Can a Bump-Out Deliver the Space You Need?


Do you need just a little more square footage but don't have the space (or maybe the budget) to add to your home's footprint? The solution may be a bump-out. Just as the name suggests, a bump-out extends off the side of the house. Think of it as almost an oversized bay window. Bump-outs usually only add a few square feet to a room, but that may be all you need to make a new design work for a kitchen, bath or other interior space.

The beauty of bump-outs is that they don't require a foundation, so they can be a cost-effective way to gain extra space. For example, this kitchen bump-out gave the homeowner a lovely little eating space.


West Philadelphia Kitchen

Building permits are required for bump-outs and the construction can sometimes be a little tricky. If you have any questions about whether a bump-out would work in your Boston-area home, please contact us! We would be happy to discuss your project.

 If you would like to know more about bump-outs or need a little inspiration, we recommend taking a look at the slide show below from Bud Dietrich, AIA on Simply click on any of the images in the slide show to go to the full article.


Tags: renovation, Boston renovation, home design

Small Space Renovation: Living Large in a Small Space

Even renovation professionals live in homes that are sometimes less than perfect. Paul and Karen Morse, founders of Morse Constructions, treasured their Cambridge home, despite a first floor that didn’t make the most of the available space.

Paul and Karen are deeply involved in their community and had no desire to ever move. After decades helping clients to renovate homes so they could “stay put,” Paul and Karen knew that the time had come to become their own client.

Paul and Karen Morse

The traditional first floor plan and furnishings in their Victorian home were no longer working for the Morses. Paul and Karen identified a long list of ambitious goals for the space, including:

  • Create serene, uncluttered, open space

  • Create flexible spaces to serve multiple purposes at any time without a great deal of work

  • Create spaces ideal for entertaining

  • Support aging-in-place with special features and a floor plan that could be easily adapted to accommodate one floor living

  • Improve the energy efficiency and comfort

  • Re-use as much as possible to minimize waste

  • Flood spaces with natural light

  • Create a highly functional entryway that serves multiple purposes and minimizes clutter

Morse Constructions collaborated with Barbara Hirsch of Elza B. Design to make sure that the floor plan and furnishings worked together to create the peaceful, unencumbered, flexible, open spaces that were central to Paul’s and Karen’s vision.



Morse Constructions Before Floor Plan


Morse Constructions After Floor Plan

Working within the existing footprint, the team first looked at the floor plan to create the flexible, open spaces that Paul and Karen wanted. Small changes delivered big results. A large beam replaced a bearing center wall to open up the space. The entry way wall was extended just a foot, yet that small extension made the entry way feel much larger while providing definition to the adjacent room. A light color scheme was chosen to maintain the airiness and serenity of the first floor. Pops of color from furnishings such as the Turkish rug in this photo were used to enliven the spaces.

Morse Constructions living room renovation 1 resized 600

Worn out oak flooring and the kitchen’s cork floor were replaced with maple throughout the first floor. The uniform flooring, combined with the lack of thresholds, creates a seamless look that makes the space feel larger.

Streamlined Runtal radiators replaced six, old, covered cast iron radiators. The new Runtals free up visual – and actual – space while delivering much more energy efficient heat.

Morse Constructions living room renovation resized 600

“We regularly entertain and have different sized groups of family and friends. Comfort is key, whether it is just the two of us, a small group, or 40 people,” explains Karen.  Furnishings were selected to enhance the flexibility of the space. For example, the low bookcase in the photo below is comprised of two units on castors that may be easily reconfigured and moved around.

Morse Constructions Boston area living room remodel resized 600

Similarly, the sectional in the photo below serves multiple uses. It provides intimate seating around the gas fireplace in the configuration shown here, or it may be separated and turned around for extra seating when a group is enjoying movies or slide shows on the nearby TV. The swivel chair provides a comfortable perch for conversations with the cook in the kitchen, or as part of the seating cluster around the fireplace.

Morse fireplace renovation resized 600

Paul and Karen enjoy having friends over to watch movies or slide shows from recent travels, but they did not want the TV to be a focal point. The team’s solution was to mount a flat screen TV on a wall platform that extends and swivels for optimal viewing positions, yet rests flat against the wall when not in use.

Morse Constructions TV room remodel resized 600

Morse Constructions dining room remodel

The dining room features a distinctive, handcrafted table that is extraordinarily durable. When not in use for entertaining or family dinners, the dining room becomes a project space. The tea cart holding the flowers in this photo provides additional serving capabilities without adding visual weight to the room.






