Haute Property: Phinney Design Group’s Mansion Makeover

As an architect, Michael Phinney spends a lot of his time working on new, state-of-the-art buildings that utilize the latest and greatest sustainable building methods. But sometimes an old house comes along that requires his firm’s expertise to restore it to its former glory. That’s the case with 73 Union Avenue, a signature High Gothic Victorian that recently underwent a two-year restoration courtesy of Phinney Design Group. 

“You don’t get to touch three-story, historic Victorians every day,” Phinney says of the mansion that was originally built in 1883 for John M. Jones, a jeweler and watchmaker, and his wife, Henrietta, whose uncle was the French composer Jacques Offenbach, famous for a can-can from his comedic opera Orpheus in the Underworld. In 2016, current owners John and Michelle Haller purchased the 6,500-square-foot home and lived in the carriage house during the renovation of the original structure, which required foundational reinforcement, structural modifications and improvements, and a lot of interior renovations, including a wholly redesigned kitchen, primary bath, living room, mudroom, office and dining layout.

“We wanted to respect the past but really embrace the future,” says Phinney. “We were very careful to replace parts with exact replicas or, when replacing a damaged item, getting it made to match exactly. But in other instances, we incorporated modern conveniences.”

Those modern conveniences include a much larger kitchen with a giant island, a chef-grade stove, and a pop of sky-blue color in the cabinets. The reconfigured dining area features a creative circular theme, including a round table and rug, rounded bay window, and organic gold chandelier under a round-coffered ceiling. The third floor, originally the live-in servants’ quarters, was turned into a study. All this was done without touching the iconic Union Avenue façade, which brings its
own freshness.

“The color scheme of the original house is unique for a Victorian because of its darker colors,” says Phinney. “To work with that palette, to save an old girl like that and have it be even better than it was in its heyday, is really nice. Now hopefully it’s going to be something special for another 100 years.”  

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