This Renovated Charlestown Townhouse has a Contemporary Twist
November 9, 2022
This Charlestown grand dame stood tall as its family grew up and out, and now it gets its turn to shine.
Text by Erika Ayn Finch Photography by Greg Premru Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent
After living in the same townhouse in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown for twenty-five-plus years, two homeowners looked around their dated space with its 1990s cherry cabinetry, Tuscan-style tile, and awkward primary suite layout and decided enough was enough. While scrolling through modern kitchens on Instagram, the wife stumbled upon Jill Najnigier’s sophisticated designs, and she reached out. The two became instant friends. It didn’t hurt that Najnigier’s office is a stone’s throw from the circa-1852 home.
The homeowners, who had raised their two children in the space, also reconnectedwith Bannon Custom Builders, the firm they’d worked with on the remodel of their Cape Cod home. From the beginning, everyone knew a down-to-the-studs renovation was in order. The overhaul included subtracting four feet of space from a back deck to expand the entry level’s living room and completely gutting the kitchen, dining room, powder room, and entry. Second-floor guest bedrooms and bathrooms received facelifts. The team gutted the third-floor primary bath and reconfigured the bedroom to improve flow. On the lower level, they added a media room, mudroom, laundry room, and gym.
“They were craving contemporary and uncluttered,” says Najnigier. “We interpreted that to create a timeless classic by using rich and age-old materials in a clean, modern design.”
That didn’t mean taking a sledgehammer to the home’s past, though. On the contrary, great lengths went into pulling up the original hardwood flooring to install radiant heat. The pumpkin-pine planks were restored and treated with an ultra-matte water-base finish. Each one was painstakingly put back where it belonged, recalls project manager Jarrod Bannon.
The team also refreshed the original front door, restored crown molding, and preserved the dining room’s original marble fireplace surround.
Arguably, the most dramatic transformation happened in the kitchen, which went from dark and heavy to bright and airy. Touch-to-open bronze-finished cabinetry from Divine Design Center, leathered quartzite countertops, and a showstopping unlacquered-brass range hood make the biggest impact, though Bannon admits mounting a modern hood in an 1800s-built townhome came with challenges, including venting the hood to the outdoors.
But the biggest issues arose when the team realized the kitchen ceiling would need to be lowered three inches to make it level with the floor-to-ceiling cabinetry—after everything had already been installed. Down came the hood and cabinets to dial in that streamlined, modern vibe the homeowners desired. “It can be tough when you’re dealing with a house with old bones,” says Bannon.
Growing pains aside, the homeowners feel relaxed in their sophisticated new space. Throughout, warmed wood mixes with stone, steel, and aged brass, while misty blue hues mingle with dusty pinks, rose, and gold. Green makes an unexpected appearance on built-in cabinetry and a plush sectional in the media room. Texture abounds, whether its boucle on the living room sectional, pleated linen on the primary bedroom walls, reeded glass on the entry door, slatted oak on the primary bath vanity, or fluted plaster around the living room fireplace.
“I look at the rooms from different angles and realize it all turned out exactly the way we had envisioned from the start,” says the wife. “It’s traditional but fits with the modern elements that we really wanted. It all melds and flows beautifully.”