fb-pixelMaking a family room and kitchen work better in a 1928 Colonial - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
Home Refresh

Making a family room and kitchen work better in a 1928 Colonial

For a Brookline family with teenagers, a well-placed wall and a shrunken bath are just a few of the fixes that up the usability of their home.

In the family room, the coffee table and swivel chair are from Room & Board and the artwork outside the bath is by local artist Margie McGrail Michals of Small Cup Designs.Joyelle West

THE FAMILY ROOM and kitchen of the 1928 Brookline Colonial that MaryBeth Landrum and David Cutler share with their two teenagers were sorely inefficient. However, beyond opening up the two spaces to one another, they weren’t sure how to make the rooms more livable.

A friend connected them with Ana Bonilla of AnaVera Design, who surveyed the spaces and listened to their concerns. Chief among them: finding a place to stash coats and shoes; banishing the bathtub from what should have been a simple powder room; retaining a study space; and alleviating a few deficits in the kitchen, including a too-small island and an inadequate fridge.


Bonilla immediately understood the need for a proper mudroom. The side door, which the family uses daily, opened directly into the family room. An open bookshelf tucked under the window and shoe shelves stacked in a corner didn’t do the space any favors. “The setup made it hard for them to stay organized,” the designer says.

Before the renovation, a full bath (behind the TV unit) occupied the corner of the family room.from AnaVera Design

Taking advantage of the room’s depth, which measures more than 27 feet, Bonilla built a wall across the back to create a mudroom that’s just over 4-feet wide. The stylish space is replete with built-ins — among them, cubbies for Landrum’s gardening tools and a walnut-topped cabinet for food for their pandemic puppy. “We didn’t know we’d be able to fit a whole mudroom,” Landrum says. “We just hoped for a place that would keep the kids from dropping their stuff in the middle of the room.”

An unnecessary full bathroom with a tub, a shower, and a double vanity ate up a corner on the other end of the family room. Bonilla slid the bath over and drastically reduced its size. Now, it’s a pretty powder room with white and blue hexagonal tiles and a refurbished pedestal sink that was collecting dust in the basement.


Bonilla nestled a new workspace into the sunny niche beside the powder room. (Before, family members perched at the kitchen pass-through counter with their laptops.) The walnut desk is nearly invisible and the shelves cantilevered around the windows turn the wall into a focal point. The space came in handy for Landrum during the pandemic, as she ceded her office with a door to her professor husband so that he could teach via Zoom.

Although Cutler has returned to the classroom, Landrum, a researcher who still works from home, stayed put. “I like spending the day in this open, bright space,” she says. “I can go somewhere else if I need privacy, but I do most of my living and working here now.”

Abstract artwork by Housse Studio from Elizabeth Home in Chestnut Hill, SoWa artist Patricia Busso, and Needham-based Small Cup Designs bring color to the workspace. The Four Hands desk chairs can swivel to face the kitchen or television.Joyelle West

The layout left ample area for relaxing, too. A practical rug with subtle pattern and color defines the seating area. A tailored sofa faces the television while swoop-arm swivel chairs orient any which way. A bilevel walnut coffee table with a mid-century vibe adds warmth to the center of the room. “They wanted a calm, neutral scheme with clean lines,” Bonilla says.

Initially, they weren’t certain they would undertake a full kitchen renovation, but, once they saw Bonilla’s plan, the couple couldn’t resist. Bonilla united the kitchen with the family room by widening the opening between them. She also tackled the tiny island. “We rotated the island and enlarged it,” the designer says. “It’s three times bigger!” It now runs parallels to the main wall of cabinetry, and the sink aligns with the opening into the family room. There’s also a new bar that services both rooms.


Bonilla was hesitant to replace one white kitchen with another. The couple suggested gray, which the designer one-upped by introducing stained wood for the island. “We did gray base cabinets on the perimeter and for the bar, used white for the uppers to keep things light, and brought in dark wood for the island,” she says.

Bonilla also pushed for the pendants, asserting that the “bold but discreet” translucent fixtures were the perfect finishing touch. Landrum admits that the oversized, turned-glass pendants were out of their comfort zone at first. “Ana did a great job understanding our style and leading us just past what we’d pick ourselves,” Landrum says. “She really transformed our space when we had only vague notions of what we wanted.”


Contractor: Bespoke Design Build, bespokedb.com

Interior Designer: AnaVera Design, anaveradesign.com

Kitchen Designer: Sara J. Iborra, sjinteriordesignstudio.com


Transparent glass pendants by Hudson Valley Lighting and the three-dimensional ceramic backsplash tiles, from Tile Showcase in Watertown, lend texture and interest without overwhelming the airy space. The orange stools are from Vintage Finds in Needham.Joyelle West
Ana Bonilla collaborated with Sara Iborra on the cabinetry for the mudroom, bar, and kitchen. Iborra’s dog, Jamus, poses on a Turkish Oushak rug from Landry & Arcari. The checkerboard pattern of the floor tile helps hide dirt.Joyelle West

Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.