A small addition with big gains for efficiency, livability and comfort.

This couple came to us with a complaint we often hear from city-dwelling clients. They loved the walkability and bikability of their neighborhood. But with three young children, a work-at-home parent, and just over 1700 square feet of living area, they were on top of each other.  

The three kids shared two small bedrooms. The five of them shared one full bathroom and one small powder room. Their main entry was too small to accommodate their shoes and coats, let alone bike helmets and athletic gear. A large chimney took up precious living space, while a full wall between the living room and dining room made the first floor feel closed in. Meanwhile, the work-from-home parent was consigned to a basement office adjacent to the oil tank.

Speaking of that oil tank… these clients were also eager to go fossil fuel free. A landscape architect and residential designer who are passionate about sustainability, they were as determined to make their home efficient, comfortable and low-carbon as they were to make it more livable.

More and Less

Byggmeister's Solution

As with all projects, we started by looking for solutions within the existing footprint. On the first floor, we removed the partition walls between the entry way and the living room to provide a more spacious entry area, while also demarcating the entry from the living room with a half wall and providing storage with a custom built-in. By taking down the wall between the living room and the dining room we created visual connection and flow between the two rooms. Similarly, we replaced the doors between the living room and sunroom with a half wall, preserving light and visual connection without sacrificing prime seating area.

Upstairs, there was no way to get an additional bathroom and  sufficient sleeping and storage space within the existing structure. So we buit a small addition over the sunroom, transforming the small master bedroom into a gracious suite with a walk-in closet and a small work or sitting area. The removal of the chimney along with modest space reconfigurations to the kids’ bedrooms gave the two boys a larger bedroom and created easier access to the attic storage. 

Since the siding needed to be replaced, we took the opportunity to add 2” of insulation to the outside of the house, reducing air leakage and conductive heat loss. We also air sealed the band joist area in the basement. (The underside of the roof was already insulated, and the roof was in good shape, so we did not add insulation there). We replaced the oil boiler and window air conditioning units with heat pumps for heating and cooling, installing a lower capacity system than we otherwise would have if we hadn’t added exterior wall insulation. We replaced the gas hot water heater with an electric heat pump water heater and added an energy recovery ventilator to provide a steady supply of fresh air to the bedrooms. Last but not least, the clients installed an 8.3 kw solar photovoltaic system, which we estimate will generate roughly 2/3 of their annual energy needs.

They have also told us that their home is much more comfortable now. It's quieter, less drafty, and less dusty. In short, they have more of what they do want: improved functionality, greater comfort, and bit more living and storage space. And they have less of what they don’t want: drafts, dust and noise; high energy bills and a high carbon footprint. Correction: they still have a fair bit of (internally generated) noise. Even the best renovation project can’t create quiet children.

Project Location

Cambridge, MA