Back Bay Residence

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This townhouse unit renovation is located in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, on the top two floors of a typical five-story, nineteenth-century brick townhouse. Given the restrictions imposed by the existing conditions, the overall architectural order depends upon making a distinction between what existed (and could not be changed) and what was new (or introduced). Therefore, all the new work is treated distinctively in terms of materials, finishes, and details - like individual pieces of furniture-to emphasize the extent of the renovation work and to provide architectural coherence.

As such, fireplaces, a staircase, and cabinetry develop a narrative of materials: satinwood, pomel mahogany, bird's-eye maple, and oak (all sustainable species) combined with stainless steel, travertine, granite, and glass. In the living-dining room on the upper level, the visual play of materials centers on the fireplace - with the remainder of the room treated more neutrally ­ to establish an important focal point for the space. Symmetrical and object-like, the fireplace is formed of satinwood, steel, granite, and sandblasted glass. Two satinwood panels (detailed to display that they are veneers) open to show a slot of stainless steel that reveals the viewer's distorted image - a reinterpretation of the mirror over the mantel.

The relative simplicity of the main rooms contrasts sharply with the drama of secondary spaces. The private dressing room sleekly updates the traditional gentleman's sanctum sanctorum. Here, cabinets and closets frame a green leather seat and recessed lighting is made of frosted glass framed by black-enameled aluminum. Just beyond, the master bathroom's surfaces combine light and dark materials. In the kitchen, a similar palette features a polished black-granite floor and countertops, stainless-steel sink, and low-voltage recessed lighting. Award for Excellence, Architectural Record 1992

Year: 1991
Private Residence
Boston, MA

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