At home with Kitty Cox and Joy Chertow:
When Joy Chertow and Katherine "Kitty" Cox bought a 1890s Victorian together a couple of years ago and formed a blended family with their children from past relationships, they planned to be married at home, and were the following August. They held a ceremony officiated by a rabbi on their wraparound porch, followed by a party in the living room.
What they never expected was to be married legally. However, as the result of the state Supreme Judicial Court's sanctioning of same-sex marriages, they again married in their living room Friday, though in a much smaller affair.
Last time, they were in the middle of renovating the 5,000-square-foot home, which has inlaid wood floors, built-in benches, a breakfast nook, and an oak stairway, among other special features. This time, the home is like a piece of art.
"We restored a grande dame that needed loving care," says Cox, 51, first cousin to actress Courteney Cox Arquette. Cox is a manager at the real estate office of Partners Health Care. Managing the outsourcing of 700,000 square feet of real estate helped her stay "undaunted by repairs," explains her partner, Chertow, 48, a part-time art teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and a painter primarily of Judaica.
They bought the house from an elderly couple whose family purchased it after the Depression. With help from professionals, Cox and Chertow renovated the ceilings, plumbing, wiring, kitchen, and bathrooms. They put on a new roof, rebuilt the garage, converted the heat from oil to gas, and did extensive landscaping. They also upgraded the hot water tank to accommodate the six new residents -- including three teenagers.
"We were fortunate to have sold two homes and bought one, which helped fund the repairs," says Cox.
When they met four years ago, they lived a mile apart in Newton. "We thought about remodeling my house," says Chertow, "but we did a lot of reading about stepfamilies, and the books recommended that couples don't move into either home, but into a new one. We also wanted enough space to not be stepping on each other's toes, and my son didn't want to sleep on the same floor as five women." Indeed, her son, Ben, 19, an emergency medical technician planning to attend Northeastern next year, acquired the basement, with a separate entrance, for himself. Complete with his own entrance, a refrigerator, and a sofa bed, it's "like a suite," says Cox.
"The kids do amazingly well together," says Chertow, whose daughter, Eva, 16, is a "wonderful role model" to Cox's daughters, Caroline, 14, and Jing, 11.
Cox's girls are from her former relationship with a woman. Chertow's children are from her marriage to a man, whom she describes as her dearest friend.
Chertow oversaw most of the home's decor, integrating furnishings -- including antique couches, Art Deco lamps, myriad rugs, chairs, tables, and pieces from flea markets, yard sales, and antique stores -- from both families.
Some furniture also originated in her grandfather's "junk" store, which today, she says, would be considered an antique store. She also displays her numerous collections -- Victorian milk glass, compact cases, old antique brass pieces, and miniatures housed in old printers trays.
"I have an oddball collection of things," she concedes.
Chertow's artistry is prevalent throughout the house. She painted birds on branches on the kitchen cabinets, peacocks on a front door curtain, and flowers on an antique Victorian dressing screen that once belonged to her father. She also made stained-glass windows and ornamental fireplace tiles. The ceremony Friday included another couple, Howard Merlin and Yakov Dov, Chertow's friend and co-worker. Each couple invited two witnesses, no friends, family, or children this time.
"While I'm thrilled that our government is coming around, this is just a legal ceremony," Chertow says. "I wanted to keep this one simple, and at home again. I'm passionate about this house and about Kitty."