At home with Paul Grogan:
Paul Grogan, 54, and his wife, Karen Sunnarborg, 53, have made no home improvements to the 1960s gray-shingled expanded ranch they've lived in for seven years.
''It's not our thing," says the Boston Foundation's president and CEO, once a special assistant to Mayor Kevin White and a business-community liaison in Ray Flynn's administration. ''It's always been way down on the priority list after spending time with family and demanding careers, and we've always tried to move into houses that don't need a lot of work."
Indeed, the home they share with sons Matt, 15, Connor, 11, and Timmy, 9, is well worn inside. Off-white rugs reveal the wear and tear of life; the dining room ceiling, painted like a cloud by former owners, screams for a touch-up; kitchen counters appear as chaotic as a Boston rotary at rush hour; and Sunnarborg, a city planning and housing consultant, shares her home office with the laundry and a large wine rack.
Adding to the pleasant disorder, the family's two furry Himalayan cats seem to appear and disappear in each room a visitor enters, like the Cheshire Cat in ''Alice-in-Wonderland."
The Grogans are mildly apologetic about their home's disarray and mention that their more special furnishings and artwork are in their Lakeville, Conn., home, in the foothills of the Berkshires. It is a 1952 farmhouse that they've added onto ''pretty considerably," says Grogan. When they lived in New York, they spent weekends there; now, Sunnarborg and the boys vacation there in August, with Grogan visiting when he can. Winters, they rent it out.
In Jamaica Plain, the kitchen is the ''unofficial center of the house," Grogan says. He and his sons sit around the table and watch sports on the small television while Sunnarborg cooks, except when it comes to barbecuing. One recent summer night, Grogan grilled lamb chops on one of the home's small decks, which looks down a slope of land to their magical backyard. There, a canopy of well-established maple and pine trees, and one large leaning birch, shade the grass, where patches of dirt betray the hundreds of Wiffle ball games that have been played there.
Baseball is a major part of this family's life, with each son playing on at least one team. Particularly in spring, they all drive to, and watch, games at ''all the fields all over the city," says Grogan, adding, ''at those times, this family feels like a logistics operation."
Grogan and his sons keep one eye on televised sports year round. ''We're big on watching the Red Sox and Patriots," he says. Comfortable couches and a 40-inch television occupy a lower-level playroom, alongside weights and an exercise bike, which Grogan uses when he can't get to the gym. The room, lined with a bank of windows, looks out at the yard.
Grogan's favorite room is the master bathroom, where skylights brighten the ceiling and two large windows, including one in the shower, bring the backyard so close it feels like being in a treetop. ''It's a nice way to start your day," he says.
The master bedroom features a floor-to-ceiling corner window and a tiny terrace. There, Grogan likes to read the Sunday paper. He acknowledges he's ''a newspaper junkie," reading at least four papers a day. However, he avoids bringing work home.
''I put in a long day, then try to leave it," he says of his job running one of the city's largest charitable groups.
''You go to a lot of events," Connor pipes in. Grogan explains the nature of his work entails attending after-hours events, but he tries to limit it. Sunnarborg says she enjoys attending a few with him each year.
While Grogan heads downstairs to select the nightly bottle of wine, his wife mentions her husband's favorite band. ''He loves The Radiators. When he's in a really good mood, he blares rock 'n' roll really loud in the living room."
In addition to the living room's most elegant feature, a marble fireplace used often in winter, rock 'n' roll seems the perfect expression of the down-to-earth character of the home and its occupants.