Tour Beacon Hill Books and Cafe by Designer Cathy Kincaid

by decwells
Tour Beacon Hill Books and Cafe by Designer Cathy Kincaid


Boston’s picturesque Beacon Hill neighborhood seemingly had it all—a delightful mix of Federal-style brick row houses lining the cobblestone streets, bustling restaurants serving fine dining, and museums for all interests. Still, when Melissa Fetter moved to the idyllic area in 2019, she noticed that one important thing was missing — a beloved bookstore.

Fetter felt a call to action and began envisioning a store that leans toward a high design standard while still having all the convenience and curiosity one expects to find when looking for a book. As fate would have it, not long after she embarked on this journey, a charming 1840s building at 71 Charles Street came on the market, and Fetter wasted no time in making an offer. With the location secured, Fetter knew the only person who could bring her vision to life was her longtime collaborator and designer Cathy Kincaid.

“Melissa and I have worked together on several projects, but there was something very special and personal about this project because I knew that opening a bookstore had always been a dream of Melissa’s,” says Kincaid. “She is one of the smartest and best-read individuals I know. Her mind works on multiple levels and her taste is impeccable, so I knew we would not only create a bookstore, but an interior-and- lifestyle-driven retail concept that would be in a league of its own and become a signature Boston destination.”

beacon hill books and cafe

Most of Beacon Hill books are drenched in watery colors, except for the “Aesthetics” which houses books on architecture, design, entertainment, art, fashion and landscape.

Sarah Winchester

Fetter made it clear to Kincaid that the bookstore needed to be a little more residential so that guests felt like they were perusing the shelves of someone’s well-curated home library. To achieve this, the duo enlisted the help of local Boston architect Monika Pauli of Pauli Uribe Architects to completely renovate the building, focusing on enhancing period details and adding some modern amenities such as ‘ an elevator As architectural renovations continued, Kincaid and Fetter found inspiration in an American decorating legend for the interior of the store. “We imagined Sister Parish living on Beacon Hill and what she would have chosen for today’s modern world,” says Kincaid.

beacon hill books and cafe reading nook

A mix of materials from Sister Parish creates the perfect little reading nook.

Sarah Winchester

It was only fitting that Kincaid reached out to the Sister Parish brand, run by members of the late decorator’s family, to find the perfect fabrics and wall coverings to create a cohesive and youthful look throughout the townhouse’s five floors. create. Banquets covered with buzzing patterns and rattan sofas (Amanda Lindroth) create cozy corners for guests to dive into a new book or enjoy a cup of tea from the shop’s cafe. Near the townhouse fireplaces, simple yet chic wooden displays can easily be moved out to make room for longer tables and chairs for private lunches or dinners.

While most of the walls are dosed in a custom powder blue shade (Farrow & Ball) that glows in the sunlight, two of the small alcoves take on darker, moodier hues. The “Aesthetics” room stands out with its fiery red shelves (painted Rectory Red by Farrow & Ball) that house an impeccable selection of books on architecture, art, entertainment, fashion, interior design and landscape. The “Around the World” section (focused on both fiction and non-fiction travel books) stays within the blue color family with richer colors reminiscent of deep ocean scenes.

No detail was overlooked as Kincaid enlisted a local artisan to add special finishing touches; A French woodcarver made custom carvings like paint palettes seen across many shelves, and a classical sign painter designed gold leaf signs to indicate the different genres of the 10,000 books that make up the store.

beacon hill books and cafe miniature room

The miniature room by Brian Lies was inspired by the book, Paige from Beacon Hill.

Sarah Winchester

Meanwhile, Fetter went so far as to commission award-winning author and illustrator Sarah S. Brannen to write a fictional children’s book about a little squirrel who lives at Beacon Hill Books titled, Paige from Beacon Hill. Brian Lies, also an award-winning children’s author and artist, created a miniature house inspired by Paige’s adventures in the book. The house is entirely handcrafted and features clever details directly related to Boston and the store, such as a replica of the missing Rembrandt painting stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and paneling covering with Sister Parish’s Bolero fabric. It is this attention to detail and care that has gone into Beacon Hill Books and Cafe that makes it a special bookstore and haven for all.

“It’s not just a bookstore,” Kincaid says. “It’s a community resource that can function as an extension of one’s home. I believe people will not only visit Beacon Hill Books in Boston, but people will travel to Boston just to visit Beacon Hill Books! It will become a destination in its own right.”

Beacon Hill Books and Cafe is open Tuesday-Saturday 09:00 to 19:00 and Sunday 12:00 to 17:00

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