8 West Cedar, Beacon Hill, Boston

Before and After: Boston Row House Reimagined for Modern Living

At only 18 feet wide and over 180 years old, this home presented a unique, historic challenge – the type of complexity and inspiration our studio welcomes, and a stark contrast to resort and retreat homes we often find ourselves designing elsewhere.  This reality points to a wonderful truth about our work…, that each client and each new project is a fresh opportunity, and that challenging constraints often yield the most amazing solutions.

How does a Boston homeowner select an architecture firm in Colorado? 

In this case, the relationship began with SRI previously designing two distinct resort residences for this client in Colorado.  One of the greatest affirmations is a client who repeatedly retains us, and exports us to their newest horizon.

Located in Beacon Hill, this home is a block up the hill from Charles Street, and only steps from the Boston Common.  Each level of the six-story structure told a historic story, yet also offered opportunity for a fresh perspective.  Our clients purchased the property as an urban experience during the husband’s foray into teaching at Harvard Business School.  Traditionalists at heart, they wanted to preserve the home’s character while also create appropriate space for entertaining, hosting guests and HBS students, and to display their eclectic collection of fine art.

We find it deeply gratifying to sensitively transform historic buildings. There is always the possibility of unexpected discoveries as you peel back the layers of the past, such as a hidden brick wall or a dated connection detail to highlight. Together with interior designer John Cialone, of Tom Stringer Design Partners, we sought to carefully expose, restore and enhance the building’s historical attributes, while layering new luxe contemporary finishes and thoughtful modern updates.  Heritage was honored while modern was added.

We are gratified by seeing the potential in the ‘Before’ stage and in bringing to life our client’s ‘After’ dreams for an existing structure.

A Bit About Boston’s Beacon Hill & Brownstones vs. Row Homes

Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s most famous historic neighborhoods. It is loved by residents and tourists for its charming style defined by brick, ivy and cobblestones. Because a strict, preservation-minded civic association governs the aesthetic of the neighborhood, it can sometimes feel more like a movie set than real life.

The rows of townhouses that give grandeur to the streets of Beacon Hill are not actually ‘brownstones’. By definition, brownstones are made from sandstone, not brick. In Beacon Hill, red brick dominates the exterior finishes of the buildings. Front doorways often differentiate the rows of red brick townhomes, with varying styles of divided light windows surrounding doors proudly painted cheery red, bold black, rich stained mahogany and more.

Beacon Hill is delightfully walkable and by foot is the best way to enjoy the architectural beauty of the neighborhood. Boston Commons, the oldest public park in America, is nearby and offers 50 acres of outdoor attractions. We love it when a new project takes us to special places like Boston’s Beacon Hill. 

Architectural Renovation Goals

  • Create a more inviting, open floor plan

  • Honor the original 1827 row house architecture

  • Make the home fit for entertaining

  • Bring to life outdoor living spaces

Our team opted to celebrate the original architectural gifts of the home. Each of the six floors had a fireplace and two rooms. While this might sound constraining, our design approach maximized the flow from floor to floor and the functionality of the spaces on each floor while capitalizing on the inherent charm of the compact scale. Interior walls were relocated to better reveal the floating staircase that extends graciously from top to bottom. A wall that separated the living room from the foyer was jettisoned to create a more expansive and welcoming entry to the home. Original mahogany beamed ceilings and richly detailed millwork were highlighted. The dining room was moved down a floor, next to the kitchen. There is a seamless connection to the upstairs living room, encouraging guests to mix and mingle between different levels of the home. The master bedroom was re-conceived to create a suite of spaces dedicated to sleeping, bathing, dressing, and lounging. The spa like master bathroom includes a glass-enclosed rain shower lined in slabs of Carrera marble. 

Our team opted to celebrate the original architectural gifts of the home. Each of the six floors had a fireplace and two rooms. While this might sound constraining, our design approach maximized the flow from floor to floor and the functionality of the spaces on each floor while capitalizing on the inherent charm of the compact scale. Interior walls were relocated to better reveal the floating staircase that extends graciously from top to bottom. A wall that separated the living room from the foyer was jettisoned to create a more expansive and welcoming entry to the home. Original mahogany beamed ceilings and richly detailed millwork were highlighted. The dining room was moved down a floor, next to the kitchen. There is a seamless connection to the upstairs living room, encouraging guests to mix and mingle between different levels of the home. The master bedroom was re-conceived to create a suite of spaces dedicated to sleeping, bathing, dressing, and lounging. The spa like master bathroom includes a glass-enclosed rain shower lined in slabs of Carrera marble. 

8 West Cedar, Beacon Hill, Boston

The rear garden, previously unused, was prioritized and recreated to become a primary outdoor living area, with patio seating, fireplace, grill and lush landscaping.  This outdoor area was connected to the home via floor-to-ceiling steel and glass curtain wall; steel painted white to promote light and spatial movement.

8 West Cedar, Beacon Hill, Boston

Small-scale rooms create intimacy well suited for four to six person gatherings yet spacious enough for 25 to feel comfortable to move about the entertaining space. The home’s newly relaxed air is augmented by clean lines, spare ornamentation, and judicious use of texture and color.  There is a sense of formality yet it isn’t actually formal. The owners can live casually.

I am delighted. I’m nourished and comforted in this house. It’s a sanctuary for me. The house really breathes now when people are in it. This house is deeply personal in its design and decoration, and warm and welcoming in its environment. This house is a combination of welcoming, comfortable, and elegant—a hard triple to achieve.
Client

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