three school-age children and the French spirit that unmistakably fills the house.
In addition to Potter and Hattaway, whose firm, MJ Berries
Design is in Boston’s South End, the homeowners turned to
contractors S+H Construction Inc. of Cambridge. To this trusted
team, with whom they had worked on previous projects, they
added the architecture firm Prellwitz Chilinski Associates Inc.,
also of Cambridge, which guided the work on the exterior in
such a fashion that the house earned a preservation award from
the Cambridge Historical Society.
As the contractors literally dug in, the scope of the work
increased unexpectedly. “We knew we needed to knock down
a rear addition that had been poorly built,” says Alex Slive,
co-owner of S+H. “But we weren’t expecting the foundation walls
of the entire house to be in such poor shape. They were old stone
walls that had started to fail.” They were replaced with granite that
matched the exterior stonework of the original foundation. All of
this was done with the house in place, a major feat.
Inside, the first floor was gutted and reworked. “We
wanted to create a house where the rooms were proportionally
interesting — large and airy — but never grand,” says Hattaway.
Adds Potter: “We knew we were translating a traditional Second
Empire house and making it current, but making sure it still felt
French.” In came architectural details, many of them designed
by Potter and one of the homeowners, such as boiserie, antique
marble and wooden mantels, herringbone floors, and ornate
ceiling medallions. Out went a front staircase that crowded the
entry and interrupted the flow of rooms.
With a 10-foot-high ceiling and tall windows overlooking a
new terrace, the long living room is a comfortable parlor, until
the Louis XVI furniture is moved, and then it becomes a ballroom, with a floor designed by Potter featuring an array of large
and small diamond-shaped sections of new quartersawn oak.
In the dining room, Potter and Hattaway used their trademark
the dining table is set for holiday entertaining (facing page)
with elegant cakes and pastries by Ellyn Gimbel of Sweet Works
specialty bakers and caterers. A collection of gold-trimmed
teacups (top right) are arranged on a marble-topped sideboard.
Clove-studded oranges and sprigs of holly add a seasonal touch to
a Sweet Works cake (bottom right). In the music room (above),
mahogany beams add contrast to the cheery yellow color scheme.