Simple, clean design puts focus on the views

Although it’s on a verdant lot abutting glorious conservation woodland, this Newton home was designed with little reverence to the setting. With few windows and a chopped up floor plan, the 1950s era house was dark and disjointed.

“It’s an incredible piece of land but the house didn’t take advantage of it at all. There was no connection to the backyard,” says Mark Lawton, director of architecture for South Dartmouth-based Ikaria Homes. “There was an amazing opportunity to take the view of nature and bring it inside.”

By the time the current homeowners, who have young children, took ownership, the house had undergone several ill-conceived renovations. They looked to Lawton, who drafted architectural and landscape plans and also worked on the interior design, to open up the layout.


“The owners wanted a minimalist style. They like simple, clean living,” says Lawton who minimized walls and added windows and intriguing design elements; he also designed an expansive outdoor patio where the family could enjoy the setting together. Interesting materials create focal points, but for the most part, the house is spare with subtle modern flair.

While Lawton didn’t add any square footage to the home, he greatly enhanced the flow and the views.

“Your home should be a place that makes you healthier, where you go to recharge your batteries, and get ready to tackle what’s in front of you,” says Lawton. “It’s important that you put a lot of thought into the design.”

A more engaging entry

(Ethan Gordon)

You couldn’t see from the front of the house to the back, which made the entrance feel confining and dismal. Lawton designed an opening in the wall — which frames the view of the backyard through the living and dining areas — and enlarged the doorway. He also created a striking design element by cladding the wall with rich sustainable mahogany. Longer stair treads now make the entrance feel more grand. A custom stainless steel railing and a panel that looks like frosted glass is made of impact resistant Panelite. Built-in cabinets store kids’ toys and outerwear. “We worked to make this a super cool stylistic retreat, but it needed to be family-centric too,” says Lawton. “So we created storage to tuck everything way.”


Mod-styled living room

(Ethan Gordon)

The mahogany woodwork is the central element separating the entry from the living and dining spaces. The original wood-burning fireplace was replaced with a gas ribbon fireplace and Jerusalem stone was used for the expansive surround. “It has a classic look and the homeowners often visit Jerusalem so the stone meant a lot to them,” says Lawton. “Each piece of the home is very tied into who they are.” Lawton designed an S-shaped sofa, know as a “tete-a-tete,” upholstered with Knoll fabric that is able to serve both sides of the room.

An al fresco oasis

(Ethan Gordon)

Lawton also did the hardscape design in the backyard. “There was no place to enjoy the yard, which was basically a random grassy hill. We carved out a lovely place to sit and enjoy the scenery,” he says. A bluestone patio and wood burning fireplace with built-in benches made out of Ipe, an extremely durable Brazilian hardwood, provides a comfortable place that the family enjoys through the autumn.

Bringing the outdoors in

(Ethan Gordon)

New windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling were added to the back of the house, which now provide unfettered views of the yard. “The space feels bigger now because the view outside is bigger,” says Lawton. Planters made of Ipe wood are filled with river rocks to anchor the home with a soothing feel. Small strategically placed LED lights enable outdoor entertaining after the sun goes down.


Jaci Conry can be reached at