This comfort is apparent upon entering the unit into the dining room – the center of an open floor-through layout extending from the living room's front bow window to the kitchen's rear bay window.
When Albion and Mary Knowlton held a housewarming at 377 Commonwealth Ave. on Jan. 22, 1890, the Boston Herald described their new Back Bay residence as follows:
“The interior is most artistically designed, finished in real woods and furnished in extreme good taste and elegance. The hall and drawing room, upon the first floor, are finished in mahogany, the dining room beyond in quartered oak… All over the house are open fireplaces, most perfectly finished with tiles…the one in the drawing room being made of a beautiful piece of onyx.”
Developers Ed DeNoble and Rick Lipof were determined to keep it that way as much as possible when combining this Knowlton Mansion condominium’s parlor-level and garden-level units into the duplex Unit 1.
So, Austin Roberts Construction of Boston restored the lavishly carved and paneled mantels and wainscoting in the drawing (living) and dining rooms and custom-built the kitchen and bath cabinetry and counters in a conveniently compatible style. They also preserved woodburning fireplaces in the three common areas and exposed the brick along the stairway to the bedroom level and in one of the three bedrooms. The common lobby’s woodwork and flooring are also being restored.
“It was a labor of love to respect and restore the past while infusing modern form and function,” said the developers.
Architect Joanna Reck of Andover did so by configuring generous pantry, closet and laundry space into the 2,215 square feet of classic/contemporary comfort.
This comfort is apparent upon entering the unit into the dining room – the center of an open floor-through layout extending from the living room’s front bow window to the kitchen’s rear bay window.
The dining room invites you to dinner with an ornate plaster ceiling medallion dangling a chandelier with crystal pendant drops, crown molding, paneled wainscoting and the fireplace. It is lined with a cast-iron fireback of fleur-de-lis reliefs, surrounded by Chelsea-style green-brown tiles and framed in restored mahogany. Its carved reliefs include ribboned festoons on paneled pilasters, fluted columns with bead/cloth swag reliefs and composite capitals, a scroll-ended mantel shelf, a beveled circular mirror with scrolled corner accents and dentil crown molding.
Paneled pocket doors introduce the living room, which preserves its double crown molding, a ceiling medallion of rosette and fern motifs, paneled wainscoting, the bowfront window’s antique curved glass and the onyx fireplace adorned with a fireback of elaborate pressed-iron crests and a mahogany mantel carved with semi-fluted column pairs and lettuce-leaf reliefs.
The white-painted kitchen’s fireplace is enriched with an ornate cast-iron fireback, brown-scale tiles with scroll and rosette borders, and a relief panel of a robed female charioteer, possibly Spartan princess Cynisca – the first woman to win the Olympic Games in 396 BC. The mantel continues the Greek theme with Ionic fluted pilasters and a scrolled leafy frieze.
The kitchen counters complement the classicism with paneling incorporating all cabinets and Thermador appliances and veined white Calacatta counters and backsplash.
On axial symmetry with the fireplace are a Blanco gray Silgranite sink with a gooseneck faucet in the island counter and a Thermador five-burner smooth-top cooktop with a bracketed hood on the wall counter.
The cooktop’s induction cooking heats pots and pans through a magnetic current more directly than conventional electric stovetops. It boils water up to 50 percent faster than regular burners, doesn’t burn the hand if touched and makes the surface easy to clean. The bay window forms a sunny breakfast area.
A hallway beside the kitchen accesses a pantry electrified for appliances such as a microwave or espresso machine, followed by a storage closet.
The hall ends at a powder room with some rarities for this type of space: a sash window, marble vanity, a marble tile floor patterned with mosaic lines and squares, and a chandelier cloaked in a cascade of crystals dangling a crystal ball pendant.
A restored paneled mahogany beam with leaf-scrolled brackets and fluted pilasters with composite capitals handsomely introduces the exposed-brick bedroom-level stairway that contrasts those historical elements with a frameless all-glass banister.
The third bedroom continues the exposed brick and has a private entry from the back-alley parking space for office or au pair use. (The buyer can arrange to purchase three additional parking spaces, which would yield enough space for a patio.) The larger second bedroom’s bay-window sitting area can also accommodate a workstation.
The guest bath down the hall features a tub/shower combo with a fixed showerhead and a hand-held one for convenient washing of dogs or children. Grayscale tiles with a sandy mystique cover the shower and floor. Past a closet is a full laundry center with a built-in hamper between the Whirlpool washer and dryer under the sorting counter.
The bowfront grants the primary bedroom a paneled sitting space; high-level windows provide sunlight while maintaining privacy. The walk-in closet has a running counter for sorting and matching socks.
The Carrara marble en suite bath boasts a wall-mounted floating vanity with twin sinks and dark wood drawers, a deluxe shower with fixed and hand-held showerheads, and a radiant-heated floor.
Offered at $2,699,000, or $2,999,000 with attached land for extra parking/patio spaces, Unit 1 at 377 Commonwealth Ave. “is perfectly suited for today’s lifestyle,” said listing agent Betsy Herald of The Charles Realty. “It is a fabulous time for people to sell their homes in the suburbs and fulfill their dreams of moving into the Back Bay. This home presents an opportunity to do this without sacrificing the life conveniences they have grown accustomed to: tremendous storage, central AC, direct-access parking, a suburban-style laundry room and so much more.
“Yet, in addition to these modern attributes, the developer spent the time and expense to restore rather than just renovate. As a result, this home has some of the most impressive museum-quality Victorian detail seen in the area.”
There will be an open house from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25. For more information, contact Herald at 617-905-5441 (cell), 617-236-0353 (office), or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “377 Commonwealth,” Back Bay Houses, https://backbayhouses.org/377-commonwealth
- “Cynisca,” Wikipedia, last edited October 5, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynisca
- “What is Induction Cooking?”, Frigidaire, www.frigidaire.com/Collections/Induction-Appliances-Collection/What-Is-Induction-Cooking/ - :~:text=Induction cooking uses electric currents,cooking vessel itself almost instantly.