The Morses loved the layout of their existing kitchen. They made the most of what was already there by painting the existing cabinetry with white high-gloss finish, updating hardware and ceiling light/fan. The light-filled space offers both a peninsula and an island for guests to gather around to talk with Karen as she prepares meals for the many social events that she and Paul host.


Cambridge MA Kitchen Remodel resized 600

Desk space in the kitchen makes the space a multi-functional work center. The lower counter provides convenient work space for a seated cook.

Morse Constructions kitchen renovation resized 600

Morse Constructions entry way remodelThe small entryway packs multiple functions into a small footprint. The exterior door opens out to free up useable space for an efficient storage unit. As part of the Morse’s aging-in-place considerations, a sunken entry rug prevents trips, while unobtrusively trapping moisture and dirt.














 The adjacent bench is the perfect location for removing shoes or setting down mail and packages. It matches the nearby dining room table to provide visual continuity.

Morse Constructions interior renovation

Paul and Karen couldn’t be happier with their “new” home. Their vision for the space was realized and they now have the comfort of knowing that they will be able to age in place. Should they have health or mobility issues in the future, the half bath may easily be expanded to a full bath and the dining area may be converted to a bedroom to permit first floor living.

For ideas about how you may make the most of your space, please contact us!  



Tags: small space design, Boston renovation, aging in place, remodeling project photos, Morse Constructions

Pocket Doors: A Flexible Solution to Balance Openness with Privacy

Boston renovation with pocket doors  Morse Constructions

Pocket doors are not just for small spaces! While they are often used to provide privacy when a traditional swinging door occupies too much floor or wall space, a pocket door is also an ideal solution if you want the ultimate in flexibility.A pocket door slides into the wall when not in use. Without the visual obstruction of a door, spaces flow together. When you want privacy or a more intimate space, simply pull the door closed.

In the Back Bay renovation above, we used pocket doors to provide the best of both worlds -- smooth traffic flow throughout living areas when the doors are open, with an option to close off kitchen clutter from primary entertaining areas when the doors are closed.

The ideal time to install pocket doors is during construction or renovation when the walls are open. It can be significantly more difficult (and expensive) to retroactively install a pocket door into a finished room.

For more examples of pocket doors and good advice about hardware, we are pleased to share this recent Ideabook from

To view the Ideabook full size on Houzz, simply click on any image or caption.


Tags: home renovation, Boston renovation, home design, doors

The Secret to Successful Home Renovations

In early 2014, we published a quick guide called "How to Plan a Successful Renovation". In it, we shared the story of a gentleman who contacted us two weeks before Christmas to inquire about renovating a bathroom as a Christmas gift for his wife. It would have been a wonderful gift -- if he (and his wife) started planning the renovation months earlier.

Successful renovations depend upon careful planning and collaboration. It is a recipe for trouble to rush the process. (We also think it is a recipe for trouble to surprise a spouse, partner or roommate with a renovation that does not incorporate his or her input, but that is a discussion for another day.)

What are the secrets for successful home renovations? Take a look at our guide on the topic and this recent Houzz Ideabook by Toronto architect Jeffrey Veffer. He makes some great points! To read the full article on a single page on the Houzz website (as opposed to the excerpted slide show mode shown here), just click any photo.


Plesae give us a call at 617-666-4460 or email Paul if you have any questions or would like to discuss your project.

Tags: home renovation, Boston renovation, renovation guides, Massachusetts renovation

Remodeling Credentials Decoded

If you have ever received an email from Paul Morse, you’ve probably noticed that he has an alphabet soup of letters after his name.

Paul Morse, Morse Constructions, Bostonto




Paul Eric Morse




 What do those designations mean? Here’s a quick explanation:

GCP: Green Certified Professional

Paul was the second person in the country and the first in New England to be named a Green Certified Professional (GCP). He went on to facilitate the certification study group for about two years.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) established the Green Certified Professional (GCP) designation to promote the highest standards of green remodeling through credentialing of remodeling professionals. GCP remodelers have passed an extensive exam to demonstrate a solid understanding of the critical issues related to Green Remodeling.  The exam covers 16 subject areas including Building Science, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Renewable Energy Applications to name a few.  The requirements to sit for the exam are five years in the remodeling industry, 16 hours of Green or Sustainable Remodeling/Building continuing education hours, and agreement to uphold the NARI Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

CGP: Certified Green Professional

Didn’t we just talk about this? No, this is a different designation from the National Association of Homebuilders (the other one was NARI) that recognizes builders, remodelers and other industry professionals who incorporate green building principles into homes— without driving up the cost of construction. Extensive classwork leading to the designation provides a solid background in strategies for incorporating green building principles into homes using cost-effective and affordable options. To earn your CGP designation, you must pass an exam and complete 12 hours of continuing education every three years from building industry-related educational activities. A minimum of eight hours is required to come from green building industry-related educational activities.

