up," says Emily. "My fave mags are always on hand and how great are those matches from Pottery Barn?"
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Bruno the dog and Emily love the light that pours into their living room and the ability to make the space their own. "The house has lots of natural light streaming through and I wanted the walls in the main living spaces to to be light and bright and then add some fun and meaningful decor items," says Emily.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
The wood burning fireplace, rug and greenery make this one of the most loved spots in the house (and not just by Bruno).
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"I LOVE having a formal dining room. It’s something Bill and I have never had since living together," Emily says. "My favorites are the plank-style farm table I commissioned an Etsy vendor, juxtaposed with the metal bistro chairs and that fabulous chandelier." Mixing pieces in a cohesive, elegant way is everywhere in this charming home.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Cacti and seasonal flowers are always on display on the Alfano's dining room table. Their yard is landscaped with peonies, clematis and roses, so switching out flowers is easy to do.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"The Vittsjo shelves just work in a variety of settings and are functional," Emily says. "I like mixing vintage with new. And I like changing up the styling on a whim."
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily and Bill's bar shelf is such a great piece in the room and changes things up from a standard bar cart.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
The kitchen is what immediately sold Emily and Bill on this home. It was exactly what they were looking for - updated, new, but with a farmhouse feel. Emily's DIY island and styling really finish the space.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"I tend to change up items on the shelving every couple of months, but there are some staples like the Deer Vase from Anthropologie and an antler we brought back from Jackson Hole," says Emily. "I 'stole' that amazing mint-green juicer from my mom’s house and [it] is a nice reminder of my dad’s family’s business in the food service equipment industry."
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily's studio and office is filled with everything she loves. "It was originally a third bedroom, but situated on the first floor off the dining room, it’s the perfect spot for me," says Emily. "I keep my wedding dress out on display for obvious sentimental reasons, plus it’s just pretty to look at! That killer black wall panel is from Anewall Decor and I have a second one that will be put back up soon, I hope. I grew up dancing and my first toe shoes in the window are a fun reminder of that time."
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"On any given day, my desk can be, and often is, filled with random stuff I'm working on or want to look at," says Emily. "Since I haven’t learned to use just one notebook, I keep A TON of pretty notebooks around and my current favorite is Rifle’s Monarch pad."
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily's design and styling business requires a lot of props on hand for styling. Her props and pieces fit her home's aesthetic so perfectly.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily's mood board behind the office door gives her tangible inspiration.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Emily's decorating is effortless and pretty everywhere you look in their home.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
Part of owning an old home is getting creative with strange spaces. "Our master bedroom isn’t small per se, but it’s an odd rectangle layout with space that seems to just go unused but not enough space where you need it! Our headboard is actually the top of an old dining room table," says Emily.
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge
"I like creating 'artwork' and this shot shows part of my jewelry display. I’ve got a lot of jewelry so why not have fun with it?!"
A Stylist's 1830s East Coast Farmhouse | Design*Sponge

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  • Why are all the pictures so small in the new design sponge site design? I feel like I used to be able to see them so much bigger!

    • Hi Olivia

      They’re much larger than they’ve ever been. Do you have the site viewing at it’s normal size? (Just check your browser and hit “View” and then “Actual Size”. The images are set to 650 pixels wise, which is 150 pixels wider than they’ve been for the past 5 years.


        • Hi Guys-

          What version of Safari are you using- and is it on mobile or your desktop?

          I just downloaded the latest version of Safari to test and it showed up fine for me (see here or below)

          Safari screengrab


          • Hey Grace,
            I’m in Chrome on an iMac and the width is 550 px. I tried actual size, presentation mode and full screen, all look the same! Hope this helps.


  • What a beautiful and sunny looking space! I love all of the little details that are paid attention to, such as those matches in a bottle on the coffee table. This inspires me to pay more attention to the details in my home!

  • It would have been interesting to see a photo of the outside of this old home. The interior is lovely, but gives no hint at all to the fact this home is one of the oldest I can remember you ever featuring.

    • Gretchen

      I’ve mentioned this a lot online, but most people don’t feel comfortable showing the exterior of their homes online anymore for privacy and safety reasons. Exteriors allow a home to be easily recognized from a street or Google map, and in this age of internet accessibility, I understand why not everyone wants to show that part. We provide exterior shots whenever possible, but we never push for the because I understand people’s desire for privacy and safety.


  • I understand about not picturing the exterior. That is wise. However, these pics could be from any interior. Where’s the “straight line” stairway? Where are the parlor doors? I expected a piece about styling an historic home; not just styling.

    • Linda

      I’m afraid we don’t typically treat home tour posts as styling lessons (we do do styling posts, but these are more of a visual tour, not a lesson), but I will definitely make sure that if elements are mentioned, they’re pictured clearly. The parlor doors, however, we mentioned as a general element the writer, Lauren, enjoys in older homes- they weren’t a part of this tour.


  • Love the small details. Any chance you have info on that juicer in the kitchen – it’s lovely and a perfect size.

    Thanks :)

  • I love the dining room!! I have been looking for that exact chandelier. It says the dining room chandelier is from way fair but do you happen to know the product name? I can’t find it anywhere on the way fair website. Thanks!!