A Historic Renovation in Beacon Hill
November 3, 2023
Hickox Williams Architects transforms a Boston home.
Text by Alyssa Bird Photography by Michael J. Lee
When tackling a historic renovation, practicing restraint is easier said than done. “People are often tempted to clear everything out and go modern, but then you lose the
identity and character of individual rooms,” says Hickox Williams Architects cofounder Brigid Williams, who took a more subtle approach with this nineteenth-century landmarked townhouse in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. “The changes we made don’t have as much to do with style as how the residence functions for a twenty-first-century family. There is a formality that was built into nineteenth-century houses, but modern families tend to join together more.”
To better accommodate the active family—which includes two teenagers and two dogs—the firm loosened up the formal feeling of the living and dining spaces and increased the natural light. “Our main goal was to diminish the fortified quality that nineteenth-century houses can have and bring in a sense of the outdoors,” says Williams. Major modifications included swapping the kitchen and dining room, which gave the kitchen a more central location and pushed the dining room to the rear of the home.
The kitchen now features an expansive glass wall overlooking the garden—a change that was possible because the new wall of windows isn’t visible from the street and doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission. The architects reoriented the kitchen island and minimized the number of upper cabinets to maximize the view.
“The kitchen feels more open now, yet it also works well during a formal party when you don’t want everything on display,” says the architect. From the kitchen window, the homeowners can see outside and into the ell containing the dining room, which features a new barrel-vaulted ceiling and skylight. Small tweaks were made to the second floor, which accommodates the primary bedroom and a new primary bath, as well as the den on the garden level that serves as a family hangout space and entertainment area.
The family’s active lifestyle was a driving force when it came to furnishing the residence. Architect and designer Stefan Castellucci—who has since left Hickox Williams Architects to start his own firm, Stefan Castellucci Design—worked with the clients to select durable materials (indoor-outdoor performance fabrics and granite instead of marble) that can stand up to teenagers and dogs. Custom and new furnishings were combined with existing pieces that were modified or reupholstered to fit the reimagined scheme.
“The spaces are mostly neutral, except for some deep, saturated shades that evolve throughout the day as the light changes,” says Castellucci. “The wife loves blue, so we incorporated it throughout the home. And on the garden level there are earthy tones, such as mossy green and rust. The palette is meant to be flexible, so the clients can easily move things around. We were hoping to strike the balance of Beacon Hill elegance with the functionality of a modern family.”