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  • Allston MA Renovation: Finding Light-Filled Space Under the Eaves

    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 A warren of partially finished rooms has been replaced by a large area for working or playing with cozy nooks for flopping and reading, as well as an adjacent area that can be transformed into a guest bedroom or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. Before After 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. Want to see other inspirational photos of recent renovation projects? Join our mailing list at the link below!

  • Curbless Showers: From Universal Design to Universally Popular

    Curbless (also known as zero-threshold) showers were once primarily a solution for homeowners with accessibility issues. Today, curbless showers are one of the leading bathroom design trends. Recently, the majority of bathroom renovations that we have completed have featured a curbless shower. As its name suggests, a curbless shower has no threshold to step over. The bathroom flooring simply extends right into the shower. The elimination of a separate shower enclosure creates a seamless, contemporary look that makes even small bathrooms look and feel larger. Most clients considering a curbless shower ask the two questions below. We hope our responses help you evaluate whether a curbless shower might work for your home renovation. The beauty of curbless showers shows that elements designed for accessibility do not need to look institutional. As more and more younger homeowners install curbless showers, they are discovering that they now have bathrooms that all generations of family members may safely use and enjoy – while enhancing the aesthetics of the room. We are delighted to see curbless showers listed on many lists of hot bathroom remodeling trends. For more information, please give us a call at 617-666-4460 or reach out to us online contact us.

  • Building in Flexibility

    The COVID pandemic has changed how we live in our homes. The room with the best backdrop has become our Zoom meeting room, the dining or kitchen table may have become our office, the kids are attending school in bedrooms or dens, and the kitchen is once again the hard-working center of the home. For those fortunate enough to have retained their jobs and are working remotely, the pandemic is fueling a desire to improve or add space to adapt to the new reality at home. The question is: what will the reality be a year from now? At Morse Constructions, we believe in building for the long term. A space created for today’s needs should be flexible enough to transition to a new purpose as the homeowners’ lives – and our world — evolve. A Newton, MA client was thinking about flexibility even before we sat down with her. Working from designs from Maxwell Architects, she and her husband asked us to build an addition off of their dining room as a homework/arts and crafts/play space for their three daughters. “We wanted to leave the room an empty square box so it could be anything we wanted it to be,” says the homeowner. To maintain optimum flexibility, she used a removable storage system from The Container Store rather than built-in cabinetry. When the pandemic hit, the room quickly transitioned to become a virtual school. Our client’s 10-year-old and eight-year-old twin daughters each have their own desk and workspace. “It was a real gift to have this space to accommodate them,” our client comments. When the girls no longer need this space, our client envisions moving a third-floor home office and desks in the den into this sunny, first floor room. “Having children taught me that you can’t have static spaces. Children change constantly and spaces need to as well. You have to plan for flexibility,” she says. Before After As part of the renovation, Morse also tripled the size of the Newton home’s mudroom and created what the homeowner terms “cubby and storage heaven.” The mudroom currently corrals all the equipment associated with the girls’ passions for hockey and horses, but multi-purpose bins will enable the area to easily evolve to create storage for new passions. For flexible spaces that can easily transition to new uses, consider A room design that accommodates different types of furniture and layouts Pocket or sliding doors to provide the option of opening space for entertaining or closing it off for privacy (glass doors are also a great way to create the feel of open space while allowing some privacy) Storage that can be reconfigured for different purposes Want to learn more? Please contact us to discuss your renovation project!

  • Creating Contemporary, Communal Family Space

    When Becky and Mike Oliver brought their home in Wayland, they knew they would be renovating. “The previous owner had a different style and the home felt dated,” Mike explains. The current kitchen was closed off from the living area and the décor did not reflect the Oliver’s contemporary aesthetic. As parents of two young children, the couple wanted a more communal space that integrated family time with food preparation and eating. Becky and Mike wanted the flowing space to echo the woods surrounding their home by incorporating stained woods and clean lines. “We wanted the feel of a more contemporary house in the woods,” comments Becky. The Olivers had turned to handymen for a few smaller updates, but they knew that the services provided by a comprehensive renovation firm would be essential for their kitchen and living area transformation. “We only have one kitchen, so it is a major disruption when it is not useable. We needed to make sure we were working with a company that could seamlessly handle the entire project so it could be completed on-time and on-budget,” says Mike. The couple hired Morse Constructions to design and build the integrated kitchen and living space. The resulting design called for the removal of an entire load-bearing wall and corner; a complete gut and rebuild of the kitchen; removal of cabinetry in the living area; and the re-construction of a more modern fireplace/entertainment area. Before After Construction began in July 2020 and completed right on time despite COVID-19 protocols. Becky and Mike said that they felt very safe working with Morse during the pandemic thanks to the entire crew’s attentiveness to pandemic precautions. The couple and their two children having been enjoying their new space, saying the renovation “completely fulfilled our vision. There’s nothing we would have done differently!”

