Grand Back Bay penthouse offers loads of luxury space
An odyssey through the spectacular spaces, soaring ceilings and sun-splashing skylights of penthouse Unit 61 at 191 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay will evince the ecstasy of staying at a presidential suite in a high-end hotel - which the building once was, in a way.
Back in the day when “hotel” referred to an apartment building for long-term residents rather than a traveler’s temporary sleeping spot, 191 Commonwealth Ave. was erected in 1872-1873 as the Hotel Agassiz - one of Boston’s first “family hotels,” comprising six French flats.
Designed by Weston & Rand in a hybrid of French Second Empire and High Victorian Gothic styles, the brick-and-sandstone structure was built by Weston & Shepard for three notable Bostonians: scientist Alexander Agassiz, son of Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz, founder of the university’s Museum of Comparative Zoology; Alexander’s brother-in-law Henry Lee Higginson, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and Henry’s father, investment banker George Higginson. The building was a 16-unit condominium by 1973.
Noury-Ello Architects of Boston and Adams & Beasley Associates of Carlisle completely renovated the 4,072-square-foot penthouse Unit 61 with a white-oak floor plan of four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and spacious, versatile common areas capitalizing on the bright sunlight from oversized skylights and three exposures.
Kudos to the corner location, the mansard/gable roof’s exceptional height and the unit’s occupation of two-thirds of the penthouse level, the insulated windows offer awesome city views akin to those in a high-rise hotel.
Hotel-level amenities include daily concierge (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), resident superintendent, a fire/security alarm with water-flow detection and Wi-Fi with access points throughout.
The old-school Gothic entrance, a lobby with a terra cotta tile floor and turned-baluster stairway welcome you with the vintage grace of a Parisian hotel.
The unit vestibule’s mosaic-tiled floor continues this spirit, contrasted by the foyer’s new-age loftiness. A skylight dangling a chandelier of cone-lights, a cubical decorative mantel, crown molding, milled casings and a chevron-patterned white-oak floor give the foyer an art gallery aura, inviting artwork displays on the pearly-white walls.
The foyer centrally accesses all points, conveniently grouped by function: laundry, a workshop plus primary and secondary bedroom suites on the left; the double bedroom/office on the right; a powder room and the third bedroom suite beside the vestibule as well as common spaces straight ahead.
Similarly, a transitional hall accesses the sunny dining room on the left, the gourmet kitchen straight ahead and the spacious living room on the right.
French-door sidelights introduce the dining room, where a skylight gable dangling a crystal chandelier illuminates all occasions from Sunday brunches to candlelight dinners.
From here, two more French-door sidelights introduce the skylit kitchen, where a long Carrara marble island and wall counters form an elegantly efficient food-prep center for everything from breakfasts to banquets.
The counters encompass copious cabinet, drawer and pantry storage with brass hardware, a Thermador smooth-top electric range, stainless sink with a brass gooseneck faucet, a cabinet-hidden dishwasher and Sub-Zero refrigerator. The adjoining butler’s pantry boasts a marble dry bar and Sub-Zero fridge drawers and wine cooler.
A double French door opens to the living room that benefits from a bay window and another window for optimum sun and a breathtaking view of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, John Hancock Tower and the Old South Church’s Gothic tower. A chevron-patterned white-oak floor graces the space, a wood-burning fireplace with a Carrara marble mantel warms the occasion and two built-in bookcases flank an art wall.
Built-in shelving and chevron flooring abound in the double bedroom/office, which can be arranged for sleep/work space, a media/family room, game room or other uses. A bay window and square fireplace with a marble mantel characterize one space while a Gothic-arched window and a Roman-arched marble mantel distinguish the other. A closet is handy in the passage between the parts.
The Gothic-windowed space connects to the third bedroom suite’s initial corridor of closets, which accesses a powder room with a hotel-quality marble vanity and a shower bath with fixed and hand-held shower heads before reaching a hall closet and the bedroom. A bay window and an alcove window offer ideal corner exposure and southwestern sun. A sculpted-glass chandelier and a chevron-patterned white-oak floor add to the elegance.
The final corridor from the foyer accesses the laundry and workshop before the last two bedroom suites. The right-hand laundry comprises a wall-mount sink, a side-by-side LG washer and dryer fitting neatly under a marble sorting counter, linen/detergent shelves and an industrial overhead lamp.
The left-hand workshop has unfinished pine shelf units, a tool-hanging pegboard and handy back-stairway egress. A pocket door closes off the bedroom suites for privacy.
The secondary bedroom suite begins with a shower bath such as the previous one. The bedroom’s double window offers generous sun from an open sky view.
In the primary bedroom suite, a corridor of built-in closets and drawers with a makeup vanity alcove accesses a hotel-like bath with a radiant-heated marble floor, a Waterworks soaking tub, Calacatta marble twin-sink vanity and a marble shower before leading into a walk-in closet with a skylight to illuminate clothing selection.
The bath’s northwestern view into Cambridge brightens your daily toilette while maintaining your privacy. Sharing this view is the bedroom, enriched with a crystal-bronze chandelier scrolled in the Art Nouveau style of a French hotel.
Offered at $9.85 million, Unit 61 at 191 Commonwealth Ave. lets you live in hotel luxury while extending your stay indefinitely. For more information, contact Brigitte Petrocelli of Coldwell Banker Realty at 617-803-5249 (mobile), 617-247-2909 (office) or Brigitte.Petrocelli@NEMoves.com.
Address: 191 Commonwealth Ave., Unit 61, Back Bay
BR/BA: Four bedrooms plus office, three full bathrooms, one half bath
Size: 4,072 square feet
Housing type: Penthouse condominium
Price: $9.85 million
Condo fee: $2,336/month, includes heat, hot water, water, sewer, concierge, superintendent, building maintenance and insurance, elevator, landscaping, snow and refuse removal
Taxes: $48,368 (Tax Year 2020)
Parking: Reserved rental; waiting list for three spaces
Year built: 1871-1872, renovated 1965, 1973 and 2018-2019
Number of units: 16
Number of floors: Six
Features: High ceilings, oversized skylights, recessed lighting, new insulated windows on four exposures, white oak floors, five-zone central heating and air conditioning, natural-gas water heating, two fireplaces, bay windows, custom built-ins, gourmet eat-in kitchen with gas cooking and marble island counter, primary bedroom suite with Waterworks soaking tub and radiant-heated floor in bath, in-unit laundry.
Building amenities: New elevator, new rubber roof, common laundry, concierge (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily), resident superintendent, offsite professional management, exterior maintenance, landscaping, snow removal, refuse removal, non-smoking building, pet-friendly with restrictions.
Close by: Schools; houses of worship; medical facilities; shopping and dining on Newbury and Boylston streets; Boston Public Library; parks; fitness trails; boating on the Charles River; public transit on Green and Orange lines, buses, Commuter Rail and Amtrak; highway access.
Contact: Brigitte Petrocelli of Coldwell Banker Realty, 399 Boylston St., Ste 200, Boston, MA 02116-2912
Phone: 617-803-5249 (mobile), 617-247-2909 (office)
Virtual tour: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=iQzLAkgx4Vu