Paul is one of about 50 builders and remodelers in Massachusetts to have received this designation.

CAPS: Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist

The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program was created by the NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in collaboration with Home Innovation Research Labs, NAHB 50+ Housing Council, and AARP. The program's goal is to help remodelers meet the needs of mature clients who wish to age-in-place, which means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.

A CAPS has received advanced training in the unique needs of the older adult population, aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects and solutions to common barriers. As with all of these certifications, participants must pass an exam before becoming a CAPS.

Morse Constructions is also a member of the National Aging in Place Council.

UDCP: Universal Design Certified Professional

NARI developed the Universal Design Certified Professionals (UDCP) designation to promote standards of universal design and remodeling through credentialing of design and remodeling professionals. A Universal Design Certified Professional handles renovations that make the home livable for anyone who wishes to move about his/her house freely, without barrier and without creating an "institutional" look. Families who have members with special needs also benefit from a UDCP. The UDCP designation is granted to individuals who have completed coursework and passed a rigorous exam about universal design principles. 

CR: Certified Remodeler

Paul has been a Certified Remodeler (CR) for about two decades. CR is a NARI designation indicating that the person is a professional remodeler who provides a full range of remodeling services. Certified Remodelers have passed an exam and demonstrated skill and knowledge in a broad range of business management and technical skill areas.

For more information about our certifications, please check out our Certifications & Memberships Web page or give us a call at 617-666-4460.

Tags: Boston renovation, Boston home renovation, Paul Morse, Boston remodeling

Boston Baby Boomer Housing Preferences

This is going to a short post for the July 4th holiday week!

We just wanted to share a wonderful article by Sally Abrahms that appeared in the June 30, Globe June 30 2013 cover2013 Boston Globe Magazine. The article looks at the way Baby Boomers are choosing to live as they get older. The central theme of the piece is that the Baby Boomer generation is charting a new path for aging. Instead of clinging to a family home in the suburbs, this generation wants to age surrounded by people of all ages, either by aging-in-place in a vibrant community, living in a multi-generational household, or even living with roommates or in communal housing.

Paul was pleased to speak with Sally about renovations so homeowners may age in place, but he went on to discuss the importance of community as well.

Sally incorporated Paul's comments into her article. Please take a moment to read it here. The article is quite lengthy. You will find Paul's comments on the second and third page of the online version.

Happy July 4th! Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss your renovation plans.



Tags: Boston renovation, aging in place, accessibility

Visitability for Boston Homeowners

by Paul Morse

On May 7, I had the honor to testify at the Massachusetts State House on behalf of Senate Bill S. 601 called the "Thanksgiving Bill". The bill calls for the creation of a commission to study the viability of adding "visitability" design criteria to all new one and two family homes. Here are some links to documents if you want to find out more:

Paul Morse Testimony

Thanksgiving Bill Fact Sheet

Text of Senate Bill S.601

Visitability is a hot topic in home design, construction and renovation. As the name suggests, visitability is about the ability of all people -- regardless of age or disability -- to visit and enjoy a home without having to make modifications. Visitability dovetails with aging in place. If a home is visitable, it also will seamlessly support the changing mobility of an owner as he or she ages.

Visitability is an international movement focused on integrating basic accessibility features in all new homes, but why stop at new homes? Visitability benefits all homeowners by enhancing:

  • Flexibility
    The home accommodates changing needs as the owner ages or encounters health issues

  • Hospitality
    All friends and family may easily visit the home

  • Marketability
    All potential buyers could live in the home without making modifications

At Morse Constructions, we always consider visitability issues, particularly with whole house renovations.

There are some non-negotiable features in visitable homes, including:

  • At least one zero-step entrance

  • Passage doors that are at least 32" wide

  • At least a half bath/powder room on the main floor

While the basic guidelines are strict, they do not impede beautiful, imaginative design at all. For examples of visitable design, scroll through this idea book from Houzz (click on a caption to read the full article on the Houzz website):

Contact us to find out more about visitability in Boston area homes or to discuss your project.

Tags: Boston renovation, aging in place, accessibility, visitability, Massachusetts Senate Bill S.601, MA Thanksgiving Bill

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.


To view photos: Scroll through the slide show using the arrows at the very bottom of the image or click the image to go to our Houzz site to view images at full size.

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