After living for many years as a student—first as an undergraduate at The Johns Hopkins University, then as a master's student of public health at Boston University, and finally as a medical student in Missouri—Alice Tang was more than ready to live like an adult.
"I lived in dorm rooms year after year," says Tang, now an emergency room doctor at Franklin Square Hospital. "When I was living in the Bronx as part of my medical training, I was in a fourth-floor walkup—I'm pretty sure a gang lived there because the graffiti changed every week."
When she finished her residency in 2005, she figured it was time to be a real grownup. "I bought this townhouse in Canton because I thought, 'Isn't that what grownups do?'" she chuckles. "I was looking for a place I could really call home."
But even after moving into the 2,220-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath space in July 2006, Tang continued to live like a student—with bare white walls, a folding table in her dining room, and a sofa that had seen a lot of wear and tear from her poodle, Murray.
"At work, I am forced to make quick decisions," says Tang, 36. "I can handle someone who is in cardiac arrest or having a stroke no problem, but I couldn't make a decorating decision to save my life. For two years, I'd stay up and watch HGTV for hours and think, 'I can do that,' but the truth was, I couldn't."
Ironically, the cure for Tang's decorating issue was living right across the street.
"I'd always liked Nouveau Contemporary Goods in Belvedere Square," recalls Tang, "and I knew they had their own design firm, Whitehead & Appel. I went in one day and said, 'I'd like a consultation,' and when they asked for my address, they said, 'That's funny—the owner, Steve Appel, lives across the street from you!'" She hired the firm on the spot.
Since that serendipitous day, Tang's home has gone from spartan to spectacular. Key pieces include a luxe brown velvet armchair, a hip, ultra-suede platform chaise, a Noguchi-style coffee table, and ivory leather dining room chairs. Colored glass accessories, including a set of oversized perfume bottles on the living room coffee table and a hand-blown blue glass bowl in the kitchen, offer visual focal points throughout the space.
"Color is really important to me," explains Tang, "and that was really a starting point. I told Steve I liked blues and chocolates, and I wanted the walls painted yellow to remind me of Tuscany. I also told him I wanted my home to be visually appealing but also comfortable and cozy. I wanted something in between classic and contemporary—I didn't want anything too extreme."
And decorating has truly helped Tang redefine her sense of personal space.
"I had this house, but I was still living like a medical resident," she says. "Now, when I come home from work, I lounge instead of going straight to bed. I can't believe how much it has changed my life."