A few of the elements that evoke the grandeur of 19th century Back Bay/Commonwealth Avenue residences are sumptuous millwork, oak flooring with a walnut stain and 13-foot-high ceilings throughout the parlor level.
Distinctive brownstone stairs with decoratively carved solid side rails (not a baluster in sight) and intricate wrought-iron grape-leaf designs gracing two sets of “front” doors to this triplex at 561 Massachusetts Ave. in an 1864 brownstone are among the many unique characteristics of the Chester Square home originally built for James Sullivan Stone.
At the “curving” end of the square, the residence is also deeper than most of its neighbors and at 25 feet wide, is among the widest homes in the entire South End.
This property is one of a pair of houses built at the same time at 38 and 40 Chester Square. That’s before Massachusetts Avenue came along.
Despite the square’s changing landscape, what’s inside the home is as memorable – in a good way – as the famous Boston landmark itself.
A few of the elements that evoke the grandeur of 19th century Back Bay/Commonwealth Avenue residences are sumptuous millwork, oak flooring with a walnut stain and 13-foot-high ceilings throughout the parlor level. That the primary living areas in Unit 1 – living room, dining room and kitchen (plus a couple extras) – are all on one level and on a scale rarely seen in Boston is a modern-day perk.
This handsome dwelling also has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, one-half bath and 3,850 square feet of living space. It is listed by John Neale and Bradford Sprogis of Sprogis and Neale Real Estate for $3,495,000.
Beautifully crafted moldings – window and door casings, raised paneling on the walls and below nine-foot high (at least) windows with curved sashes in the bow-fronted bay, 12-inch high bump boards and double crown molding with wide picture rail trim – are highlights in the living room that is proportionate in size to its ceiling height of 13 feet. The marble fireplace is one of three throughout the house and each has a different mantel. Pocket doors with original glass finger pulls open to a grand-sized dining room.
Two original built-in niches with open and closed shelving flank another classically designed marble fireplace in the elegant dining room where serving eight or more people is very doable. A large window overlooks a private courtyard and allows in a substantial amount of natural light.
A two-foot deep (and paneled) archway leads to an amazing kitchen. Here, every element is outstanding from chef-worthy tools such as the Sub-Zero refrigerator, a suite of Wolf appliances that include a six-burner gas range and hood, steam oven and espresso station plus a Miele dishwasher.
There is also custom cabinetry (with several glass-front lighted cupboards) stretching almost to the ceiling and accented with a backsplash of mini marble subway tile. Under-cabinet lighting makes the two-inch thick marble countertops sparkle any time of day or night. Additional counter/prep space is along one wall - suitable for a wall-mounted television or open shelving.
A stainless steel apron sink is in the center island that also seats three people comfortably. This spacious cookery (it is 21-plus feet long) also easily accommodates tête-à-tête seating, tucked between two six-foot high windows with one-of-a-kind pocket door shutters.
A sizable powder room with a marble tile floor and an extra-wide window is also on this level.
Mini French doors with original etched glass inserts open to reveal a cozy sitting room with an elaborate ceiling medallion.
Although the marble fireplace with a gas insert, flanked by two built-in bookcases, is striking, star billing goes to double crown cove molding accented with a Rococo grape leaf, fretwork-like design surrounding a 10-foot high ceiling. This magnificent example of 19th century craftsmanship is also in the master bedroom.
The extra washer/dryer combo tucked into a large closet is a 21st century example of convenience.
Three product niches with cleverly placed recessed LED lights command attention in the massive step-in, fully tiled marble shower in a frameless glass enclosure in the en suite bathroom. A long marble-topped vanity with two Duravit sinks and a Kohler commode address all thing practical while deep detailed bump boards are a nod to traditional stylings.
Understated, yet elegant, the pure white Greek marble gas fireplace in the massive master bedroom would be an immediate focal point were it not for the huge bay window area with almost floor-to-ceiling windows and direct views “up” the square. Indian shutters with louvered sections provide privacy while allowing in natural light.
The ceiling medallion and the grape leaf design on the crown molding in the huge walk-in closet/dressing room is easy to overlook given all the custom built-ins such as a “peninsula” dresser with four drawers on one side; eight on the other. In addition to custom hanging spaces, this “closet” has two side-by-side cedar closets with mirrored doors. Indian shutters are on the almost floor-to-ceiling window.
Encompassing the entire second level, the fully-contained master’s oasis even has an office. This private space at one end of the landing, complete with oversized windows, has a direct view of the square.
For added drama, the crown molding on the landing is slightly different from that in the master suite, but no less intricate.
Polished concrete flooring in the spacious family/media room (or man cave) on the garden level is simultaneously chic and casual – not to mention practical. A door to Massachusetts Avenue with a colorful leaded glass window is adjacent to a wide bay area with a wide curved display ledge. Exposed brick walls with a wide arch showcase an alcove that makes a great wine cave.
Storage areas are everywhere on this level, including a space off the family room and a huge utility room with a sink and tile floor. A large lighted laundry closet has Samsung stackable machines and room for storage.
Two sleeping spaces on the garden level – big and bigger – each have character to spare. Double doors, for example, open to a guest suite with a gas fireplace, two single closets and, if you want, enough room for a king-sized bed. The en suite loo has a jetted tub under two arched windows with privacy glass panes.
A floating vanity and a full tiled step-in shower are in a second bathroom on this level.
Charm is the rule in the smaller (relatively speaking) bedroom with its two large niches with exposed brick walls and a big lighted walk-in closet. French doors with leaded glass inserts in a multi-color leaf design – complementary wrought iron designs are on the exterior – open to a prettily landscaped brick courtyard complete with a fountain and a delightful patio for al fresco dining. The story of this outdoor space keeps going into an oversized, freestanding one-car garage with built-in shelving. Barn doors are on the patio side and a regulation garage door opens to Northampton Street for drive-in access.