130 Commonwealth Ave is for Sale for $30,000,000 – Let’s Dish!

Hi Guys,

Oh, tongues are wagging big time, and not just in Boston. I’ve encountered posts on Instagram and the New York Post regarding some very big real estate news.


One of Boston’s Architectural jewels is newly on the market for, yes, $30,000,000.00!


The property is 130 Commonwealth Ave, one of the two exquisite beaux-arts style single-family mansions known fondly as “the sisters.

While I do live on the same block in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, our building, with all five units and common areas, is worth less than a third of that amount.


Since September 2020, when I knew I would be living on the same block, I have taken numerous photos of these architectural gems.


Twin Beaux arts mansions Commonwealth Ave - September 2020 - no gloppy trim

128 on the left and 130 Commonwealth Avenue on the right, taken in September 2020.


128 CommAve Christmas 2022

A shot of the beautiful lights at 128 Comm Ave.


128 Comm Ave Boston Christmas 2021 - magical lights
Granted, I have more shots of 128 than I do of 130. That’s because when I took these on a freeeeeeezing night in December, 130 was completely dark.


he sisters 128-130 Commonwealth AveBoston Christmas 2021


128-130 Commonwealth Ave Winter 2022

This was taken in the winter (duh) of 2022 while the snow gently fell. I posted this one on my Instagram page.


128 Commonwealth Ave Boston Back Bay

I don’t know when this was taken, but probably in 2021 or 2022.

The exquisite beaux arts facades are not original. No, the original homes were designed by the same architect (Samuel Dudley Kelley) who designed our building. What’s also interesting is that when these two renovations were done, it was done by two architects.
If interested, please read more about the history of these homes in the fantastic anthology Back Bay Houses, which chronicles every house built in the Back Bay, including ones that no longer exist. This will take you to the page for 130 Commonwealth Ave.

Laurel, are you going to show us the inside?

Yes, of course.

dining kitchen 130 Comm Ave 2015
This is one of my favorite parts with the rear-facing bay.  I love how it’s open but not entirely open.

Commonwealth Ave 2015

Above is the parlor behind the gorgeous French doors with Beaux Arts transoms facing Commonwealth Avenue.

Sorry, I wish the quality of the photos were better. However, this is all I could find from 2015, the last time 130 Commonwealth Ave was sold for $11,600,000.


Well, the guy who bought it did a real number on it.


I guess that’s why he feels justified in nearly tripling the price since he purchased it nine years ago.

All real estate photos via Jack Vatcher Photography


Spacious entrance foyer 130 Comm Ave
The spacious entrance foyer. I love Marilyn.

Skull art Beaux Arts residence
The owner has an impressive art collection.


130 Comm Ave Cobalt Blue Living Room
He’s not afraid of color.


spa death bathroom
He’s not afraid of death, either, as demonstrated by numerous examples of his skull fetish. I hope the new owners will enjoy being reminded of their mortality every time they shower.


Oh, remember the cozy vintage dining area and kitchen?


Cozy Vintage kitchen

Yeah, they took down the wall, which is why a vertical steel beam is hanging out in the middle of the room.

They also removed the dining table in favor of a small breakfast table. That’s right. This home, which is on the market for $30,000,000, no longer has a dining room.

If you’d like to see more, here is the real estate listing held by Sotheby’s International Realty.

If you’re interested in the old listing that’s still up, you can see it here.

The New York Post article is here with dozens of comments, including mine.


What kills me (as I’ve said before) is that one cannot change so much as a doorbell on a house in the historic Back Bay without being granted permission by the Back Bay Architectural Commission.


However, as long as it meets the stringent building code, one can do whatever grotesque thing they desire inside these historic gems.
Of course, it’s fine if this is your taste.  But, why oh why would anyone do this to one of Boston’s finest pieces of early 20th-century architecture?

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts about 130 Commonwealth Ave.



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92 Responses

  1. Why not do this to a modern new building instead of desecrating a historic old building? I agree with the writer who called this “territorial pissing.” It feels like there’s something very intentionally and aggressively rude going on.

  2. This is another example of money cannot buy taste and style. So sad the house’s soul was destroyed. Now it looks like a cheap showroom. I wonder who was their designer…

  3. It could be worse. At least he didn’t rip out all the woodwork and mouldings.
    I actually think some of the woodwork looks better painted, such as the staircase and some of the fireplaces, even if I would not have chosen so much stark black and white. The butterfly ceiling is lovely and some of the modern light fixtures are well chosen to contrast but not stick out.
    The kitchen/dining room, though–that is the worst part of all.

  4. Mr. Starr is with Third Rock Ventures, which has the same blue in the headline of the website. He’s working with helping patients with new treatments and preventing diseases. Most are called “______ Therauputics.” My husband commented, “He doesn’t know much about Artistic Therauputics.”