  • A Traditional Cape Gets a Contemporary Makeover

    When our clients were ready to move their growing family from their Somerville condo, they began looking for the perfect single-family home. After two years of searching, they decided to change their thinking. They would buy a house that had potential and transform it into the house they loved. The couple bought a pre-1930s Cape in Winchester. The small rooms and heavy paneling fit neither their lifestyle nor their design aesthetic, but the yard and location were enticing. We earned their trust by listening to what they wanted and by being as excited as they were about their vision. They hired us in a design/build capacity to run their project from start to finish. Our clients envisioned an open, airy, contemporary floor plan with an updated kitchen, additional baths, a master suite, mudroom and first floor laundry – all within the same footprint as the original home. “We have lived in the Boston area for 13 years but our design tastes are definitely not traditional New England,” comments our client. We brought in an architect to develop a design that met all of our client’s needs within their budget, and without enlarging the existing home. The architect was impressed by our team and the experience, “It’s a very efficient process to work with Morse because we work as a team. Morse estimates construction costs as we go so we know we are proposing designs that are financially feasible.” Our clients moved into their Winchester home a little more than one year after they closed on their purchase. “We couldn’t be happier with our decision to renovate,” says our client. “Throughout the project, The Morse team kept our priorities in mind. The result reflects our vision and our lifestyle perfectly.” Before After Want to transform your own home? Please contact us to discuss your project!

  • Best Use of Space: Adding Living Space Without Adding On

    “My kitchen is too small.” “I don’t have enough storage.” “It is difficult to entertain in my house.” “I don’t have a space where my grandchildren can play.” When our house is not working for us, many of us have a knee-jerk reaction that we need more space. In many cases, however, what we really need is better space – space that supports how we actually live our lives. It takes more creativity and resourcefulness to make existing space meet new demands, but the results are often dramatic. For example, Morse Constructions worked with a client in Cambridge, MA to renovate an unheated, underused, 4’ x 15’ front porch into a multi-function room. After the renovation, the room is used as a playroom/sewing room/guest room and even as a laundry drying area. Our client wrote: “Part of the reason that the extra 60 square feet from the sunroom feels so amazing is that it is 60 square feet of high-use living space.” To make the best use of space, consider the following when planning a renovation: Flexibility Consider all the different uses that you would like to make of the space before beginning a remodeling project. Do you want to use the kitchen as a place to do homework or pay bills as well? Will the family room also serve as an exercising or entertaining area? Could the space under the stairs also be used for storage or as a reading nook? To squeeze the most living out of a space, make sure that it performs multiple functions. Adaptability Children grow up, grandchildren come, we get older or get new hobbies … your spaces should accommodate your ever-changing life. Think about your needs today and a decade or two from now when planning a renovation. Efficiency A room should be easy to use. You shouldn’t have to walk around obstacles or get down on the floor to access important storage. There should be easy access into and out of your space. Smart Storage 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, under staircases, around doors and even hidden beneath stair treads. A remodeling project should always begin with probing questions to get to the heart of what you need to make a space work for you. At Morse Constructions, we ask exploratory questions that range from what you like and don’t like about your current space, to the hobbies that you enjoy, to your entertaining style, to how you envision your life in the future. Give us a call to find out how we can help you make the most of your existing space.

  • Does Your House Have Good Bones?

