Project Update: Arlington, MA Historic Home Renovation & Addition


This is the third installment in our monthly chronicle of a major historic home renovation and addition project in Arlington, MA. The first installment laid out the scope of the project. If you missed it, you can read it here.

There are always stages in a project when most of the work is behind-the-scenes. Rather than obvious transformations such as new walls or finishes, daily progress is measured by less visible – but essential -changes to the guts of the home.

December was such a month on the Arlington project. Our work focused on infrastructure improvements – some of which were planned and others the result of the surprises that so often come with historic renovations. Let’s start with the surprises.

MA historic renovation floor joistsWe discovered that the existing attic floor joists were cracked and the main carrying beam had shifted from its supports. As a result, the house had a lot of interior movement and walls that splayed outward. Before proceeding, our top priority was to restore the home’s structural integrity.

We partnered with a structural engineer to evaluate the problem and develop cost-effective solutions. Morse Constructions installed steel brackets and metal connectors to support the main carrying beam. We then sistered new 2” x 8” joists  to the existing floor joists to add support.

Once we ensured the structural integrity of the home, we:

  • Began rough electrical and plumbing work;

  • Installed two, high-efficiency HVAC systems, including a basement system to heat and cool the first floor and an attic system to serve the second and third floors;

  • Installed (2) double windows in kitchen wall at the new sink location

  • Measured for kitchen cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms

  • Designed a solution to different ceiling heights that would have converged right in the new kitchen

Modern framing sizes are different than those used a century ago. A new addition must adhere to current framing requirements. This means that the Arlington kitchen, which spanned both the old and new sections of the home, would have a different ceiling height in different parts of the space unless we were clever with design. Instead of meeting in the middle of the kitchen, we dropped the existing ceiling down 2” where the flooring surface changed in the foyer hallway of the existing house. This way, ceiling height and flooring made a logical transition at the same place.

 Arlington first floor plan

First Floor Plan


By the end of January we will have completed the rough electrical, plumbing and heating work, insulated the entire house and be underway with the blueboard and plastering. The exterior trim and siding will be complete.Watch for details and photos!


If we may help you with your renovation or addition, please contact us for more information!

Tags: Historic Renovations, remodeling project photos

Dueling Kitchen Design Trends Surveys

What are the top kitchen remodeling trends for 2014? The answer seems to depend upon the audience. Both Houzz and Zillow Digs released results of kitchen remodeling surveys within the past few months. Here’s what the surveys revealed:

Soft and Neutral Color Schemes in Open Kitchens Most Popular

tradition kitchen design

About Houzz:
The leading online platform for home remodeling and design, with more than 2,000,000 uploaded photos. Website:

About the Survey:
Conducted in October 2013 among more than 7,500 Houzz users who are planning or in the midst of a kitchen remodel

Survey Results:

•    Only a third of those renovating a kitchen are increasing the square footage of their space;

•    Three-quarters are opening up their kitchens;

•    Three in five respondents are incorporating an island;

•    Younger homeowners more likely to describe their future kitchen as contemporary or modern; while those over 55 years old favor a traditional look;

•    The vast majority (94 percent) of respondents plan to change their countertops. Granite and quartz are the top picks (86 percent), and many people mix and match materials for their island;

•    Nearly two thirds of respondents are choosing stainless steel appliances, although many respondents reported combining stainless appliances with appliances integrated into cabinetry for a more subtle look;

•    “Soft and neutral” is the most popular color scheme choice (75 percent). A much smaller group are going “bright and colorful” (14 percent) or “bold and dramatic” (11 percent);

•    More daring colors are closely associated with a preference for contemporary or modern kitchens;

•    Eco-friendly appliances and materials are generally considered important. Those who declared choosing eco-friendly materials and appliances to be “extremely important” are more likely to choose tile flooring, while all other groups favored hardwood.

•    Overwhelmingly, survey respondents are renovating to make their kitchens more beautiful and to please themselves (80 percent). Other reasons include making the kitchen more functional (59 percent), upgrading features or appliances (52 percent) and improving organization and storage (48 percent)


Zillow Digs
Black Counters, Open Shelves or Glass-Front Cabinets & Darker Paint Tones are Hot

Zillow Kitchen Design Survey

About Zillow Digs:
The home design portal of the leading online real estate platform. Homeowners can browse more than 130,000 pictures of interiors and exteriors, organized by space, style, cost and color. Website:

About the Survey:
The Zillow Digs Home Design Trend Report is based on the most popular kitchen photos on Zillow Digs and includes a survey of members of the Zillow Digs Board of Designers.

Survey Results:

•    Black kitchen counters will be all the rage next year, particularly black granite and quartz. Expect to see black countered-kitchens paired with a lighter counter such as marble or light gray for contrast;

•    Open shelves and glass-front cabinets to display kitchen wares in popular across all kitchen styles;

•    Black, deep brown and dark red and copper tones are some of the most popular kitchen paint colors


What would be in your dream kitchen? If you are making plans to renovate your kitchen, contact us for ideas!

Tags: kitchen design, design trends