Double Take

AMY AND ETHAN D’ABLEMONT BURNES HAVE a giant peace sign drawn on their dining room wall. It carries signatures, doodles, and well wishes from everyone who has visited the house in the past two years. The sign was created by an artist with the local nonprofit Artists for Humanity for a wine-and-peace-themed dinner party hosted by Amy, who sits on the board of advisers, and Ethan. The event was the first to be held in the couple’s newly stitched-together South End row houses.

Ethan, a native Bostonian, and Amy, who grew up in New York and Delaware, met while they were both working at the Boston Renaissance Charter School. The two are deeply immersed in the city’s educational system — he’s a principal at the Manning School in J.P.; she does pro bono programming and community-partnership development at the South End’s Joseph J. Hurley School. She also supports several arts-education groups, including AileyCamp Boston, a dance-focused day camp for middle schoolers.

Amy and Ethan share the home with their two children, Orly and Jasper, and are in the process of adopting a third, Ruth, from Ethiopia. So the dwelling must accommodate the many community events, school meetings, and kids’ parties they host, as well as offer a comfortable, uncluttered place for hanging out on weekends.

When architect David Stern and interior designer Diane McCafferty, principals of Boston’s Stern McCafferty, started the renovation, their instructions from the homeowners were to make it feel “open and simple yet bright and joyful.”

The house, originally built in 1888, had already been through one major remodel; 11 years ago architect Andrew Guidry (who has since left Boston) opened up walls and added floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the garden. But due to a construction problem, the back wall of the top two floors eventually cracked and collapsed, forcing the d’Ablemont Burneses to relocate for two years while the work was redone by the contractor Pomeroy & Co.

Despite the drama, the homeowners got precisely the aesthetic they wanted: open and modern. So when the townhouse next door became available, they called on Stern McCafferty, which had done similar work in the neighborhood, to combine the two homes.

Stern gutted the second house and rebuilt it to match the original, adding a craft room to the garden level, a living and dining room to the first floor, an extra bedroom and a family room to the second, and a master suite to the top. “They were coming in on the heels of someone who had just created something beautiful, and they took it even further,” Amy says of the new design team.

All photographs by Eric Roth