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Your Home: Make It Modern

Their home taste was traditional. Then they moved to Lexington’s Peacock Farm.

Despite their initial misgivings, it didn’t take long for the family to fall in love with midcentury modern living.

Interior designer Rachel Dunham chose comfy leather seats by Ethnicraft for the sunroom because they are easy to move for different situations. Northe Woodworking made the walnut desk, which has a track for the folding partition embedded into the top. “The accordion window can be pulled across the desk to cut down on sound without blocking light,” says Dan Hisel of Hisel Flynn Architects.sabrina cole quinn photo

Architect Katie Flynn’s friends, a couple with two children who lived in a traditional Cape, never imagined living in a midcentury modern house — they were not fans. When they drove through Peacock Farm, the historic modernist neighborhood in Lexington where Flynn lives, they thought the homes were “interesting.”

Then, Flynn floated an idea. Pregnant with twins (children number three and four), Flynn and her husband were eyeing a larger house across the street. What if her friends, who she knew also needed more space, bought their house? They could be neighbors! Their bestie daughters would also be thrilled. Putting their architectural taste aside in favor of living in a leafy, close-knit community with Flynn’s family as neighbors, the couple made the move.


Two years later, Flynn’s neighbors became her clients. They hired her and business partner Dan Hisel, who lives in Peacock Farm as well, to update and expand the 1,725-square-foot home. “It’s a classic midcentury split-level with classic midcentury problems,” Flynn says. Inadequate insulation, leaky windows, and insufficient storage are among them. Other priorities? Turning the primary bedroom’s dinky half bath into a full bath, carving out a comfortable work-from-home spot, and making changes to accommodate large family gatherings. The challenge was to meet those needs without altering the character of the home.

“Remaining true to midcentury modern ideas was very important,” Flynn says. Architecturally, that meant exercising restraint in size and scale and sticking with clean, unfussy lines. Modernist principles that they embraced included creating strong indoor-outdoor connections and emphasizing function over frippery. As a result, the new spaces meld seamlessly with the original ones.

The team pushed through the back wall of the primary suite to make a larger, brighter bedroom — with a deep blue accent wall compliments of interior designer Rachel Dunham, who furnished the home — as well as a walk-in closet and an airy bath. A new guest bedroom occupies the area on the floor below it. The architects also enlarged the family room adjacent to the guest room, a one-story space with a deep green accent wall, skylights, and sliders to the backyard. “The addition is behind the house, so it doesn’t interfere with the modest scale and iconic design of the front facade,” Flynn says.


To fulfill the couple’s other big asks — a place to host holiday dinners and a desk for the husband — the architects reimagined the sunroom on the side of the house. What was a drafty, greenhouse-style playroom is now a fully insulated, multifunctional space for the whole family. (The children’s vast collection of Legos were relocated to a Lego workshop on the lower level that Dunham equipped with a project table, sorting bins, and display shelves.)

Rather than divide the living room and the sunroom with a solid wall, Flynn and Hisel designed a wall with an interior window that lets southern light into the home’s main living space and affords views to the wooded side yard. The window is outfitted with a five panel, folding glass partition that sits atop a walnut ledge (if the partition is closed) or bench (if the partition is open) on the living room side.

Take three steps down into the sunroom, and it becomes evident that the run of walnut is actually the top of a built-in desk. “When the partition and pocket door are closed, the room can serve as an office,” Flynn explains. The desktop doubles as a sideboard, too. Last Thanksgiving, the couple hosted dinner for 15 at a long table they set up in the sunroom.


Unless he’s on a work call, the homeowner welcomes company. The couple’s daughter often reads in the walnut-lined niche that Dunham cozied up with a velvety cushion, or daydreams looking up at the clouds through the skylight. The niche angles outward to capture a wide wooded vista, while the walnut back shields the room from the street. “The house is tuned to the views,” Flynn says.

Despite their initial misgivings, it didn’t take long for the family to fall in love with midcentury modern living. The large windows, light-filled rooms, and easily accessible outdoor spaces were a game-changer during the pandemic (plus, they formed a pod with Flynn’s family and another neighbor). With the renovations complete, home life is better than ever.


Architect: Hisel Flynn Architects,

Interior Designer: Rachel Dunham Design,

Contractor: Design Plus Construction Corp.,

Woodworker: Northe Woodworking,

Landscape Design and Construction: Planet Pascale,


With its slanted roof and clerestory windows that echo the ones in the living room, the sunroom barely registers as an add-on. The family uses the back half of the rebuilt space, which opens onto a patio in the backyard, for listening to music and playing instruments.sabrina cole quinn photo
Although the kitchen configuration remained, it got a whole new look, including cabinetry from Kitchen Views. “Midcentury modern architects often centered the kitchen in the middle of the home, putting what was thought of as women’s work on equal footing with other parts of the house,” says architect Katie Flynn.sabrina cole quinn photo
A traditional rug keeps the decor from being too period-specific and a Cape Cod-inspired abstract painting by local artist Gretchen Warsen adds a burst of cheerful color. “They wanted a beachy vibe that didn’t skew too neutral,” says Dunham.sabrina cole quinn photo
A white powder-coated steel and oak shelving unit by String Furniture from Design Within Reach displays Lego creations downstairs, where sliders now lead to the backyard.sabrina cole quinn photo
Moody prints by Cape Cod artist Dan McCarthy hang beside a floating walnut vanity that helps make the primary bath feel light and uncluttered.sabrina cole quinn photo

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