How to Find Extra Storage Space in an Older Home

If you own an older home, chances are good that inefficient or inadequate storage is high on your list of grievances. We have more – and different – possessions than previous generations. The storage provided in a home built 25, 50 or 100 years ago simply doesn’t work for today’s homeowners.

Most old houses have small (or non-existent) closets and garages. Homes from the 18th and early 19th centuries may have fieldstone foundations and dirt cellars, which limit the storage value of a basement.

The solution is to find extra storage space in the nooks and crannies of your home. With careful planning, it is possible to discover all kinds of untapped storage spaces without expanding a home's footprint. Storage can be tucked into niches or unused corners, around doors, under stairs and eaves, and even hidden beneath stair treads. Basements can be dried out and finished to create functional space.

Have an unused chimney? Take it out and use the space for closets. If you have air ducts left from an abandoned heating system, put that wasted space to work for small shelves or cupboards. If your closets are too narrow, considering enlarging them to get the space you need.

The key is to look at space creatively to make every inch count, as we did for these two Boston-area clients:

creative storage space in bedroom storage wall
  A couple in Cambridge added a tremendous amount of storage in the master bedroom by lining the walls with built-in cabinetry.

hallway bookcase 
These built-in bookshelves provided additional storage in a previously unused corner, while adding architectural interest to the hallway.

Interested in more ideas for renovating an older home? Please download How to Breathe New Life into Older Homes ebook or contact us to discuss your needs. 

Tags: Historic Renovations, small space design, renovation ideas, Boston home renovation

Arlington, MA Home Renovation Update: February 2014

This is the third installment in our monthly chronicle of a major historic home renovation and addition project in Arlington, MA. Our goal is to go beyond "Before & After" photos to outline the many steps that go into a major renovation behind-the-scenes. The first installment laid out the scope of the project. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Arlington MA interior windows

Winter is still with us, but we are warm working inside. When last I wrote, we were in the process of blowing Closed Cell Foam Insulation in the house. That was completed and inspected.

Much has happened since then. Michelle, our office manager, stopped by today on her way into work. She was amazed at the difference. All the walls and ceilings were blue boarded with a skim coat of plaster. Ninety percent of the tiling is completed. We are waiting for the vanity tops and kitchen counters to finish. Pat, the lead carpenter on site, has begun trimming the windows and stairs.

Arlington MA interior renovation shot

Taking advantage of a slightly warmer day this past week, the main roof was re-shingled which allowed us to install the skylight and faux chimney in the attic.

Arlington MA skylight and faux chimney
Also this week, Pat, our lead carpenter, and crew began trimming windows and stairs. As I Arlington MA stair constructionwrite this, the hardwood flooring is being laid. Next week the interior doors will be delivered along with the kitchen cabinets and vanities.

When we started this project in October, we were scheduled to complete around the end of March. Even with seventeen change order days added, we are still scheduled to complete in mid-April.

If you have any questions about the renovation process or would like to discuss renovation plans for your home, please contact us!

Tags: Historic Renovations, remodeling project photos, Arlington MA home renovation

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

Project Spotlight: Renovation & Addition in Historic Arlington Home

Arlington, MA Historic Renovation Before
The best way to explain our renovation process is to share progress updates from a real-life project. Each month, we will provide a project update and photos from a whole house renovation of an historic home in Arlington. Alterations to the 1850 home have received approvals from the Arlington Historic District Commission and we anticipate breaking ground this month.

Project At-A-Glance: October 2013

Arlington home renovation before

  • Removing a one-story kitchen and bath wing on the back of the house
  • Rebuilding the wing with a new, full-basement foundation (for a future exercise room) and two-story addition featuring the kitchen, a ¾ bath, laundry room and mudroom on the first floor and master bedroom suite on the second floor
  • Opening up the existing dining room in the main portion of the house to provide a more modern layout for the kitchen/dining area
  • Renovating the main bath on the second floor
  • Reconfiguring the existing bedrooms to add a full stairway to the third floor


Unique Challenges

  • The house is on the Arlington Historic District Register, which means that changes – particularly to the exterior – are limited
  • The existing chimney must be visible from the street but it will not be used by the two new high efficiency HVAC systems that we are installing
  • We will solve the problem by supporting the chimney at the third floor level but removing it from the floors below

Schedule & Project Team

  • Demolition of existing one-story wing and beginning excavation for new addition on 10/15/13
  • Estimated project completion 3/31/2014
  • Construction- Morse Constructions
  • Design – Morse Constructions with Lisa Wasserman Sivan
  • Civil Engineering -- Sami Kassis


How may we help you with your renovation? Please contact us for more information.

Tags: Historic Renovations, remodeling project photos, Boston home renovation

Home Renovation Inspiration: Modern Flair for Older Boston Homes

We are in the process of renovating our own older home in Cambridge. When we finish, the interior will be much more contemporary and open. We love the suprise of a traditional exterior cloaking a modern interior, yet it is a priority to preserve the architectural features that give the house character and integrity.

If you own one of Boston's many wonderful older homes, you may love its architectural details, but yearn for solutions to awkward floorplans, smaller rooms and insufficient storage. Maybe you envy the clean lines and openness of contemporary spaces.

Renovation is the answer! We've compiled some inspiring examples of surprising renovations of historic homes from around the country -- including a recent one that we completed in Boston. Please take a look at some of these Ideabooks from Houzz.

If you have any questions or need help envisioning your space in new ways, we would be happy to speak with you. Please don't hesitate to contact us. -- Paul & Karen Morse


Tags: Historic Renovations, renovation ideas, whole home 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

Renovations for Older Homes in the Boston Area

The median age of houses in the Boston area is about 63, and, of course, many homes are much, much older. We have spent decades renovating these wonderful older homes and decided that the time had come to share a few tips. So.... we are excited to announce that we have published our first ever ebook!Renovating Older Homes Ebook

The 38-page ebook is entitled “How to Breathe New Life into Older Homes.” We incorporated numerous project photos and used magazine-style page flip technology to make it easy and enjoyable to read. Here's what you'll find inside:

  • Solutions to common problems in older homes
  • Photos and information about popular updates
  • Tips to evaluate whether your home is a good candidate for renovation
Boston renovations for older homes
To view the ebook online or download a PDF for free, just click this link:

 We'd love to hear your feedback or questions. Please comment on this post or give us a call at 617.666.4460!     

Tags: Historic Renovations, Morse Constructions News, Paul Morse, Renovating