  5. My house was pretty hideous when I bought it, so I can break this down. This is a $30 million fixer upper and obvious cry for help and attention. The plusses are that its in a great location location location.and it’s clean! The blue is a nice color but is too much – I like the butterfly ceiling in the blue room. I can’t tell if it’s blue gloss paint or something else on the walls but regardless, that needs to be painted over or replaced with white. Some blue touches with the white and nice ceiling may be enough to rev the room way down to a normal person livability level with a modern vibe. The skull in the shower is another replacement item, plus that hand in there which I hope is a chair that he will take when he moves. The multi colored modern carpet on the stairs can be easily replaced too. It’s not the taste level you would expect for the price but it might not cost too much to fix this fixer upper to become livable and quite charming in its own way. Again it’s a fixer upper.

  6. No respect for history or beauty and proves the old adage that just because you have money doesn’t mean you have class. It’s f-ing ugly. I’d have a 24/7 migraine if I had to live in that monstrosity.

  7. The good news is, It’s just paint. And flooring. And fixtures. And, okay, more. But if there’s one thing Laurel has taught us this past year, it’s renovations are do-able. Expensive, but do-able.

  8. Sweet Jesus! I am speechless. Well almost. I fervently hope that whoever buys this mess has enough money and then hires you to ego and fix it.

  9. OMG!!! I felt this one viscerally…. I found myself feeling increasingly agitated as I looked through the current photos. The thought of spending time in the blue room made my heart race. No space felt inviting, warm, welcoming or elegant. The use of “Carnie” colors suggests a creepy Elvis clown skulking towards Vegas whilst wandering amongst the skulls…
    Sorry, hard pass.

  10. Well… as my southern mother would say, “bless their heart – they just have more money than taste”.

  11. Hm you know what, I take back my original comment. Just checked out his Instagram and he recently posted about the feature. Oh well!

  12. I took a look at the designers website and this project is not featured, and I am not surprised. To me that says something, to have designed such an iconic property as this and not broadcast that on your website. His other work, while not totally my taste, is very lovely. I wonder how much influence this client had on this designer, and how the designer really felt about doing these “renovations” to such an originally stunning home. It is actually very sad!

  13. Oh dear. So, I live in a Craftsman style house build in 1917. In the late 1950’s it was purchased by a woman who wanted a mid-century modern home. During the five years living here, she and her hubby destroyed many beautiful features of this home. Some we are aware of because they don’t “fit” the time period, some were pointed out to us by the granddaughters of the original owners. The question that came into my mind when I saw this mess is the same I think of the couple who loved mid-century modern and “redid” our house – why didn’t they buy what they really liked to begin with? Obviously the owner’s taste does not run traditional. They must have been everlastingly annoyed by the exterior which could not be colored up and modernized.

    Well, at least alot of the old molding etc is still there but I hope the next owners get a deep discount for all the work that will have to be done before it is livable again, because honestly, I could not live in this place, unless blind folded.

  14. All I can say is, WOW these are some hideous and costly decorating mistakes!!! Gracious sakes alive, what a dreadful transformation. I am not a keep-it-like-a-museum stickler for historical styles but this is far far too far in the opposite direction.

  15. Violence was committed here – you would have to be a particularly violent person to kill a historic gem like this.

  16. When I saw the introduction, my first thought was that I hope the new owners don’t gut the place and do something horrid to it. Then, I kept reading, and saw that it had already been done by the current owner. The good news: it cannot possibly get worse. That poor house has hit rock bottom.

  17. $30,000,000 for a defaced historic home? How much would it cost to return it to it’s former glory?

  18. I only pray that beautiful wood can be stripped and restored. Definitely proves that just because you have money doesn’t give you good taste. How depressing.

  19. That blue room alone is enough to get “Big Sister” to haunt this owner and his designer/co-conspirator through all eternity. Honestly hideous and demented.

  20. Some background on this single family home. There is an historic commission that reviewed the exterior restoration from the former owner who was able to change only the exterior rear of the building to permit the install of a garage door as the rear of the building at that time was non conforming. The front facade was restored. The Back Bay Architectural Commission only reviews EXTERIORS. The interior of the home is not on the National Register of Historic Places which would be able to have certain parts of the interior remain “as is”. I’ve been in the building prior to the first renovation ( it sat unoccupied for many years and was bought at auction) and after the first renovation. It was a very depressing, cold building that sadly neither owners have tastefully renovated. Walking by at night with all that neon artwork blaring out from those gorgeous windows made one pause. 128 Commonwealth Avenue (the twin sister) is all white and cream and warm and soft inside highlighting original woodwork and detailing.

  21. My Dad was raised in a very formal family and his father was an Anglican priest. Saying “bloody” as in “bloody murder” was considered swearing so he used “blue murder”. Tragically 130 has suffered “BLUE murder” and if it is possible to restore that exquisite home to its former glory I am certain it will cost millions.

