Boston Home

Glorious Revival

A long-neglected grand residence in Chestnut Hill regains its luster for a family’s homecoming.

The front entrance alludes to the home’s European roots with the “London” pendant and copper mailbox, both from Bevolo, and a pair of vintage urns from Chairish. / Floral design by Jennifer Figge / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

Perched amid a row of midcentury-modern homes, this stately Greek Revival in Chestnut Hill stands apart. Built at the turn of the 20th century, “the home had great bones but hadn’t been touched in a long time,” says David Supple, president and CEO of New England Design + Construction (NEDC). That is until Tim Martin and Lan Xue purchased the property, hiring Supple as the architect and builder for extensive renovations and restorations.

After living in New York for two decades, the couple was ready to come back to their native Massachusetts, now with their two young boys. When they first happened upon this house, they were warned that it was “really old, a little bit dilapidated, and in need of some TLC,” Xue recalls. In fact, the realtor didn’t even want to show them the house. But the duo was up for the challenge, swooned by the home’s overall scale and architectural details, including 14-foot-high ceilings, a ballroom, and immense windows that capture more than an acre of surrounding lush grounds.

“In a place like Boston, which obviously has a ton of history, to be able to live in a home that has that much character is something that’s really special to us,” Xue says. “We wanted to retain something that had some of the old with a little bit more of the new.” A combination that suits the homeowners’ styles well, in fact, with Martin having a taste for traditional and Xue’s preference being more contemporary.

The home is filled with a mix of modern and vintage pieces, including the media room, where an abstract painting by Harry Cushing hangs above a credenza designed by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings.

Dare’s design involves a lot of collected Europea midcentury-modern pieces, including the 1960s Murano glass chandelier in the ballroom. “I don’t want the design so over-programmed that a client can’t add to it over the next 10 to 20 years,” Dare says. “We want everything to tell a story.” / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

The couple tasked Supple and interior designer Eric Dare with marrying a modern aesthetic with the home’s historical detailing. The result is a home Dare describes as “contemporary and collected.” In addition to the homeowners’ own finds, the interior designer spent two years gathering vintage items to fill the approximately 7,500-square-foot home. “There are old oil paintings, but then we have a B & B Italia modern couch, or very modern light fixtures against midcentury furniture,” Xue says. “Any home reflects the things that people have collected over time, so this is an amalgamation of all of those different things.”

Some of those curios can be found in Martin’s favorite room, the library. “Tim has a nostalgia for a smoking room,” Dare says. As luck would have it, the home was already equipped with a formal library, complete with mahogany-paneled walls and built-in bookshelves. “I just tuned it up and put a lot of midcentury pieces in there,” Dare says. Among those are the 1930s Theodor Pohl Schatzlar porcelain lion, 1960s Aldo Tura goatskin-and-brass bar cart, and 1960s Turkish Oushak rug.

But the ballroom is Xue’s favorite room, and where she first envisioned hosting family and friends. Although the pandemic delayed her plans for throwing parties there, the grand room is now an inviting retreat. It’s hard to miss the nearly 7-foot-tall, polished limestone fireplace and the 1960s Italian chandelier, dripping with 105 handblown Murano glass leaves infused with gold.

A collectible 1940s Brunswick anniversary edition billiard table housed on the home’s lower level holds special meaning for the interior designer. “The table belonged to my best friend, who passed away from breast cancer,” Dare says. “As a tribute to her, Lan and Tim purchased the table so it stayed in the ‘family.'” / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

Brass accents, including the “Oscar” pendant from Roman and Williams Guild, complement ABC Stone’s “Montclair Danby” marble backsplash and countertops in the butler’s pantry. / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

Down the hall from the ballroom, connecting the kitchen to the dining room, is a more surprising place to entertain—the butler’s pantry. While updates were made, including new lower cabinets, marble countertops, and custom Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers, the original upper cabinets, hardware, and a double sink were all restored. Dare chose Benjamin Moore’s “Champion Cobalt” paint to enhance the dramatic tone and create a nice flow into the adjacent dark-painted dining room. “I wanted it to be a whole zone where people have their cocktails in the pantry and then move into the dining room for dinner,” Dare says.

Perhaps the most-utilized room in the home, though, is the fully renovated kitchen. “The footprint of the kitchen didn’t change, but every single thing in there did,” Dare says. “The previous owner basically had a very small fridge and maybe a toaster oven; there were barely any cabinets,” Xue adds. “So in some ways, it’s kind of a design dream to start from scratch.” Form now follows function with a large island, Waterworks faucet, and Wolf range, while a French farm table and vintage rug add antique accents.

“This feels so special, knowing it’s been a home to generations of people,” Dare says. “I’m most proud of the way we have modernized the house while staying true to the integrity of the home.” As for the owners? They’re happy they took a chance on the property, too.

“Lan is much more adventurous; I’m risk-averse,” Martin admits. “I was like, ‘This is too much of a project,’ and Lan said, ‘Trust me, we could turn this into a gem.’ And obviously, she was right. It sparkles now.”

Windows were fashioned into extra-height doors for direct access to a renovated deck. “When the weather is nice, we grill and sit out there practically every night with the kids; it’s pretty great,” Xue says. / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

History in the Making

Because the home is considered a historical site, NEDC had to work closely with the Chestnut Hill Historic District Commission on all exterior renovations. New exhaust venting, trim, siding, and lighting were carefully integrated into the façade; a decaying and not-up-to-code deck and railing were replaced but in the original design to be historically accurate; and a structure was built to support the crumbling 100-plus-year-old stone wall along part of the home’s foundation. “We did have some back and forth as to an appropriate door design,” NEDC project architect Chris Adams says of the Marvin wood doors that replaced windows to provide direct access to the deck from the kitchen. “In the end, we created two pairs of doors with transoms that pick up the style of the existing ballroom doors…. In our favor, I think [the board] was glad that the long-neglected and historic house was getting attention and restoration work.”

Architect & Builder
New England Design + Construction

Interior Designer
Eric Dare Design

Milo Baughman sofas reupholstered in Holly Hunt’s “Aqua Velvet III: Forest Green” and Edward Wormley for Dunbar Janus chairs in Edelman “Stella” caramel leather provide pops of color in the library. / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

Modern comforts complete the fully renovated kitchen, including a Wolf range. Sub-Zero refrigerators, Miele dishwashers, and a Waterworks faucet and fixtures. / Photo by Sarah Winchester / Styling by Sean Williams

First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Fall 2023 issue, with the headline, “Glorious Revival.”