All Projects Jamaica Plain, Ma

Preserving a Family Legacy

Bathrooms Interiors Kitchens

The owners of this 1930 colonial-style house initially got in touch about converting their garage into a home office. When we informed them that we would need to rebuild the garage, they shifted gears to focus on updating their home, whose systems, floor plan and finishes were dated and out of sync with their current lifestyle.

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The kitchen was cramped, dark, and isolated from the adjacent dining room as well as the back yard. The half-bath off the kitchen was too small and too public to get much use. Insufficient insulation and old, inefficient mechanicals made for hot summers, cold winters and high utility bills.

While such frustrations are typical for owners of older homes, the relationship these owners have to their house is anything but typical. The husband’s grandfather was the home’s first owner, and his mother grew up there. He and his wife had inherited the house and raised their two children there. This family legacy was extraordinarily important and imbued the project with special significance, both for them and for us.



Architect Bill Harper reoriented the kitchen towards the back yard, adding a full glass door and three windows that brighten the space and beckon towards a generous deck. He widened the opening between the kitchen and dining room, eliminating a pinch point and visually connecting the front and back of the house.



The owners also wanted to replace the half bath with a full bath, relieving the morning crush of four people trying to get ready at once and allowing for first floor living in the event of injury or disability. Bill found space for the bathroom in the living room, which ran from front to back with furniture arranged in the middle around a rarely used fireplace. By boarding over the fireplace and pushing the sitting area forward, Bill tucked an easily accessible yet private bathroom into formerly unused space at the back of the living room.

We also made dramatic energy improvements, insulating the uninsulated walls and basement; moving the thermal boundary from the attic floor to the roof; and replacing the gas heating system and window air conditioning with ducted minisplits. After the first year of operations the owners used 80% less energy and emitted 72% less carbon on an annual basis. They have also reported that their home is much more comfortable now.

Overall, it’s hard to imagine a better outcome for our clients, or a more fitting way to honor the home’s family legacy.