The pairing of an original scrolled cast-iron rail with a modern geometric interpretation of it on the front stoop and garden lends first clues to this old-new marriage, as does the choice of two entries: up the stoop through original paneled doors into the parlor level, or down through a new mudroom to the lower-level dining room and kitchen.
Neighbors’ objections didn’t dissuade Rhode Island architect Philemon Sturges from bumping out the back of 146 W. Newton St. in the South End and tacking on a terrace and a sunken garden in the 1970s, thereby injecting a little Manhattan modernism into the old-school South End.
Nor did Sturges’ thoroughly modern makeover of the c.1867 bowfront rowhouse deter award-winning local architects Pam Butz and Jeff Klug from redesigning it in 2014-17 to honor both Sturges’ midcentury modernist legacy and the South End’s Victorian heritage.
The resulting 4,535-square-foot, five-floor townhouse, replete with contemporary reinterpretations of historical features (high ceilings, tall windows, pocket doors, mahogany woodwork, wood burning fireplace, dumbwaiter, butler’s pantry) shows how adaptable to the modern age Victorian foresight can be. To add to the historical interest and the clean-lined look, the architects concealed the electrical outlets and push buttons, the laundries and some of the Thermador appliances into the wood, stone and laminate work, making them almost as invisible as Colonial Williamsburg’s landlines and cables.
The pairing of an original scrolled cast-iron rail with a modern geometric interpretation of it on the front stoop and garden lends first clues to this old-new marriage, as does the choice of two entries: up the stoop through original paneled doors into the parlor level or down through a new mudroom to the lower-level dining room and kitchen.
The dining room’s curved-sash windows, customized for the bowfront, are among many mahogany-framed historically correct windows throughout the house.
A butler’s pantry with Pietra Cardosa marble counters, a Marvel wine cooler, Bosch dishwasher and stainless sink connects the dining room to the expansive eat-in kitchen that Sturges’ bumpout allows.
The marble is reprised on a waterfall island sink counter with walnut cabinetry concealing a dishwasher, a pullout receptacle bin and outlets. A super white Calacatta marble counter and backsplash showcase the five-burner gas cooktop.
Rift-sawn white oak forms deep shelf units with buttons turning on undershelf lighting. A gray-green laminate cabinetry wall consolidates pantry and drawer storage, a pull-out spice cabinet, a refrigerator, a Bosch washer and dryer, the laundry chute’s “basket” end and an electronic dumbwaiter serving three floors. Stainless wall ovens are inset into the paneling.
From the breakfast space, a mahogany-framed French door and a larger mudroom with a wall-mounted Runtal radiator and recessed cocoa mat access the terrace, which is spacious for an outdoor dinner-party on the back alley’s sunnier side, benefiting from southwestern exposure. The terrace descends to granite steps down to the sunken rock garden - a pleasant oasis from urban clamor. The wood fence’s gate opens to the two-car parking, where an electric-car charger is handy.
The gate also serves the separate entrance to the au pair/in-law/guest suite below - a studio-style arrangement of a contiguous bedroom, cork-floored living room and kitchenette plus a full bath and Electrolux laundry center. The suite shares a radiant-heated polished concrete floor with storage, utility, workshop and wine cellar spaces.
Off the entry hall to the kitchen is a powder room with a wall-mount sink and muted olive subway tiling. Closing off the kitchen from the hall is a door that cleverly conceals itself as a wall panel when open. More of Butz + Klug Architecture’s sleight-of-hand is in store up the original mahogany rail to the parlor level where a mahogany wall panel unveils a coat closet.
The magic continues as two ribbon-mahogany panels walling the passage between the living room and library pivot toward each other, separating the spaces and revealing a storage closet. The bowfront living room’s linen curtains also swing outward to let in more light than drawn-back drapes usually do.
The grasscloth art wall has wall-switch-operable picture lights - ready for your artwork. All electrical outlets are hidden under floorboard segments, which can be lifted up with cutout thumb-handles providing wiggle-room for cords to run through. Ribbon-mahogany pocket doors close off the living room from the parlor-level landing.
The library, occupying the bumpout’s upper level, boasts three floor-to-ceiling windows with automatic shades, interspersed with bookcase built-ins. The adjacent bookcases face each other across the space.
The art wall has a panel that automatically rises to reveal a TV screen on a grasscloth wall. Below is a soapstone wood-burning fireplace with a firewood storage niche.
Across the room is a mahogany dry bar with overhead lighting. Concealed within the surrounding liquor cabinetry are a glass-shelved mahogany wet bar and the dumbwaiter. On warmer days, literature and libations can be enjoyed out on the Juliet balcony, accessible by a French window.
Further up the staircase, which retains original statue/vase niches, is the floor-through master suite. The front office/dressing room, equipped with a full wall of closets and pullout shoe shelves, can be a guest bedroom.
In the radiant-heated open-concept master bath, the barrier-free double shower, soaking tub, white oak medicine cabinet, twin-sink vanity with white oak drawers and mirror-door medicine cabinets with mirror-defogger buttons share a single space.
The commode is in a water closet behind the shower, where a door can be installed for privacy. Pocket doors connect the bath to the office/dressing room and the rear master bedroom, where a wall of closets contains the dumbwaiter, laundry chute and pull-down coat racks for clothing retrieval without a step ladder. The king-size bed area has an overhead art wall and flanking bookcases with cantilevered storage nightstands. A French window opens to a sizable terrace atop the bump out.
The stairwell skylight introduces the top-floor guest suite, where the original mansard roof allows ample headroom and square footage.
The guest bath features a tub/shower with a curtain ring-rack, modeled on Victorian cast-iron tubs. The wall-mount sink has a similar historical touch: chrome spindle legs with a running towel rack.
The rear bedroom has a carpentry-built wall of closets. The front bedroom’s skylight and built-in complex of file drawers with a printer counter makes it suitable as an out-of-the-way home office.
Offered at $7.23 million, 146 W. Newton St. spans three centuries to offer the ultimate in timeless urban living.
For a private showing, contact John Neale of Sprogis & Neale Real Estate at 617-262-1504 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “Butz + Klug Architecture,” https://www.bkarch.com
- “Philemon Sturges,” Wikipedia, last edited Sept. 28, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philemon_Sturges