globe magazine | Your Home: Natural Beauties

Remaking a mid-century modern house

She wanted a house on a lake. He wanted a place on the Cape. With a sleek renovation of a ’70s relic in Marstons Mills, they got both.

Bruce Martin
In the new open floor plan, the kitchen affords a gorgeous view of the trees and the lake below.

KATHY BRYAN LOVED the idea of owning a mid-century modern home on Cape Cod. However, the property she purchased four years ago with her husband on Mystic Lake in Marstons Mills was more stuck-in-the-’70s relic than architectural gem. That is, until David Eisen, principal architect at Allston-based Abacus Architects + Planners, took charge.

Bryan and her husband used to rent on the Cape almost 40 years ago, when she was in law school at Northeastern. When they relocated from Chicago to New York City in 2008, the couple took advantage of their newfound proximity to buy there. “It will be our retirement home,” she says. “I wanted a house on a lake, and he wanted a place on the Cape, so it’s the perfect compromise.”

Bruce Martin
Glass windows and doors stretch from the floor to the underside of the roof, which extends over the deck, providing shade and privacy.

They also took advantage of other longstanding ties, namely their relationship with Eisen, whose wife Bryan knew from her law school days. Bryan explains: “I’ve known David for 35 years; he did some work for us when we lived in Boston, back when he was a baby architect. When we needed an architect here, of course I called him.”


The couple were attracted to the home for its location and size — about 3,800 square feet on two levels, big enough for entertaining their two grown children, extended family, and friends. Eisen, given free rein with the design, says, “They basically told me, ‘Make it right; make it a place we love.’ ”

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Eisen describes the original house as a “1970s period piece, in both the good sense and the bad.” To the builder’s credit, the house was post-and-beam construction, with a tent-like roof and lots of windows. “That’s not a bad place to start,” he says.

While the overarching structure worked, the interior layout was a mess. Misplaced walls chopped up the space, isolating rooms from both one another and the landscape. So Eisen stripped the house to the studs and pulled out the offending walls, replacing the two load-bearing ones in the main living area with beams and a pair of steel columns. The reworked entry now offers a clear view of the lake through the back wall of windows.

To define the kitchen, living, and dining areas as distinct spaces, Eisen inserted an ingenious landscape of bamboo cabinetry. Architectural in scale, the cabinets create smaller, cozier areas without sacrificing a sense of wide-open space. “A house should feel generous and open but still intimate,” Eisen explains. A bamboo soffit around the perimeter of the open floor plan leads the eye both around the room and out to the lake.

As for the view, the back wall of windows is now an expanse of well-proportioned sliders topped with tall, narrow panes that reach all the way to the roofline. Outside is a sleek deck that runs along the entire length of the house, complete with an airy steel-cable rail. Below, a series of terraces, newly designed by local firm Littlefield Landscapes, provides easy access to the water.


It’s the warmth and peace of the view that Kathy holds most dear. Her favorite part of the day is when she’s perched at the breakfast bar, looking out at the lake. “From my stool, I can’t see the houses on either side,” she says, “so I feel like I’m alone in the woods.”