REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Topsy-turvy: A highly manicured house in Belmont


ADDRESS: 912 Monticello Avenue


ASKING: $499,000

ASSESSMENT: $48,600 (land only)


SIZE: 2,225 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.12 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Barbara Frost of Re/Max Realty Specialists 960-4921 (m)  974-1500 (o) 

The first impression of this brand new house nearly across the street from Clark School is that it stands– well... how to say?– somewhat apart from its neighbors. And that's not just because of its nearly $500,000 price tag among houses with assessments ranging from $59,600 (905 Monticello) to $327,800 (two blocks away at 726).

It's also because from the street, the house looks more like the model home in a typical subdivision than an age-tempered Belmont dwelling. Its out-of-character-for-the-neighborhood sea green paint and Hardiplank siding, "leaded" glass in the front door and sidelights, vinyl windows and trim, and front yard cemented for parking bring to mind the phrase "sticks out like a...." And if all that's not enough to set it apart, the developer has decided to forego grass in the rest of the yard in favor of black mulch resembling the shredded tires that used to cover kiddy playgrounds.

That's the bad news. Inside is another story.

Potential buyers who are brave enough to look beyond this incongruent exterior will be breathless with surprise as soon as the over-wrought front door opens. While the interior of the house is probably just as out of keeping with the other houses on Monticello avenue as the outside is, no one will complain. The open floor plan and array of cutting-edge design elements will win over skeptics right away.

"Open" is the operative word. From the front door, the entire living space of the first level spreads out before a visitor uninterrupted by walls. (The master suite, two extra bedrooms, and two full baths are in what seems almost like a separate part of the house to the right.) The large room, extending the full length of the house, is obviously intended to begin as the living room, because over a classy marble-paneled wood-burning fireplace the builder has indented a space for a flat-screen TV to sit (plugs, sockets, etc.). But we wonder how that would work, as any chairs or couch positioned for TV watching would impede flow through the room to the dining area and kitchen beyond.

A space beyond this entry area is designed to be the dining "room": pretty glass-front shelves/cabinets create a counter dividing the area from the kitchen. In the big room, large double six-over-six windows reach almost to the floor and admit a surprising amount of light considering how snugly the house is wedged between its neighbors.

As mentioned, to the right of this long area are two full baths and three bedrooms, including the master, which has sliding-door access to a private deck. The builder tried to spiff up the bathrooms with tile designs in the walls, tile floors, and "Brazilian granite" counters, but unaccountably lost consciousness and fell back on those molded fiberglass shower/tub combos. These things are more appropriate in low-end subdivisions than in a house with this quality of detail everywhere else, but, be that as it may, here they are.

Up an open set of pretty stairs facing the front door is a loft almost as large as the whole first floor. It does not extend over the living room, however, which means that the ceiling height there is 22 feet, according to the agent. This space also has a bamboo floor, large windows at the back with mountain views, a large decorative octagonal window in front, and a hand-made railing. It's an elegant space– but what's it for?

The fact that there's no bath up here and no privacy– it's completely open to the first floor– precludes use as a bedroom, unfortunately, and the risky picket-fence railing would make leaving little kids up there a dicey proposition.

The agent suggested perhaps an artist's studio or a yoga or dance practice area. While it's certainly large enough for that– and interesting skylights create an almost Zen-like tranquility and repose– a more practical use would seem to be the rec room that's usually in the basement. Up here could be the TV (something else will have to cover up the receptacles over the fireplace), a comfortable furniture grouping, and even an office at the front end. This could be the place where the family relaxes, leaving the first floor area to more formal pursuits. 

The bamboo floors, handmade oak cabinets, custom woodwork on the porch and in the loft railing, the Brazilian granite counters in kitchen and baths, and tile floors are the extras that undoubtedly account for the gasp-inducing price tag. The location in Belmont is not as problematic today for an upscale buyer as it might have been in the past, considering some of the  big-ticket renovations going on up and down the street. The bus runs by the door, and Spudnuts is more or less around the corner.

 Someone seeking a high-quality, in-town replica of a ski resort condo– someone with a deep pocket, that is– could do worse than mosey on over to Monticello avenue for a gander.


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