Client Story: Back Bay Boston Home Renovation

Boston Kitchen Remodel Morse Constructions

Just a few years ago, Morse Constructions completed improvements to a lovely Wellesley home. As the owners looked forward to their retirement years, however, the city lights beckoned. They bought a floor in a co-op building on Berkeley Street in Boston’s Back Bay and asked Morse to do a major renovation.

The 3,600 square foot home is located on the fourth floor of a building constructed in the 1920s. The space had been renovated in the 1980s. Not only were the renovations dated, the floor plan did not work for a couple who loved to cook and entertain. Public areas needed better traffic flow, while family areas needed greater privacy.

“We made changes in every room and redesigned sections of the main spaces, touching 85% of their home,” explains Paul Morse, founder of Morse Constructions. 

In many cases, the footprints of the rooms did not change, but access to them altered dramatically. For example, a coat closet was relocated to create a kitchen entrance through a butler’s pantry adjacent to the foyer. A bathroom and a laundry room were switched to place the bathroom in closer proximity to the spare bedroom. Meanwhile, access to “his and hers” master bathrooms was reconfigured to maintain privacy.

Among other improvements, Morse also:

  • Updated kitchen and butler pantries, incorporating extensive food preparation and wine storage areas, multiple sinks, a bar area, professional grade range and range hood, and a large refrigerator supplemented with refrigerator and freezer drawers;

  • Replaced dated dining room bookshelves with elegant molding and sconces;

  • Preserved distinctive carved and arched doorways and historic architectural features;

  •  Created walk-in “his and her” closets adjacent to the master bedroom

  • Added built-in cabinetry in several rooms including the study and master bedroom

  •  Converted large cast iron radiators to smaller steam radiators

  •  Completely updated all bathrooms

According to Paul, the project’s Back Bay location posed some unique challenges. “Just getting materials up to the fourth floor was a trick. We had to crane things in through the windows,” he explains.

Ventilation also required some creative thinking since the Back Bay Architectural Commission prohibits exterior penetrations. The commercial grade range hood in the kitchen is so powerful that makeup air needed to be brought back in to the kitchen to maintain pressure. The solution was change windows to incorporate  transoms that could accommodate louvers to hide the ductwork from the street . Ventilation now occurs through the transoms, and an elaborate soffit system carries the air throughout the home.

Morse provided design/build services on the project, working in conjunction with interior designer Nancy Allen.


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Tags: Boston renovation, Kitchen remodeling, historic renovation, whole home renovation, condo renovation

Popular Old Home Renovations


Do you live in one of the Boston area's wonderful older homes? If so, you may love your house's character and location, but yearn for spaces and a floorplan that are more suited to modern living. Here are four of the most popular renovations that we do to update older homes:

1. Opening  Up a Kitchen

Tired of a dark, cramped kitchen? Bring in light and open it up to the rest of the home by removing walls. If a wall is load-bearing and can’t be replaced by using a header beam, you may be able to get the open feel that you desire by using columns or a half wall.

If removing a wall is not an option, installing an interior window on the wall between the kitchen and an adjoining room makes the kitchen feel larger and gives it better sightlines. Doubling the width of the entryway or using archways instead of solid doors both achieve a similar effect.


 Boston kitchen Before     Boston kitchen renovation AFTER



2.  Repurposing a Basement or Attic

Finishing a basement or attic is a cost-effective way to gain additional living space without adding to your home’s footprint. Basements with a fieldstone foundation, significant moisture issues,  or low ceiling height are clearly not  good candidates for finished rooms. Otherwise, basements are fairly easy to remodel from a structural standpoint.  Most are sturdily built, offer easy access to utilities, and walls can always be added to simplify electrical wiring. Radiant heating can be installed below the floor to counteract cold, while well-designed lighting systems can replace natural light if windows are limited.

Renovating an attic can be a bit trickier.  Angled dormers can often be accommodated in the design of the space, but low ceilings pose a far more significant challenge. Most attics also do not have an adequate point of exit and entry, so a new or remodeled staircase will have to be added as part of the remodeling process. Most attics are also not built with floors that can withstand day-to-day living, so you will probably need to strengthen the joists and lay down sub-floor if you are converting it to a useable room.

 Morse Construction Attic Playroom resized 600

An underused attic was transformed into a light-filled playroom.


3.  Bringing the Outside In

If you can’t be oMorse Constructions bathroom renovationutside, the next best thing is seeing it. Windows, skylights and glass doors instantly make a room feel more spacious by drawing the eye to the outdoors and letting in light and air. Transoms above doorways may not frame a view, but they can be a wonderful way to share a room’s natural light with an adjacent space.

A skylight over a partial wall and porthole window flood this bathroom with natural light while establishing a connection with the outdoors.


5. Expanding to Accommodate Multiple Generations

Is an adult child coming back home or an elderly parent coming to live? You’ll probably need to renovate or add on to create additional living space. The space should feature:

Privacy with Proximity – Successful multi-generational living requires a fine balance between private and communal spaces. Separate entrances, morning bars or kitchenettes in bedroom suites, and sitting rooms provide much-needed privacy. A large, open kitchen/eating/living area is ideal when the family comes together.

Flexibility – Flexible spaces can be easily transformed to function for different purposes and ages. For example, an underused living room and sunroom may transition into a home office, then an in-law suite, then a space for an adult child who moves home, then an entertainment area.universal design hallway renovation

Universal Design -- Universal design works hand-in-hand with flexible spaces to create environments that are usable by all people. Hallways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair and zero entry thresholds are classic examples of universal design features.


The zero entry threshold to and from this sunny hallway makes the space easy to navigate for people of all ages and mobility.


Need more ideas? Contact us about your project!

Tags: home renovation, Historic Renovations, Massachusetts remodeling