Stately old homes are hardly rare in the suburban Boston neighborhood of West Newton Hill. People seem to agree, however, that Jennifer Palumbo’s house – a Georgian Revival built in 1917 by John Wingate Weeks, a Navy admiral who served as Newton mayor, United States senator and Secretary of War under President Warren G. Harding – enjoys special regard. “It’s the iconic house of the neighborhood,” says architect John Meyer, “not only in provenance and architectural distinction, but its hilltop site lends elevated status literally and figuratively.”
When the two-story, redbrick house came on the market, its attributes proved irresistible to Palumbo, an interior designer who had long admired it. Thrilled as she was to make it her own, however, she felt it needed significant renovation and expansion to render it suitable for her, her husband, Keith, and their three children. “My ambition was to update in a manner that captured the inherent character of the house, but with a new, less serious attitude that felt fresh, fun and lively,” she says.
The almost-two-acre site offered ample room for expanding, but its variable grades prompted Meyer’s special attention to ensuring that the additions interact seamlessly with both the land and the old part of the house.
The landscaping, too, enhances the sense that the house has stood unchanged since its construction. “Our charge was to create a narrative that tells the story of how the house used to be, married with how the spaces now serve in new ways,” explains landscape architect Gregory Lombardi.
Using the property’s existing, mature landscaping as backdrop, Lombardi amplified focus areas with flowering plants and shrubs. A stone wall along the north edge, built for privacy, is integrated into the plan as the border for an entertaining terrace complete with built-in grill and cooking area, that opens to a large lawn. An existing porch was expanded to hold another area for entertaining, defined by a bluestone terrace that opens to yet another broad expanse of child-friendly lawn.