This Modern Boston Renovation Expertly Mixes in Colorful Craft Finds

A world of craftsmanship is on display at MASS Design Group cofounder Alan Ricks’ home.
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Like many travelers, Alan Ricks decorates his home with keepsakes from the places he’s visited. But instead of gift shop tchotchkes, his condo in Boston’s South End is dotted with one-of-a-kind artwork and design and by craftspeople in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Haiti, and beyond.

When Alan Ricks and Cristina de la Cierva moved into their Boston condo, a ship’s ladder was taking up space in the main living area. Following a lengthy renovation, a spiral staircase provides rooftop access. 

Ricks is the cofounder of MASS Design Group, a nonprofit that puts local artisans to work building schools, hospitals, and other community projects in mostly developing countries. The firm has designed projects all over the world, from Rwanda to Mississippi. This diversity of regions and cultures is reflected in the brick-and-beam apartment Ricks shares with his wife, Cristina de la Cierva.

The living room features an eye-catching Tiuku grandfather clock by Covo. The Gus sofa is from Lekker. The flooring is new. 

Ricks, an architect, renovated the condo over the course of three years, improving natural light, touching up the structure, and adding a nursery. Located on the top floor of an 1850s brick townhouse, the space is barely larger than 1,100 square feet, yet contains a plethora of styles. In the kitchen-living-dining area, traditional African masks and a paddle made by an indigenous South Pacific tribe live alongside pieces sourced locally in Boston, like a sofa from Lekker.


Natural light entered the original apartment through three sides plus a skylight. A wall that blocked the passage of light between the bedroom and main living area was replaced with a custom 10-foot-long barn door, which is outfitted with coat hooks from Design Within Reach that the residents use as pulls. The dining table is from Mohr McPherson. 

Though these elements might seem disparate, for Ricks, the overarching theme is craftsmanship. "The design and detailing was developed to highlight the craft of construction," he says. 

For the couple, who are expecting, adding a nursery was a key component of the renovation. Like the brickwork, the home’s historic trusses were lightly whitewashed. 


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