A Beautiful Blend

March 4, 2010

Text by Erin Marvin    Photography by Richard Mandelkorn

It started out as a simple kitchen renovation.

The pretty house tucked along the North Shore of Massachusetts had previously been used as a summer residence, but its new owners planned to live there year-round. Originally built in the 1870s as a mansard-roofed cottage with a wraparound porch, the house had undergone many changes throughout the years. An octagonal tower, typical of the Victorian era, was added in the 1890s. Colonial Revival details arrived in the 1920s, and two large, flat-roofed additions appeared in the 1960s. Though its new inhabitants were happy with their house, the outdated kitchen, untouched for forty years, wasn’t exactly conducive to making nightly meals or entertaining friends.

“My husband wanted to take it slowly and just paint,” recalls the wife. “But as we got into the project we realized we needed to do more.” The couple called on Carpenter & MacNeille, a local firm of architects, designers and contractors, who came up with a plan that included floor plan changes and new cabinetry, countertops and appliances.

The more things progressed in the kitchen, though, the more obvious it became that the house, in its current state, didn’t quite suit the couple’s lifestyle. For instance, a wall the kitchen shared with the garage (one of the flat-roofed additions from the 1960s), robbed the kitchen of its outdoor views and its own entrance. A separate garage structure would make much more sense. The owners also felt that the living room at the other end of the house was too big and awkward, disproportionate in scale to the house’s original design. They asked architect Robert MacNeille and designer Elizabeth Hourihan to look at the entire house with an eye toward how they might make it more livable by today’s standards. They were adamant, though, that the house retain the character that first drew them to it. As much as they wanted a house that worked for the twenty-first century, they didn’t want a brand-new house.

“It was a challenge to decide how far to take the renovation and where to stop,” says MacNeille. “Whether we’re talking about existing floors, walls or doors, we had to make a case-by-case decision of whether to take it out or replace it. What remains is a thorough mix of old and new.”

Robert S. MacNeille, Carpenter & MacNeille
Elizabeth Brosnan Hourihan, Carpenter & MacNeille
James Fitzgerald
Stacy Kunstel


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