In Chestnut Hill, a gracious estate enters the market.
This Chestnut Hill manse is built of three separate units— the original building from the late 1700s plus two later expansions.
“Location, location, location” may be a real estate mantra—but “livability, layout, lifestyle” is a better one when it comes to actually making a home. And so it came to be that, even with something like 9,000 square feet in which to sprawl, Nina Swift and her family found themselves longing for more room. Her three children were entering their teens, and she had recently acquired three stepchildren, who needed their own space when visiting their dad at 603 West Hartwell Lane in Chestnut Hill. Meanwhile, Swift’s executive search firm was taking off—and she really needed a dedicated home office.
“It sounds silly, but the house was just too small,” she says. “Much of it is just one room wide, and it wasn’t set up to be enjoyed by a large, modern family.” The solution was to seamlessly integrate a new two-story wing into the home’s other two pieces—an original building dating from the late-1700s and a large 1930s extension designed by Edmund Gilchrist, the architect most associated with the development of the neighborhood’s distinctive housing stock.
Views from the interior look onto the property’s four lush acres of cherry trees, stream-fed ponds, and flower beds.
She turned to Cynthia Curley, who was then working at local firm Krieger + Associates. A specialist in renovating and expanding historic properties, Curley remembers her first visit to the home. “The kitchen was very cramped, the family room was tight, the entrance foyer was anything but grand,” she says. Claustrophobic and dark, the house didn’t take advantage of the views of the four gracious acres of lush lawns with weeping cherry trees, stream-fed ponds, established f lower gardens, and historic outbuildings.
And so Curley’s addition, which created a first-floor great room and two second-floor bedroom suites, was just the beginning of the 2002 renovation. To turn the existing spaces into the light-filled, comfortable, flowing rooms that they are today, she undertook a whole-house interior gut job. That work resulted in a new entryway with marble flooring and a sweeping staircase, a substantially enlarged kitchen with a breakfast nook and bay window overlooking the grounds, custom cabinetry throughout the public and private areas, and revamped bathrooms. “Now the house has both formal spaces for large parties as well as private areas for family use, all with open views,” Curley says.
Swift tackled the interior design herself, incorporating a variety of styles, palettes, and lighting (ranging from glittering crystal chandeliers to whimsical ceramic creations to strikingly modern sconces). Hues of rich raspberry dominate the Federal-style dining room, while the new family room uses buffalo plaid and autumnal hues and textures like leather and chenille to achieve a homier feel. The kids’ and guest bedrooms are outfitted in pale washes of pink, green, or sky blue, but Swift has reserved her favorite color, purple, for her spacious office, and draped her master bedroom in corals and celadon.
Swift is ready to make changes, though. “I’m much more interested in modern design now. This is the direction I’d like to pursue,” she explains, leading the way into a living room painted in a deep indigo offset by silver sofas, rugs, and pillows with Grecian key motifs. Still, it’s the house’s intangible qualities that remain the most important, she adds. “What I’ll miss most about this home is the light and the view.” For more information, contact Michael Sivel, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors-Chestnut Hill, 8400 Germantown Ave., Ste. 2, 215-248-6540