When Wendy C. and her family returned to the Boston area from a seven-year stint in Switzerland and Singapore, they were faced with a choice. Do they renovate the single-family home that Wendy and her husband purchased in Allston before they were married, or do they sell and buy a new home?
The couple opted to stay put and renovate. Their 1890s home had some structural issues and essential systems needed updates, but they loved their house’s character and location. Their two children had grown up speaking German in Switzerland and their home was fortuitously just a short walk away from the only German International School in the Boston area.
Wendy and her husband wanted to modernize the home without sacrificing its historic integrity. They focused their search for a renovation contractor on firms with experience updating historic houses. “We selected Morse because we felt they really understood our goal to update the house without losing the historic character that we loved,” says Wendy.
The first phase of the renovation included what Wendy calls “behind-the-scenes updates,” such as structural and systems improvements. For the second phase, the couple envisioned transforming a hodgepodge of unfinished and partially finished attic space into a flexible area that could easily transition from a work or craft space, to guest quarters, to a hang-out area for their two children.
Wendy and her husband knew exactly what they wanted and had created a design. The trick was to demonstrate that the renovation was compliant with Allston’s strict building regulations. “Ours is one of the only single-family homes in the area. Most were converted to multi-family housing decades ago and some of the conversions were unsafe. Regulations were tightened as a result,” Wendy explains. The couple had to hire a lawyer to show that the house had always been 2 1/2 stories of living space and would continue to be used as a single-family home. After a six-month delay, a building permit was finally issued and Morse could begin the renovation.
Morse worked on the project during the COVID pandemic and completed the renovation late in 2020. A warren of partially finished rooms has been replaced by a large area for working or playing with cozy nooks for flopping and reading, as well as an adjacent area that can be transformed into a guest bedroom or additional workspace. A wet bar, full bath and ample storage complete this third-floor hideaway.
Wendy and her husband thoughtfully planned their home so it gets progressively more modern with each floor. “Our third-floor renovation carries through the design and architectural themes on the other floors, yet adds more contemporary touches,” Wendy says.
Wendy’s husband currently uses the space as his office while he works remotely, and Wendy laughs that the rest of the family “almost forgets it is up here.” However, the family loves the flexibility of the space and looks forward to putting it to use in many ways in the years to come.
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