Show House tour spotlights mansion returned to former glory

This 1860s Newton Victorian has gone from the John C. Potter Estate to a boys school, a convent, and school administrative offices.
Michael J. Lee
This 1860s Newton Victorian has gone from the John C. Potter Estate to a boys school, a convent, and school administrative offices.
Michael J. Lee
Thirty-five Boston-area interior designers have made it into a Show House.

The John C. Potter Estate in Newton had seen better days. The grand Victorian, now used as administrative offices for the Jackson-Walnut Park Schools, is in fine structural condition. Cosmetically however, the space was an interior design time capsule, complete with dropped ceilings and pink shag carpets. But with the help of 35 Boston-area interior designers, the mansion is now filled with rooms that look as if they have been plucked from the pages of Architectural Digest.

The Potter Estate is this year’s Junior League of Boston Show House, and tours are available for $35 through Nov. 18. Proceeds benefit the Junior League, an organization that promotes volunteerism.

“When I first walked through the house, I felt that this was a jewel that was waiting to be polished,” says designer Gerald Pomeroy, who decorated the estate’s conservatory.


Designers volunteered their time and furnishings to turn the school administrative offices into the lavish show house. The mansion was built in the 1860s as a home for John Potter and his family. Several other families followed until the house was left to the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1921. The mansion was used as a boys school, and then as a convent.

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Few cosmetic changes were made to the house in the ensuing years, says Elizabeth Tyminski, Show House chair and treasurer of the Junior League. The crew of local designers turned 36 spaces in the house (including bathrooms, hallways, and vestibules) into luxury accommodations.

Before Pomeroy tackled the conservatory, the room was empty and dark with a well-worn red institutional tile floor. What the space had going for it, however, were banks of windows with stunning views into the estate’s grounds. Pomeroy used those windows as his inspiration for the room.

“The palette for the room became the colors of autumn that were starting to appear outside,” he says. “I painted over most of the dark stain and the bricks with a light gray that has tones of beige. I left the dark stain as an accent color and it really highlighted the architecture of the room.”

He said a pair of nuns who once lived in the house asked if Pomeroy had added the architectural details in his renovation because they had never noticed them while living in the house.


“Overall, I think the room works well because it shows people how you can take a space and really use nature as part of your decorating scheme.”

Decorator Marilyn MacLeod, who tackled the flower-cutting room, also took inspiration from nature. Playing off of the French Mansard-style roof, she channeled Claude Monet and subtly painted flowers on the walls of the room.

“It was a rough space,” she says. ‘The whole house was a little rough. It’s exciting to see the transformation.”

For more information on the 2012 Junior League of Boston Show House, call 617-536-9640 or go to Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.