A new home with a traditional feel
By infusing 21st-century design with the soul of an older home, a Wellesley couple got the comfortably elegant space they craved.
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ERIN AND DEVIN CONDRON LOVED city living. Once their twin sons started walking, however, they realized their days in their Beacon Hill condominium were numbered. They needed more space: A comfortable house in the suburbs with an open flow that was conducive to "kids constantly running around" seemed like the right move, says Erin.
When a lot became available in a Wellesley neighborhood filled with young families, the Condrons were thrilled. While the couple — whose brood includes not only their now 3-year-old twins but also Devin's 8-year-old daughter and their 3-month-old son — wanted a newly built home that was geared toward a contemporary lifestyle, they were drawn to the look and quality of historic architecture.
"We like the integrity and feel of older homes: the heavier doors, the fixtures and details," says Erin. The couple turned to Wellesley-based architect Jan Gleysteen to develop a house for them in the Shingle Style popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With a cedar-shingled roof and a finely curved copper-topped front portico, their new house was designed "to be elegant but cozy in scale," says Gleysteen. "It isn't huge, but it has lots of rooms, and the Condrons wanted it to be light and airy."
Abundant windows help accomplish that goal. "We were lucky because the house is sited to the sun; the bow-front windows face east, so the living and dining rooms are filled with morning sunlight. The kitchen, family room, and back patio face south and west for afternoon sun," says Gleysteen. "The house is like a solar collector — it gets sun all the time."
Essentially, the house was designed around the kitchen, a common practice for Gleysteen's firm. "The kitchen is the true heart of the home — it's where people spend most of their time, so that's why it's literally located in the middle of the house," he says. The Condrons' kitchen is built for both cooking and socializing. An expansive island separates the food preparation area from the main traffic flow. White cabinets are paired with 2-inch-thick Vermont Danby marble counters, which, combined with the island's 2¼-inch mahogany top, make the room feel solid and substantial, says Gleysteen. At the Condrons' request, the kitchen is open to the family room so that they can watch the kids play; square columns help visually define the two areas.
There's more play space for the children in the finished basement, another one of the Condrons' requirements. "Living in Beacon Hill, we know how confining winters can be. I wanted the house to have space for energetic kids to play when it's too cold to be outside," says Erin. The basement's arts and crafts room and toy-packed recreation room fill the bill nicely, with space left over for a gym and a guest bedroom.
Though rich traditional architectural details are everywhere in the home — thick, carved moldings and trim, coffered and tray ceilings, and a handsome floor in the entry hall (oak inlaid with walnut to create a diamond pattern) — Gleysteen made sure the interior would never feel overly formal or fussy.
"There's a lot of fun in this house," he says. "We added lots of playful curves to create a rhythm of shapes." Curves show up above the range hood in the kitchen and above the master bathroom sink and in rounded interior archways and a large rounded window on the second floor. Gleysteen designed the fanciful curved roof on the front portico to recall a turtle's back.
"We wanted the house to feel warm and welcoming," says Erin. "When people walk into the house, they say they feel comfortable. To us, that's the biggest compliment."
Jaci Conry is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.