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At Home with Ken Gloss:

Eclectic furnishings, from antique to tacky, turn drab to fab

The Newton Centre home of Ken Gloss and Joyce Kosofsky offers a delight in every corner, not unlike a visit to the Brattle Book Shop in Boston, which Gloss and his family have owned since 1949. But while the store’s delights are solely in the book category, this three-level, 1881, stick-style Victorian owes its look to Kosofsky’s broad decorating skills, including her attraction to ”all things tacky.”

Married 25 years, Gloss and Kosofsky moved into the home 18 years ago when daughter Emily was a toddler and daughter Sonia was 8 weeks old. They wanted to live near an MBTA stop, within walking distance to stores, and have a small backyard. This house fit the bill with one drawback: ”It was the third ugliest house I’d ever seen in my life,” says Kosofsky. ”But it was in a fabulous location and had good bones.”

Busy with her young children, Kosofsky hired a contractor to paint the ”filthy” walls white, but didn’t renovate much else at first. Eventually, they replaced the aging clapboard and stained it blue with red trim, installed a hardwood entry floor with an intricate inlaid border, and improved on other ”minuscule details,” she says. The result is now a beautiful home with a recent addition that includes a spacious kitchen and contemporary master bedroom. The walls on the lower level are now wallpapered in a brown paisley with Victorian leaf borders; two stained-glass windows were cut into the wall by the entry staircase; the kitchen is airy with a Five-Star stove, SubZero refrigerator, and lots of bright light; and the third-floor master bedroom features high ceilings and faux-finished walls created with ”brushes” formed from Saran Wrap.

Throughout the home, a mesh of old, new, and unique furnishings crystallizes the look, which developed from a bit of kismet years ago. Gloss regularly visits estate sales seeking old and rare books for his store, and one day soon after they’d moved in and were still looking for furniture, he brought Kosofsky along to see an antique rolltop desk. She not only adored the rolltop, but when she learned everything in the home was for sale at half the price of antique stores, she pointed at several other pieces and said, ”And I’ll take that and that and that,” she recalls.

The result: 10 major pieces sit majestically in various places in the four-room lower level, five-room-plus-alcove upper level, and two-room third floor. Among the finds: a Victorian quartersawn oak buffet and hall tree with mirror, and an East Lake Victorian mahogany curio cabinet. Sitting beside these classy, historic pieces are items Kosofsky calls tacky, a category in which she includes an Elvis bust that Gloss presented for a recent birthday; snow globes from airports in cities they visit on trips assessing book treasures with PBS’s ”Antiques Roadshow”; leopard photos, skins, and figures; and signed and framed photographs of jazz and blues singers.

There are also book-related surprises: two coffee tables made from stacks of books; book light switches; book-themed backsplash tiles in the kitchen; multiple bookshelves; and a lower-level bathroom decorated with glitzy books ”for decorative color,” says Gloss, although some titles, such as ”A Dash for the Throne,” suit bathroom reading perfectly. Books, however, are deliberately an accent in the home, not a central feature, says Gloss, 55, who became involved in his father’s store when he was a boy. ”My father would bring home two to three books a day for six to seven days a week for 50 years. You can imagine what our house looked like.”


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