Old meets new in the best ways.
In today's world of massive, open-concept living rooms, the layout of a classic townhouse is a rare conceit: Rooms are arranged vertically making spaces, by necessity, more separate. The owners of this particular home hoped to retain the integrity of the original architecture, but also wanted some sense of the larger family spaces common in newer homes.
"The conversation began with, 'where does the family want to gather?'" recalls Jennifer. The answer, perhaps unsurprising: off of the kitchen. So Mowery Marsh designed an addition that would extend the ground level out towards the yard, creating a new living room off of the original kitchen. They also added a new floor with a master suite, topped with an era-appropriate mansard roof.
The most impressive feat, though, may have been converting the structure into to a super-sustainable home. The Marshes, who are experienced in the low-energy Passive House concept, installed triple-glazed windows, airtight insulation, and a full-home ventilation system that provides filtered air 24/7—quite a to-do, given the fact that, as Brian says, "the house was pretty much never renovated," save for one kitchen refresh in the 1960s.
“Creating a modern-day working home within the context of an older house is a special thing,” says Santos, who sought to honor the original bones of the house as well as the new work the architects did.
Santos settled on a "neo-Shaker" look for the interiors. In the parlor, a mantel salvaged from the original home received a dramatic new look against a deep blue-black paint (Blue Note by Benjamin Moore) and sleek furniture. "I wanted a good amount of air underneath all of the furniture so it would feel a little lighter against the dark paint," the designer explains.
"The challenge in the kitchen was that it was on the ground floor with very low ceilings, so we decided to expose the beams to give a little height," says Jennifer. The exposed beams also add a rustic element to the otherwise sleek, high-tech kitchen.
For the counter seating, "We didn’t want to bring in another wood to compete with the beams, so we went with a leather," says Santos. And for a family with young kids and a kitchen that would inevitably get a lot of of action, she adds, “the leather is something that can stand up to wear and tear. It will just patina, and anything that gets on it will add character."
A step down into the newly-added living room, with its large windows overlooking the yard, also helps counteract the kitchen's original low ceiling. "The visual connection to the backyard was important to give the feeling of as much space as possible," says Jennifer.
Here, Santos's task was to balance a modern aesthetic with elements of warmth. "We decided on concrete floors early on, to offset the cost of the renovation,” says the designer. And because the clients favored "clean lines and no molding," she explains, "it was important to me to bring in furniture and decor pieces with texture." A wool rug adds just that—and is durable enough to withstand kids running in and outside, as are the indoor-outdoor cushions on the seating.
Old and new converges in the dining room, where the original mantel stands out against a crisp, white wall. Singed wood artwork and rich wood table provide additional textural layers.
Knowing that the furniture would get heavy use, Santos opted for materials that could be refinished—rather than replaced—over time. A sturdy wood Room & Board dining table expands to accommodate gatherings of various sizes, and cushions on the chairs can easily be upholstered every few years.
Mowery Marsh worked with Silver Maple Construction, a Vermont-based cabinet maker (a family friend of the owners) to devise built-in storage for coats and shoes. The wood grain and dovetail joints add an artful touch. The saturated hue is Benjamin Moore's Nocturnal Gray.
In the master bedroom, Santos eschewed bold colors in favor of a neutral palette and a focus on texture. "Our challenge was giving the client a little bit of a lounge feel upstairs," she says. "They could be removed from kids or from guests if they’re entertaining."
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the master bath, where Mowery Marsh made use of the mansard roof shape to provide a picturesque setting for a deep soaking tub. As a result, the space became a perfect representation of the architects and designers' successful bridging of two very different eras. "We wanted the scale to still feel the way it’s supposed to be and for the rooms to feel integrated into the original architecture," says Jennifer. Mission accomplished.