Updating a mid-century classic
Diane Burcz and her husband were drawn to this Newton home, built in 1949, for its historical significance and for the way it recalled the West Coast architecture they’d left behind when they relocated from Berkeley, Calif.
One of the earliest examples of Modernist residential design in the region, the house was designed by renowned Boston architect Samuel Glaser, known for his work with Walter Gropius and The Architects Collaborative on Boston’s John F. Kennedy Federal Building.
When Burcz, an interior designer, purchased the property five years ago the original owner still lived in it. “They had taken such good care of the house, they hadn’t done anything to it,” says Burcz. All of the original mid-century details were intact — the large open living spaces, the woodwork, polished concrete floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows. It was important to Burcz that the iconic Modernist elements remain throughout the house, however essential changes were necessary to make it suitable for modern living. All of the mechanical systems needed to be upgraded. Burcz also wanted a new mudroom and laundry area, a larger kitchen, and updated bathrooms.
To accommodate the new kitchen and mudroom/laundry area, plans for a small addition were drafted. “The house is a long rectangle and the addition is perpendicular to it, so it’s very much in keeping with the original structure,” says Burcz. Cambridge S + H Construction handled the construction of the project, working closely with Burcz to ensure that the new elements tied in with the original architecture.
One of the kitchen walls has windows overlooking the landscape and an interior window is on the other side of the room. To avoid obstructing outdoor views and natural light, there are no upper cabinets. Lower cabinets and the custom banquette in the adjacent eating area are made of walnut. The horizontal shelf is made of red birch selected for its similarity to the home’s existing woodwork. To soften the concrete underfoot, Burcz put down FLOR carpet tiles in a chartreuse and olive green that ties in with the colors of the landscape.
An entrance off the kitchen was created to access the backyard patio area. Burcz replaced the original screens in the pavilion with curtains made of the same fabric as those in the house. S + H Construction expanded the bluestone patio, shingled the addition, and re-shingled part of the house with Western red cedar vertical siding — one of the more challenging aspects of the job. “You don’t see vertical siding around here much anymore,” say Doug Hanna, president of S + H Construction. “It’s more difficult to deal with than a straight up shingled house when patching in windows, but it came out well.”
The back wall of the expansive living/dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the backyard. A glass-topped dining table with chrome legs from CB2 is situated near the windows. “I didn’t want to cut up the space with a dark table. The glass table bounces the view around,” says Burcz. The bench and chairs, from Design Within Reach, are walnut. The adjacent wall separating the dining area from the front entry has original textured glass panels that provide privacy while allowing light from the back of the house to filter through and built-in shelving and cabinetry with sliding wood doors.
Clad with dated bright green tile, the main floor powder room got painted a much more soothing variation of the color and Burcz worked with S + H to design a floating vanity crafted out of red birch. Demolition of the backsplash tile attached to the walls was difficult, so birch was affixed to the walls to cover it. Fitted with a small square sink by Duravit and a Dormbracht faucet, the vanity has a cabinet with a sliding door that recalls other types of sliding doors original to the home.