Swanee Hunt — the former US ambassador to Austria, ardent art collector, lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, heiress, and determined agent for social change — is readying to leave the joyful post she has held for nearly 20 years — owner of the historic Brattle Street home she has populated with her art collection, including “Chance Meeting” by George Segal.
Art can be found all over this home, the Joseph Thorp House: Paintings, photographs, and sculptures are on the walls, underneath desks, and by the bubbling fountain in the rear, which was the front entrance when the home was built in 1888. But the most enduring work of art here is the Colonial Revival itself, particularly the main living areas on the first floor, where centuries of residents (including the Episcopal Divinity School and the owners of The Boston Post) have left their imprints.
One of the most visually stunning spaces is just off the foyer: The great room, which has hosted “persons of extraordinary talent, political influence, and historic renown,” is graced with carved-teak balustrades only just recently attributed to Lockwood de Forest, a leader of the 19th-century Aesthetic Movement. Not to be outdone, three large ceramic tiles in the fireplace mantel are believed to be the work of Persian potter Ali Muhammad Isfahani. Just off the great room is the “Poet’s Corner,” an octagonal space with a domed ceiling, leaded-glass windows, and bas-relief figures.
On the other side of the foyer, a library with Norwegian influences and exposed mahogany beams is punctuated by leaded glass and has a “peasant” hearth with a woodstove.
From here, pocket doors open to a Classical dining room with semi-octagonal corners and domed display niches. With walls of sky-blue, bright-white molding, and a Palladian bay window with leaded glass, the dining room is a pleasing counterpart to the dark mahogany in the great room.
The kitchen is 21st century with one genuflection to the past: The 1879 Walker & Pratt cast-iron stove remains as a decorative piece. Two sinks and a large high-end stainless-steel gas stove break up one long counter that ends before the door to the wraparound deck. The kitchen also features an island with seating and a sink, dark cherry cabinets, and a breakfast nook.
On the second floor, the master is centered on a fireplace (one of 10 in the home) that looks out to the bedroom area with sleeping alcove and on to the dressing room and the tumbled-marble en-suite bath. The suite also offers a cedar closet and a small study with leaded glass and French doors to a private deck. The remainder of the floor is given over to two bedrooms (one with an en-suite bath), a sitting room with a fireplace, the laundry room, and a hall bath.
The third floor is now mostly office space, but was designed for six bedrooms, two of which have access to a covered balcony.
The basement is utilitarian space but for the office of Hunt’s late husband, conductor Charles Ansbacher, whose job title is still on the entry door. It reads simply “MAESTRO.”
Susan Condrick of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Cambridge is the listing broker.
Style: Colonial Revival
Year built: 1888
Square feet: 8,372
Baths: 4 full, 2 half
Taxes: $56,581 (2016)
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