The lavishly paneled and carved lobby offers two routes to the unit: a bridal staircase with twisted balusters for a formal introduction or a privately keyed elevator for the fatigued, packaged laden or mobility-impaired.
First built in 1876-1878 for Maverick National Bank President Asa Potter in a brick French Academic design by William Whitney Lewis, 29 Fairfield St. became something of a maverick in its Back Bay neighborhood when the front-end entrance that matched those of its Commonwealth Avenue neighbors was relocated to its Fairfield Street side in 1890.
Designed by William Ralph Emerson, fourth cousin of Transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, the new entrance transcended the norm in the dramatic form of a proscenium-style arch sheltering a recessed sideways staircase entry. This, coupled with the rear horse stable’s integration into the main floor plan, gave the townhouse the curb appeal of a full-spread mansion rather than a block-cramped rowhouse.
This makes the 2,006-square-foot Residence 2 on the second floor a maverick condo unit. Its lateral layout, bookended by bow windows, allows it a fluid, flexible floor plan with three exposures onto the Back Bay street life and architecture. This gives it the feel of the “mansion” Emerson was after, enriched by a 2009 renovation adding classical details, moldings and finishes in the context of today’s open-concept, mixed-use living preferences.
The lavishly paneled and carved lobby offers two routes to the unit: a bridal staircase with twisted balusters for a formal introduction or a privately keyed elevator for the fatigued, packaged-laden or mobility-impaired.
The elevator and stairway entrances are clustered with a coat closet in the three-door convenience of a small vestibule where an open window on the kitchen may let you know what’s for dinner by venting cooking aromas.
Four monumental fluted columns with scrolled capitals introduce the left-hand living room and right-hand dining room with grand classical symmetry. The living room contrasts paneled wainscoting with grasscloth wallcovering. Its broad bay window on Commonwealth Avenue and the 1884 Kingsley Montessori School building (with a recessed sideways stair entry that apparently inspired Emerson’s) is paralleled by an angular wall layout offering guests a generous stretch of seating space.
Glazed curio cabinets with glass shelves and corner exposures nobly introduce the third-bedroom suite via glass-paned pocket doors.
This bedroom, possibly the original living room, can also be a formal dining room, family room or home office, thanks to its treasure-trove of features - ornamental and functional.
There’s a paneled ceiling with beams, a ceiling fan with a vent medallion, a limestone fireplace carved with scrolled brackets and a central wreath relief. Enjoy a bow front vista of the scenic Commonwealth Avenue Mall, built-in shelves with rose-red grasscloth backings flanking the living-room entry, a double-door dry bar with a granite counter and wood wine-bottle shelves. There’s also paneled wainscoting with a secret door to a full bath.
The bath is appointed and dressed in style with many maverick elements: a radiant-heated tile floor, purple-shaded sconces dangling blown-glass pendant drops, a towel drying/warming rack and an upholstered step-up window bench with a sculpted-glass chandelier. Traditional finishes and features include a granite vanity, white subway-tile wainscoting and a subway-tiled shower with hand-held and rain showerheads.
The dining room’s gas-powered fireplace retains an original mantel, carved with scalloped ellipses and a small side shelf topped by a scalloped arch with keystone. The hearth floor complements this classicism with new Siena marble tiles - some in a herringbone pattern.
An angled upholstered bench with paneled drawers is set up for formal or informal dining with a quartet of ribbon-decorated tungsten-bulb pendant lights and an angled window view of the exterior’s arched opening with scrolled cast-iron rail.
A wooden wet bar introduces the kitchen, where a dark cork floor with a variegated cork inlay border contrasts with classic cream-colored cabinetry. Three sides of the tiger-granite counter/backsplash space unify those elements.
A soapstone farmer’s sink with a gooseneck faucet faces a Wolf five-burner gas cooktop. The Wolf double oven with a pan-warming drawer ends the kitchen by the window on the vestibule.
Paneled into the cabinetry is a Sub-Zero refrigerator with two freezer drawers, placed near the master and second bedrooms for midnight snack convenience.
A small hall accesses the master bath, master bedroom and second bedroom in a threesome configuration like the vestibule.
The master bath, accessible from both the hall and the master bedroom for family/guest convenience, presents a captivating contrast of finishes.
The green slate-like tiles of the radiant-heated floor continue into the master bedroom’s private entry hall. White subway tiles permeate the wainscoting, tub/shower and space-dividing wall. Light tiger granite surrounds the tub/shower and forms a laundry sorting/folding counter and backsplash above a closeted Miele front-loader washer and dryer.
Other maverick features include an unusually deep soaking tub for a tub/shower combo, a towel drying/warming rack and a paneled cabinet complex with a rare pull-out stack of side shelves for makeup, medicines, etc.
The master bedroom benefits from the rear bow window and a side window for a full splash of eastern sun every morning, as well as vigilance on back-alley activity. The bow’s windows flank a fireplace, surrounded by variegated green Chelsea tiles and a classic mantel with scrolled brackets.
The ceiling is adorned with relief moldings of ribboned swag festoons, leafy scrolls and scallops sprouting leafy branches. Beyond a double-door linen closet is a windowed walk-in closet of built-ins.
The second bedroom, suitable as a nursery or home office, receives ample light for either use from two windows. The angled window shares the iron-railed arched opening with the angled dining-room window, forming a unique “V-window” together and giving the bedroom a peek-a-boo view of Commonwealth Avenue. The broad sliding-door closet has overhead storage.
Don’t let rowhouse restrictions cramp your style – give yourself some elbow-room in the maverick mansion majesty of Residence 2 at 29 Fairfield St.
Offered at $2,895,000 , it may be viewed by contacting The Moran Group of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty: Michael Moran, 617-733-7660 or Michael.Moran@SothebysRealty.com, or Mark Ruane, 508-612-6217 or Mark.Ruane@SothebysRealty.com.
- “29 Fairfield,” BackBayHouses.org, https://backbayhouses.org/29-fairfield
- “30 Fairfield,” BackBayHouses.org, https://backbayhouses.org/30-fairfield
- Bunting, Bainbridge, Houses of Boston’s Back Bay (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967), p. 447.
- “William Ralph Emerson,” BackBayHouses.org, https://backbayhouses.org/william-ralph-emerson