Neoclassical Style Renovations: Restored Brownstone Home
And so Barbara and Carter worked slowly together, room by room, often starting with one unique piece–such as the large portrait of Lady Edwina Mountbatten that they installed in the dining room even before finding the right table and chairs–and creating the look of a room around it.
They found Adam-style wallpaper for the stairwell to unite the vision from floor to floor, and its color scheme (an ivory background with rose, white, and accents of blue) informs the palette for the entire house. Wherever possible, they kept the original elements of the house intact and added only paint or wallpaper and furnishings. The first-floor sitting room still has its original chandelier; the library still has its original wood paneling, fireplace, and mantel. But the library doors to the main hallway had been closed off, which disturbed the flow and symmetry of the entire floor. So Barbara reopened them and created custom doors to go with the original wood paneling.
Turning one of the apartments into a guest suite for Barbara’s daughter’s family required more extensive renovation: removing a modern circular flying staircase, rebuilding the original wood stairs, and installing a new kitchen and bathroom. When the family is visiting, they can relax and enjoy meals in their own space. But, of course, “we gather in the dining room every night for dinner,” Barbara notes, “and in the drawing room for parties and Christmas.”
So important are the holidays that Barbara wanted to add a space just for storing and wrapping presents. She didn’t want to change the building’s external structure, however, and the Back Bay Architectural Commission, with which she worked closely during the refurbishment of the facade, wouldn’t likely have approved it. Instead, she tunneled beneath the garden and created a room where the home’s coal chutes used to be.
Working with this much care for history and attention to detail, it took about 15 years to complete all the renovations–and some work is still ongoing. “A house of this importance will always need refreshing,” Carter says. But the time spent, Barbara believes, has been more than worthwhile.
“It’s been better than I could have imagined,” Barbara says. “I designed my house specifically for fun and happiness, and for my family to gather.”
She admits, though, that a labor of love like this isn’t for everyone: “Many people get frustrated that renovations take so long, and that they can’t do exactly what they want immediately. If I were to give anyone advice, I’d say, ‘Be patient and wait for the right thing at the right time.’ For me, this wasn’t just about redoing a house. I was creating the home base for my life.”
Carter is proud of the results, as well. “We worked really hard to bring back the grandeur of this house. And now it feels beautifully integrated–certainly not as though it’s gone through the tumultuous history it has.”
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