The Ayer Mansion, the Tiffany-designed home in Boston, is now for sale
The mansion on Commonwealth Ave. is the only home entirely designed by renowned designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.
395 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
Cut: 15,000 square feet
Bathrooms : 6 complete, 6 partial
It was the staircase that caused the current owners of Ayer Manor to change their plans.
The curved staircase is one of the first features to greet you upon entering the grand hall of this home. With a grand fireplace tucked under vaulted ceilings and an oval overhang above giving a glimpse of the upper levels, there’s sure to be competition for your attention. But the imperial staircase dazzles. It is perhaps the arch of the proscenium that overlooks it, framing the steps with intricate tiling. Perhaps it’s the shimmering Tiffany mosaic tiles that line these risers, with patterns in shades of bottle green and navy blue against a stone-colored background. Although in all likelihood this is the trompe l’oeil on the landing – visible from the foot of the stairs – painted to make the stairs look like they lead to an ancient Greek temple, giving you the impression to have gone back in time…or at least remembered that you are entering a very special place.
Either way, that was enough to prompt the current owners to hijack their plan to convert this house into condos. They realized they couldn’t convert the space without ruining the work that architect and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany had put into it, according to the real estate team selling the mansion. Ownership of two buildings will now be divided: the building to the left of the mansion will become luxury condos, while the Ayer mansion will be sold as a single-family residence, perhaps one of Boston’s most desirable.
Art historians could claim the purchase of this property, knowing its history. Its designer, Tiffany, was the son of Charles Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co. Rather than follow his father into the jewelry business, Tiffany used his artistic eye to venture into architecture and design, making lamps, furniture and decorative items, as well as interior spaces. This home is one of three surviving Tiffany residential commissions, according to the mansion’s website, and the only one of his designs he has worked on from the start. The mansion was designed for Frederick Ayer, owner of the American Woolen Company. His daughter was married to General George Patton and is rumored to have proposed to her in the Ayer mansion, although this particular legend has been disputed. Either way, it’s easy to see how anyone could be moved by a grand romantic gesture in this home, which the Ayer family sold after Frederick’s death in 1918.
This building is also one of the only exteriors designed by Tiffany. Her vision of an elegant pale granite building with its famous mosaic patterns around the doorway was outside the red brick standard for Commonwealth Avenue in 1902, but as we know Tiffany was never afraid to ‘go against the grain, whether it’s his father or popular architectural styles. He let his time traveling as a young man shape his work here: his travels to Japan and India are reflected in the five-story house in the Turtleback tiles of the front door, and the color schemes and bold patterns through the tile mosaics he made. . His love of ancient Greek and Rome also plays into the design, as evidenced by the grand hall staircase, while his background in lamp making translates into the creative glassware found throughout the house, which he s be it plated glass or stained glass details.
When the family sold the building after Ayer’s death, it was converted into office space, offering a far cry from the gray cubicles workers get today. In 2005 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. More recently, it was used as a women’s dormitory for a religious group, although the space was occasionally open for museum visits before COVID. If you walked into one when they were on offer, you’d see the cavernous space, which features five floors (each comprising at least 2,700 square feet), 23 bedrooms and five fireplaces, as well as views of the Citgo sign and other Boston Landmarks. With a little update, the house could be converted into a more modern space with potential for rooms like a home office and a spa, according to the sellers. But we can all hope that whoever lands in the house next will retain its absolutely one-of-a-kind groundbreaking design… including those magical stairs.
For more information, visit tiffanyayermansion.com.
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