This Boston Back Bay Brownstone, built in 1879 by architects Snell and Gregerson, is a wonderful example of Victorian house style. Spread over six floors, it covers 14,000 square feet.
Owners Henry and Savannah Helgeson originally occupied the top two floors and the rooftop terrace. But in 2018, they bought the rest of the structure when they decided to expand their family and embarked on a whole house renovation that resulted in a stylish home.
Below, interior designer Nicole Hogarty (opens in a new tab) takes us on a tour of the house and explains the design decisions.
“From the outset, we knew the stairs (below) would play an important role in defining the identity of the property,” says Nicole. “We worked with a handful of local artisans to capture the result. From staircase designers, metal fabricators to a real artist who works with plaster. It was our biggest challenge and one of our most rewarding parts of the house.
“With each floor operating independently, we strongly insisted on using a common paint color across all open spaces. The result allowed us to use color or texture when transitioning into more private spaces. Additionally, the soft white walls created a gallery effect that beautifully accommodated all the arts and accessories. We used Ben Moore Oxford White.
“Designing a loft as a space in a brownstone was another creative challenge,” says Nicole. “Materials, furniture selections, scale and proportion were all things that went into our process.”
‘Stained vs paint grade kitchen cabinets, a custom window banquette that looked more like a piece of furniture than a breakfast nook, a sculptural dining table paired with soft, black and metallic cabinetry to set the tone when you enter the ground and living room that is chic yet inviting and family friendly.
“The lighting also played a part in the design. The chandelier in the dining room having the greatest visual impact as well as the light fixtures and sconces in the living room compared to the kitchen island with its simple cylindrical shape illuminates the island while allowing the eye to travel in the room without interruption.
“The second level is considered the heart of the house. Henry and Savannah requested an open floor plan between the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The floor spans almost 35 feet wide x 75 feet long with 12 foot 6 inch ceilings.
“Other requirements included a full level for their master suite, the first level when you walk in to feel a bit nervous to set the tone for the rest of the space. You step into brownstone for a wine cellar, a pool table (below) and a sculptural elliptical staircase.
“Also, the Back Bay tends to be a bit more traditional, so they asked us to design a space that reflects their lifestyle as well as their sense of style. The ultimate goal of the design was for clients to be able to easily house and live in a multi-functional home that was truly customized down to the smallest detail to support their lifestyle and well-being.
“The entire third floor is occupied by the master bedroom with bathtub. From the bedroom, the two dressing rooms to the bathroom, our client wanted a relaxation area with a few surprises. We decided to design the bathroom for a seamless transition between the two dressing rooms.
“The slab shower, parquet and artwork played a major role in our approach. We centered the grape tub in order to create a strong focal point when entering the space.
“We would describe the bedroom as quiet or restful, with an upside. Each dressing room has its own identity while balancing each other. Lighting and wood finishes played a major role in defining each space.
The fourth level is the children’s area.
“Much like the master suite, our client wanted a space for his two boys to feel at home with their own space that reflected their age and interests. From cars to planes to lots of toys, this floor means fun.
“It was also a great place for an oversized laundry room. As with all of our children’s spaces, the base of each room will grow with the boys. Wall treatments and accents can easily evolve as the boys grow.
“Henry and Savannah have extended their shared love of entertainment to the rooftop terrace as well,” says Nicole. ‘With a full functional kitchen, dining room, spa, small herb garden and plenty of space to relax. There’s even a TV to catch a football game.
“From the street view, the house looks deceptively conventional with a trio of bow windows. But beyond the front door, it’s immediately apparent that the design is quite the opposite,” says Nicole.
“It was clear from the start that this strikingly contemporary home would start a new aesthetic conversation in the historic Back Bay. A juxtaposition between centuries-old and organic-modern is repeated throughout the property with stained paneled interior doors, exaggerated proportions , a monochrome palette and leather-wrapped hardware.
“We are all absolutely delighted with the result.”