  22. This externally beautiful home was featured in last Friday’s WSJ Mansion (Real Estate) section. It profiled the owner, Kevin Starr, a venture capital investor and his design choices. The feature quoted his interior designer explaining Starr’s fascination with skulls as “A lot of people think skulls are creepy, but he sees it as a joyous sign of life,” Roseff said, noting that Starr believes skulls represent the circle of life. “When a fetus is forming, the skull is the first thing formed. At the end of life…the skull is what remains.” As they say in another language (where the words rhyme) “about taste and fragrance, there can be no debate, only preference”. Laurel, at lest you’ll see the pretty part of it when you walk by!

  23. Crushed. The excitement in me was bubbling over when I read your intro. to then only be crushed at what I saw.

  24. In my part of the country, all that orange and blue screams NFL BRONCOS football. While I’m a fan of the team, I would never choose any of this decor. What the owner and designer did to this house is criminal IMO.

  25. Wow! I really like it! It’s very colorful.
    Ha, just kidding. How could they? They should be run out of town. And never allowed to own property again.

  26. Reply to Susan A.

    Your comment to be respectful to the period of the home.

    How many of us have done that? How many walls have come down for an open concept? How many linear feet of patina’d baseboard have been painted? Vinyl windows to replace original wood ones? Wood floors covered with carpet that was then ripped up and covered over with manufactured wood flooring? Stainless steel everything instead of refurbished white appliances?

    I learned years ago when visiting friends of friends in a small town. Everyone had velour sectionals because it was the newest thing available at the closest department store. But the house that was considered the most chic had a painting of a reclining nude Elvis on velvet above it and white eyelet cotton swags and outer shower curtain in the bath. Honest truth. I almost blew a lung laughing but caught myself. This was what they liked.

    In some communities, exterior & interior historical significance must be recorded with the planning boards and can’t be altered. Near me, that includes panelling, flooring, moulding, doors, plumbing & lighting fixtures.

    Owner did what they did because they could. It’s that simple.

  27. There are no words for how sick I feel seeing this. It was not a good way to start my day. He sucked all the beauty and warmth out of a fabulous home. Because he could….he did. This proves money doesn’t buy taste, common sense or ethical behavior. Money in the wrong person’s hands is just as dangerous as a gun. Why am I not surprised it was a venture capitalist who did this? These pictures should be used in college courses as examples of what NOT to do when remodeling a home. There should be a law that says you must remain respectful to the period of the home.

  28. So, who is Eric Roseff, the “designer”? Surely there’s a story there. And perhaps the owner moved to the suburbs bc he was experiencing daily migraines. Honestly, a fire would have been better than the current situation. At least after a fire, sometimes things can be salvaged. What’s left to salvage? I too was hoping it was a Picmonkey rendering!

  29. Cannot believe what I’m seeing!!! I though for a while you did this on picmonkey! Cannot fathom!! Who is the owner?? I almost wish I hand’t seen this! Someone who has $30m will buy it and will need to spend another few million to deep renovate! We are heading to Charleston today, and I am happy because after this I need to see some real beauty inside and out (planning to visit the mansions)!

  30. I’ve posted before about the horror of painting beautiful historic woodwork. If you don’t like it, DON’T BUY THE HOUSE!!!! People always have some excuse. They are wrong, wrong, wrong. The fact is that the woodwork can never be restored to what it was. The patina is destroyed. The paint soaks into the wood in places and can’t be fully stripped or sanded off. I know because I have tried to restore some of the formerly beautiful oak doors and millwork in my own house, to no avail. This makes me physically sick. I wish someone could buy this poor house from the vandal for $1 and spend the millions restoring it to whatever degree is possible.

  31. I did a quick search and discovered that the owner is venture capitalist and that he did work with a designer(!). The skull supposedly represent the “circle of life” to the owner, and the designer said that he wanted to bring a little Miami and Vegas into the house. Just yuck. In answer to everyone’s questions about why he would do such a thing to such a beautiful landmark, the answer of course is because he can.

  32. I am often disappointed by the wealthy home owners for not having more unique tastes. In that regard, this guy doesn’t disappoint.

    Who was the designer? Who was the builder?

    Another thought: most wealthy people completely gut their historical homes and the original parts and pieces are completely removed and or destroyed. I can’t get upset that he does the same thing.

    With that said, I truly believe no one will purchase this ridiculous mansion for 30m, as the cost to gut (yet again) will be truly significant.

  33. The Back Bay Architectural Commission signed off on this, folks. The bribes must’ve been irresistible.

    1. Hi Jill,

      The commission only oversees the exteriors of the houses, not the interiors. Many homes have been completely gutted and stripped of ALL original architectural features, and numerous walls. And I don’t mean stripped and replaced with appropriate mouldings. I mean removed completely.

