AS MASTERS OF FANTASTICAL ONLINE UNIVERSES, Kate and Fernando Paiz are used to dealing with the details. It’s a handy skill when faced with gutting and reconstructing an old farmhouse that had been pieced together over the years while keeping track of four young children and putting in full days at the office.
The couple, who met in college at MIT and moved back to the Boston area after a stint in Silicon Valley, are executive producers at Turbine Games in Needham, where each runs a multi-player game — he, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and she, The Lord of the Rings Online. Kate says, “We build whole worlds in our jobs — there are around 40,000 square acres in Lord of the Rings. That’s a lot to keep track of; consistency is crucial. But we also need to create emotional resonance. We approached our renovation in much the same way.”
The Paizes hired Lexington-based design-build firm Feinmann Inc. to reinvent the Milton home they purchased in summer 2010 — the remodeling began while Kate was pregnant with the couple’s fourth child. “We searched for a house we could customize,” Fernando says, “because so many we had seen were geared to families with just two kids.” Originally part of a larger estate, the 2.7-acre property sits on a bucolic site. The exterior is traditional New England. Inside, it’s a journey through time.
The goal was to achieve a blend of classic (what existed) with contemporary (their personal taste). Architect Kert Heinecke made it happen, with the kitchen area as a key element. One enters the home through the original, low-ceilinged keeping room, complete with period fireplace and wooden beams. A new cherry floor leads to the kitchen and breakfast area, which explode with energy and light, thanks to such unusual features as a “fractalated” cathedral ceiling, unexpected skylights, and a dual-level island with a sculptural quality.
Heinecke describes the disorganized house before it was remodeled as “chaotic.” But rather than transforming the spaces into “typical bread-and-butter rooms with four square walls,” he played off what he had. Positioned to one side of the cherry-wood pathway, the cooking area has a gray tile floor and a floating dropped ceiling that helps to further define (and contain) the space. The sink, set in front of an expanse of glass, looks out to gardens at the front of the house. Having learned the hard way that an island cooktop is a recipe for burned fingers, the Paizes put the Wolf range with snazzy red knobs against the wall, backed by subtle handcrafted tile.
The dual-level island has a lower rectangular working area set square to the sink and oven walls and a bar-height portion that’s asymmetrically shaped. Its line helps lead the eye from the kitchen proper to the kids’ domain — a sunny breakfast area backed by a large window. Beams of light shine down from the three skylights in the high, fractal ceiling over the breakfast nook onto an elliptical mid-century modern table surrounded by cherry-red contemporary chairs, lending an otherworldly feel, as though a slice of Middle-earth crept into the couple’s personal domain.
The design goal was always to play off the home’s existing idiosyncracies, says Heinecke. For the Paizes, the result brings the right dose of order. Says Fernando: “Before, everyone was underfoot. Now, it’s just what the architects wanted — controlled chaos.”