Case Study: Old Meets New in Monson, MA

Updates bring an 1800s Home into the 21st Century

The Challenge

This active family of four considered moving out of their historic home due to the challenges that often go hand-in-hand with houses built in the late 1800’s. The former kitchen, for example, had seven doors opening into it, which made it difficult to create a continuous work zone for meal preparation. Like many of the homes built during that era, the rooms lacked sufficient storage space to support the lifestyle of this fun-loving family. The first floor of this two-family property was a maze of separate rooms that lacked connection with each other, and there was under-utilized space in the unfinished area between the two housing units.

After looking at and considering a number of younger, newer properties, the homeowners realized that they loved their current location, and that they had established roots in this home in spite of its quirks. That’s where we came in.

Creating Solutions

During the initial consultation we formed a list of things that our client wanted to accomplish with the remodeling project. Some of those items included:

  • HEAT in the kitchen (the former kitchen did not have heat).
  • An island in the kitchen with seating for four people around it.
  • A large pantry to store food and small appliances.
  • Durable, low maintenance countertops.
  • Plenty of space for meal preparation.
  • A trash compactor.
  • A large sink with a garbage disposal.
  • Add lighting to the kitchen that could be controlled to suit a variety of situations.
  • A television and a wireless music system located in the new kitchen and dining areas.
  • A “Command Center” in the corner of the kitchen located at the end of the front hallway to hold keys, paperwork, and a monthly calendar.
  • A dedicated, concealed area to house the cat’s litter box, food, and supplies while also remaining accessible to the cat, and making it easier for the family to maintain the routine chore of caring for her.
  • Repair the stair treads leading to the unfinished basement and create an organized area steps away from the kitchen where recyclables could be sorted and stored.
  • Relocate the washer and dryer from the unfinished basement to the first floor.
  • Carve out space from the unfinished portion of the first floor located between the two housing units to add a full bathroom with storage and radiant heat installed under a resilient, tiled floor.
  • Reconfigure the office to create a meditative spot that would artfully display the owner’s treasured vinyl collection while offering a private space that could also be used as a guest room when needed.

What We Did

One of the kitchen’s most desirable features is that it looks out onto a beautiful, south-facing deck. To highlight that attribute, a large, Farmhouse sink was installed beneath a new Energy Star rated triple window to take full advantage of the natural light shining into the room. A toe kick heater inside the new sink cabinet keeps toes toasty, and additional baseboard heating in the new adjoining dining room provides ample heat to the new spaces.

The new island countertop in the center of the kitchen is formed out of Rain Cloud Corian which exudes the classic look and feel of white carrara marble, but in a non-porous and anti-microbial material. The island comfortably sits four people, and a microwave and cookbooks are tucked into the working side of the configuration. New recessed lighting was added throughout the new kitchen along with under-cabinet task lighting, pendant lights above the island, and a dimmable chandelier over the dining table.

A five foot wide by seven foot tall pantry was formed near the back door of the kitchen to allow for easy access to unpack groceries while also allowing family members to grab snacks without disturbing meal preparation. A television installed above the pantry allows for viewing from a range of vantage points in the kitchen and dining areas.

The new “Command Center” is situated at the end of the front hallway. An original door and porcelain doorknob were repurposed, and mounted on a sliding track to conceal the family’s monthly calendar, and file storage for important papers. A narrow mirror and hooks for keys help to simplify the morning routine.

The chore of caring for the family’s cat was simplified by converting underutilized space under the stairwell to house the cat’s litter box and all of the supplies associated with grooming and feeding her. A cat doorway outfitted with a removable brush helps to corral stray hair in one, easy-to-clean spot.

Located a few steps inside the back door of the kitchen is a door leading to the tidy and improved recycling area, and new stair treads leading to the basement. While those enhancements aren’t necessarily glamourous or instagram-worthy, they support daily activities by increasing safety and simplifying the task of recycling.

The original dining room had been situated in a room off to the side of the kitchen, and our clients explained that meals were rarely eaten there. Since the room formerly used as an office shared a common wall with the kitchen, we suggested converting that space into the new dining room, and enlarging the opening between the kitchen and new dining area to visually connect and expand the rooms. This adaptation of space allowed the room previously considered the dining room to serve as the new office, which now offers more privacy when that room serves double-duty as guest quarters.

To provide even greater separation for the new office, new French Doors were installed to allow light into the space with curtains hung on a rod above them, so that the panels could be closed when needed. An original closet in the new office space wasn’t deep enough to fit a single hanger, so the opening for the closet was widened and the small closet was customized to display the owner’s treasured vinyl collection without disturbing the original wall that separates the original living room from the new office.

A new bathroom with radiant-heating installed under porcelain tile flooring was created out of previously unfinished space between the two housing units. To make the most of every inch of available square footage, built-in storage was placed wherever possible, with a new, comfort-height toilet placed under the sloped portion of the stairwell from the neighboring unit. Glamorous wallpaper with a large scale, graphic pattern injects a playful yet sophisticated shimmer onto the walls behind the sink vanity and towel niche. The new bathroom doesn’t have any windows due to its location between the two housing units, so light, warm colors were selected for the walls and flooring, and bright white cabinetry, trim, and fixtures help to make the space appear airy, clean and comfortable. A combination bathroom ceiling fan/ light fixture was installed directly above the new custom shower to carry moisture and stale air outside. The new, custom shower walls are outfitted with porcelain tiles patterned to look like carrara marble, which complements the new, marble vanity countertop with an undermounted, white porcelain sink.

A stackable washer and dryer were tucked into a spot on an exterior wall so that the dryer would vent outside, and a French door was installed on a barn door track to separate the new kitchen and dining areas from the new laundry and bathroom spaces.

Details such as groupings of treasured artwork, and decorative accents that hold special meaning for the family, along with updating the owner’s china hutch with a fresh coat of paint help to convey a gathered yet cohesive look to the newly formed spaces.

Bring us your challenges and we’ll create solutions.