OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS, Steve Snider has owned four houses in Massachusetts. Three of them were older and had been renovated, but not, says Snider, “in the proper way.” Cosmetic changes had been made, but without regard for the homes’ origins or new energy standards. “It was disappointing,” says Snider. “I always thought that if I were to renovate a house, I would do it thoughtfully — not a partial job.”
The opportunity arose when a 1914 Arts and Crafts-style house next door to Snider’s residence in Newton came on the market. “Structurally, it was in great shape,” says Snider, who bought the home in 2010. “But it needed a lot of work to ensure that it would be around for another 100 years.”
He hired Cambridge-based LDa Architecture & Interiors to draft plans that would make the house viable for contemporary living while retaining its historic features. “Good transformations of older homes occur because the homeowner thinks of himself as a steward,” says LDa principal Treff LaFleche. “The steward appreciates what’s already there and has a sense of what the home needs to be properly maintained and nourished so it can continue to thrive.”
While the house was big, its rooms were dark and badly sized for the way people live today. An ill-conceived renovation had been done in the 1960s. The kitchen was small, and the front-to-back living room, probably used frequently in the home’s early years, “seemed too formal and stuffy,” says LaFleche. Rather than do away with the room, LaFleche opted to reduce its size, incorporating one-third of the space into a new family room. The rest of the footage for the family room came from a small addition to the back of the house that also allowed for a new second-story bedroom.
“The house needed to be expanded very carefully,” says LaFleche. The size of the lot left little room to increase the home’s footprint; instead, most of the changes came by reconfiguring the interior. Walls were taken out to open up the floor plan on the first level and to create larger bedrooms upstairs. Windows that fill the home with natural light were added at the back of the house, overlooking a lush landscape.
A separate underground one-car garage was crumbling. In its place, LaFleche designed a two-car garage. A mudroom — essential for today’s homes, says LaFleche — was added as a transition space between the garage and house.
“The home is totally modernized, ready for 21st-century living,” says Snider. All the wiring was updated, and new HVAC systems were installed, along with a smart-house technology system that controls the lighting and some of the home’s electronics remotely.
“The seam between new and old is at times hidden, at times revealed,” LaFleche says. A built-in quarter-sawn stained-oak cabinet with Arts and Crafts detailing balances the kitchen’s stainless-steel appliances and contemporary gray cabinetry. The new breakfast room has a bead-board ceiling — common in homes built in the 1900s. While the master bathroom has a modern walk-in shower with a seat and window, another bathroom contains the original claw-foot tub. Throughout the house, existing oak and fir floors were refinished. Some light fixtures were reused, while Snider hunted down others that recall the era.
For the exterior, Snider brought in a color specialist, who created a five-color paint scheme based on the palettes of similar turn-of-the-last-century homes. “Before, you couldn’t appreciate the character of the exterior because it had been painted white,” says LaFleche. Now, the house shines in all of its early 20th-century glory.
Making the home sustainable was an essential part of the renovation. The project received the building industry’s LEED Gold rating for environmentally friendly design, with elements that include:
✚ Walls, roof, and foundation insulated with high-density closed-cell spray foam
✚ New thermal-paned windows to help keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer
✚ Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood
✚ An 11,000-gallon cistern that collects rain-water from the roof and pumps it into the lawn irrigation system
✚ Exterior shingles made of PVC by Chicopee-based NuCedar Mills, with a durable baked-on factory finish that does not need repainting
Jaci Conry is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.