    Over the years, clients and potential homebuyers have turned to us for help determining if a particular house has the potential to meet their needs. They want to know if the house has “good bones”. We’ve all heard the term, but what does it actually mean? Our definition is a house that has the basic framework necessary to meet the needs and desire of our clients. After more than forty plus years of renovating and adding on to homes, we have found houses with “good bones” have these key features: Quality construction A house with good bones is well-built. I “walk” a building looking for fundamental structural problems. How does it feel? Does it bounce or list, or does it “feel” solid? I look for cracks above doorways or in stairways. Are things tight? When I go to the basement, I look along the bottoms of the floor joists. Do they seem to be in a flat plane or do they sag in the middle of their span? Are the joists notched into the sill or resting on their full depth? Can you see cracks between the ends and the sill or are they still tight? When looking down along the foundation wall, does it look plumb or is it listing outward? When outside the building and stepping back looking at it, do the walls have bows or are they straight? Does the house lean to one side or the other? Does the roof of the front porch sag? Are there sways to the roof or is it in one plane? Solid infrastructure It’s relatively simple to replace aging roofing shingles or update plumbing fixtures, but it is far more complicated if the basic infrastructure of the home is lacking. If the foundation, roof, heating, plumbing and electrical systems are in good shape, renovations become much easier. Good floor plan Is there good flow between frequently used rooms? Are rooms arranged logically? Look at how traffic travels through the house as a whole. You can renovate to make particular rooms more livable, but it is far more costly and complex to make fundamental changes because the entire home’s floor plan just does not work. If a floor plan feels awkward, try to envision the space with walls moved or taken down entirely. We recently worked on a center entrance colonial in which the small dining room and kitchen made the entire first floor feel disjointed and tiny. By removing the walls between the dining room and kitchen, and the dining room and hallway, we created a sense of spaciousness without changing the footprint of the house. Well-proportioned rooms Are the home’s rooms a useful size and shape? Can they be easily changed? Many older homes have small rooms that are unsuited to modern lifestyles. It is often possible, however, to move walls and open up spaces relatively easily. Removing walls, adding a beam and creating an open a floor plan can make a separate kitchen, dining room and living room a great entertainment area or family space. On the other hand, sometimes there are fundamental problems that are not easy to correct. When I recently toured a newly renovated condo, I was surprised that I had to duck at the last step when entering the third floor master suite. The walls sloped so steeply that the “walk in closet” had almost no useable space. The room’s underlying structure was so limiting that it would have been very expensive to create space that worked better for the homeowners. Character Houses with good bones have a personality. They don’t look like they were stamped out by a developer with a cookie-cutter. Sometimes even the quirkiest architectural detail can be used to create a fascinating focal point. In one Cambridge home, we took a steep attic stairway and added a skylight and delightful hand railing to create an eye-catching, artistic feature that doubled as a welcoming entrance to a nanny’s bedroom and owner’s office. Natural light A sunny, airy home feels happier and more spacious, but don’t automatically give up on a house because it is dark. Consider small changes that could bring in more light. We’ve added skylights, transom windows and even cut openings in walls and floors to help light spread throughout a home. Does your house have good bones? We can help you decide whether renovating or adding on to your home makes sense. To arrange an appointment contact us!

  • Building on the Past and Creating an Exciting Future

    When we collaborate on new projects with homeowners, we always start with a discussion of both their current and future needs. We are committed to doing work that stands the test of time, in both design and craftsmanship. Similarly, when Paul Morse founded Morse Constructions over 45 years ago, he built the company to last. Nearly three years ago, he developed a plan to help the company move into the future, well past his working years. He decided to pass the company on to a new owner who could ensure that both clients and the Morse Team would continue to be valued and nurtured. Simultaneously, Eric Keyes wanted to put his years of experience in development and construction to work for the right company. Eric’s decades of work and leadership experience in all aspects of real estate development, owner’s project management and consulting made him a perfect match with Morse Constructions. As many of you may know, a year ago we took a key step to ensure that Morse Constructions will continue to serve the Boston area for many decades to come. Paul passed the ownership reins to Eric while continuing to be involved in the hands-on work and relationship-building with our clients. The leadership transition was done seamlessly so clients would continue to experience the great communication and trust they had come to expect with the Morse team. Building on the Past and Creating an Exciting Future You will also notice that we have updated our logo and website to reflect our continuing evolution. Both pay homage to our past and the present with a contemporary twist that reflects our commitment to innovation for the future. We are excited to be moving forward with renewed focus and energy. We love helping clients achieve their goals, and we work hard at bringing some fun into the process along the way. Please reach out to us for help in bringing your vision into reality.

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