House Crashing: Jack and Jeffrey’s Eclectic Preservation Renovation

…dotted and photographed by Meghann*

A corner of the kitchen with the original butler's pantry beyond.

[To see all the images from the shoot, visit the gallery at the bottom of this post]

Walking into Jack Dennerlein and Jeffrey Gonyeau’s home is akin to walking into a favorite inn; the interior is grand yet cozy, the walls are painted in sumptuous hues and it’s clear that everything in it has been lovingly collected over the course of many years. It would be easy to call the overall style “traditional” but that wouldn’t do justice to the space; it’s a mixture of new and antique, quirky and intellectual, funky original “what-have-yous” and well-planned  renovations. Above all, it’s a space designed to welcome…and it does that in spades.

We asked Jeffrey and Jack to share their home and style with us….

From left: Jeffrey Gonyeau & Jack Dennerlein

Names/Occupations: Jack Dennerlein, a  Senior Lecturer on Ergonomics and Safety at Harvard School of Public Health and Jeffrey Gonyeau, a Senior Program Manager at Historic Boston, Inc.
Style & Location: 1894 Colonial Revival in lower Dorchester
Purchased in: 2006

1.)How did you find the house? What kind of state was it in when you bought it?

 Jeffrey first saw the house while hired by a local real estate agent [to] develop marketing material highlighting the house’s history and architectural character. The house was very well preserved, with many of its original features intact including the kitchen’s soapstone sink.  While the whole house needed some updating, its bones were strong. Its flexible layout and well proportioned rooms made it feel gracious and comfortable at the same time.

Jeff came home and said to Jack, “You’ve got to see this house”.  He did and…knew it was a home we would make our own.   We cut our summer vacation short and made an offer.

The circa 1890s soapstone sink with a bright red Thonet chair from DWR beyond

2.)   How would you guys describe your style?

We have things from family and finds from flea markets, yard sales, and even casts-offs from friends.  They are mixture of styles, eras and materials.  When we buy new things, we look for strong, classic design that complements the items we already have….[and] we like orange.

The octagonal living room with a mid-century coffee table made by Jack's grandfather.

3.)   Your home is such a lovely mix of new and antique; where do you guys get your inspiration?

We do it unconsciously and organically. We seem to know what we like and what will work.  We have had really good luck in finding interesting things that work well together, make us happy, and fit the feel of the house.  

One of the many quirky vignettes throughout the home

4.)   What’s your favorite room in the house? Your favorite element?

For Jeff it is the dining room.  The light from the south-facing bay window is great for morning coffee and for watching birds. It is a bit formal, but we eat dinner in it most evenings, and it works really well for dinner parties.  We’re planning to install a new gas log in the fireplace (replacing the 100+ year old existing one!) to make it even more comfortable and atmospheric.

A vignette in the formal dining room

For Jack, it is the guest bedroom on the third floor.  It has windows on three sides of the house with views of the downtown skyline to the north and of the Great Blue Hills to the south.  Two of the windows are dormers with built in window seats.  The room is surprisingly large making it very comfortable bedroom with a good working area for our visitors to work – many of Jack’s colleagues will stay with us during business trips.  

The sitting area in the 3rd floor bedroom with built-in bureau behind

   What are you most proud of/happy with now that you’ve been in the house for a few years?

 We are proud of preserving the great things about the house while making it even more comfortable for us and for our guests.  For example, we totally rebuilt the front porch carefully replicating its architectural details.  When it was done, a passing neighbor commented, “Oh, I see you have repainted your porch”, not realizing it was a complete reconstruction.

The second floor hallway

6.)   What is your best advice to people thinking about moving into Dorchester? 

Just do it.  

The second floor bathroom

7.)   What’s your favorite thing about the area?

There is a true sense of community with many civically active people and organizations, and a busy schedule of neighborhood events throughout the year.  Architecturally, there is some of the most beautiful and well-preserved late-19th-century houses in the city.  Each year, Dorchester just seems to get better and better.

Looking into the living room from the foyer. Both owners are musically-incluned and their collection includes instruments of all kinds. The item on the wall in the foreground is a hand-stencilled wooden antique organ pipe.

8.) What upcoming Dorchester events/openings/changes are you most excited about?

We are most excited about the expanding biking network and acceptance of biking in the community.  In addition, we’re looking forward to activation of the Fairmount Line with new stations throughout Dorchester.  There is a also movement to start a food cooperative, which we whole heartily support.  And then of course there is the annual Ashmont Hill Yard Sale — can’t wait!

Jeffrey's bike parked in the old servant's entrance. Both owners bike to work more often than not in good weather.

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