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

Stephen Cohen of Stephen Cohen Builders Joins Morse Constructions

Stephen Cohen, Morse ConstructionsWe are delighted that respected builder Stephen Cohen has joined the Morse team as Production Manager. Stephen is responsible for ensuring a smooth construction process, high level of client communication, and superior craftsmanship on Morse Constructions projects.

Before joining us, Stephen had operated Stephen Cohen Builders for almost 40 years. Based in Cambridge, MA, Stephen Cohen Builders was known throughout the Boston area for its expertise in fine quality home building, additions, period restorations, and construction management.

2014 is off to a wonderful start. Stephen will enable us to to continue to grow without sacrificing the attentive personal service and commitment to quality for which Morse Constructions has become known.

If you have any questions, please contact Paul, email Stephen, or give Stephen a call at 617-666-4460.


Tags: Morse Constructions, Stephen Cohen, Stephen Cohen Builders