  34. I love the color of the blue room and the butterflies on the ceiling. The circle amongst the b&w check floor too. It’s a fun house! Comfy. Relaxed.

    Money can make it what it used to be. Including replacing the wall.

    What embraced me in the “before” photos, was the warmth and glow from the patina of the wood panels and mouldings.

    Reminds me of the gasping horror I felt when the idea of painting all the woodwork in your building’s entry and stairways was floated.

  35. Surely we could look in the tax records and find out who did this? Name and shame! (such records are public in my city, maybe not in Boston?)

  36. I’m a Realtor. I have been in thousands of homes. There are some properties that you walk on and through that you would just never, ever want to live there. You have no idea what’s gone on in that space because the entire ‘vibe’ is just not skin crawling…. and it does not even have to have a grotesque, monstrous visual of a demented soul’s property. You have no idea what’s “attached”, albeit unseen to a property like this. I’m sorry, there are some places I would not touch with a thirty foot pole or even want to see. What was intended for beauty has been violated in every way, imho. What a shame. What a horrible shame.

  37. Actually represents in house form where our culture is ging. A billionaire’s equivalent of destroying statues.

  38. The current owner should be fined $30 million for doing such horrors to this grand, elegant old lady.

  39. What I’d really like to know is – why do people who don’t want historic, classical houses buy them in the first place? There are plenty of places where the owner’s aesthetic wouldn’t have had to cause destruction and insult in order achieve what we have here. This is what I call an anti-social territorial pissing. I wonder who the owner is and if the house is for sale because he’s behind bars for some other non-architectural crime.

  40. As I began reading this post, I was asking myself, “how many people can afford to spend $30,000,000.00 for a house?” By the end of this post, I was asking myself “who would want to spend $30,0000,000.00 for THAT?” In my opinion, the present owner ha taken value OUT of the house. Not only has he destroyed an architectural gem, but what he has done is WAY too taste-specific. It should be interesting to see if it sells, and what it sells for.

  41. Maybe you need to get on the Historic Preservation Board and get some history preserving standards going for the interiors as well as the exteriors of these wonderful homes to prevent any more of them being raped and pillaged like this one!!!
    What a tragedy…😪
    I am so surprised this was allowed to happen!

  42. Yikes!!!
    As a famous designer once said….”I pray for the day when people with taste acquire money, and people with money acquire taste”

  43. Laurel,
    Who ever buys this destroyed beauty needs to hire YOU for the restoration! Your renovations through your knowledge, vision and appreciation for architecture far exceeds most folks today. What you are doing in your home is beautiful down to every detail. Thank you for allowing us to join you on such a ride!

  44. Hideous, distasteful, disturbing, shameful, a travesty…What more can be said?! It is so sad and shocking to see the historic beauty so utterly destroyed.

  45. Oh how heartbreaking! The gorgeous panelling and floors destroyed forever. Well, I guess whoever has $30M to buy it can afford to fix it. What a crime against beauty and history. That BLUE room! 🤢

  46. Horrible. Surely they weren’t allowed to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, given the rules you had to follow. Hopefully the bylaws will force him to fix a few things. This is someone thumbing their noses at good taste and common sense. So sad!

  47. Monstrous. Let us know what it sells for please. No wonder the owner wants to get rid of the place.

  48. It’s all been said. Someone who takes delight in the destruction of such an important house is antisocial. This house is part of America’s collective history and has been desecrated. The skull everywhere is a motif common in the drug world, the gang world of Central and South America and among occultists. It’s against everything that is uplifting and life affirming. It’s my sincere hope the owner takes a financial bath.

  49. It looks like one of the tragic first episodes of Trading Spaces (that vintage TLC show) where they were just experimenting with DIY. Was nothing wrong with that, but they weren’t messing around with a multimillion dollar, treasured, historic, Back Bay Boston home.

  50. WOWZA!! I dont care how much art the guy has, it doesnt make up for the man’s ghastly taste!! (I think I have a few pics of 130 as well, from our visit in 2018). It truly is a shame that there isnt any historical preservation oversight. Your remodel design is going to be SOOOO beautiful and in keeping with the architectural design of these Comm Ave beauties. I commend you Laurel, it will be so worth it. I cant wait to see yours when its all done!! ❤️

  51. These images are downright disturbing. I assume (maybe wrongly) that the current owner is very young, and immature besides, and just drowning in money that is maybe inherited from the parents. So the owner just decided to go wild with the interior (with no help from a designer), to suit some sense of “fun.”

  52. Oh no:( The before was so much better. I can’t imagine what could be done to restore it. Up for the challenge Laurel?

  53. What an absolute shame. I’m surprised there aren’t more strict rules in place for preserving the heritage of the building, as they do in Britain(Grade listed). So sad…..

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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