WHILE OVERSEEING THE RECENT RENOVATION of a South End town house, architects Pamela Butz and Jeffrey Klug couldn’t have asked for a better commute. The husband-and-wife architects, principals of the South End firm Butz + Klug, live on the same street as the project.
Their clients, a design-savvy couple who have lived in cities around the world, bought the five-story town house in July 2009. They had moved to Lincoln when they started a family, but were longing for the loft they left behind in Downtown Crossing. Determined to take their time in transitioning to the city, they looked at about 30 prospects before circling back to this one, which happened to be the first house they had seen.
Sporting gold and red decor, an oversize Elmo mural, and exposed (not to mention smelly) toilet pipes, their new city home was a bit of a mess. But it had obvious potential: good bones, a backyard, a deck, and two parking spots. Undaunted, they got to work, collaborating closely with Butz + Klug, to transform it into a light-filled airy home with a clean, modern aesthetic that incorporates details from the building’s Victorian roots. “They were really engaged in the design process, putting a lot of thought into everything upfront, which made for a great experience with no surprises,” says Butz.
The first order of business was to let the sun shine in, so they replaced the entire back wall of the second and third floors with floor-to-ceiling windows that span the width of the town house. Rather than being set flush to the building, the windows cantilever 27 inches beyond the facade. The look is very contemporary, almost industrial, especially from the outside, but inside, the finish on the framing is a warm wood to match the home’s original mahogany handrails.
Adjacent to the family room windows on the third floor, newly designed floating mahogany shelves, built by Chris Rice of Furniture Design Services in Peabody, further tie together the old and new. Ornate period moldings line the ceiling, gorgeously contrasting with the clean, rectilinear lines of the windows, shelves, and Flexform “Long Island” sectional. A contemporary David Weeks chandelier hangs from a restored curlicue plaster medallion.
Across the way, in the formal living room at the front of the house, there’s another mahogany touch: a carved Victorian-era mirror on the mantel over the fireplace. An elegant Venetian-glass chandelier hangs from another plaster medallion, presiding over an almost whimsical B&B Italia “Fat” sofa designed by Patricia Urquiola and a pair of black leather-and-chrome Flexform “Happy” chairs designed by Antonio Citterio. Klug sums up the effect of the home’s historic and contemporary elements, saying, “Both aesthetics are elevated from existing side by side.”
The architects kept the traditional front and back parlors on the third floor, but enlarged each of them. On the second level, however, they wiped the layout clean, installing a modern-day open kitchen and dining area. Expanses of sleek pale-gray surfaces hide a network of floor-to-ceiling storage housing a pantry, a bar, a coat closet, and even a powder room. A minimalist metal-and-glass dining table, surrounded by equally simple chairs, stands in front of the sliding-glass doors, which open onto a deck. A 13-foot glass-topped island runs the long way down the room. Another counter runs parallel to it, along one wall. That wall is faced with a calacatta white-marble backsplash and punctuated by a red-knobbed stainless Wolf range, whose white hood all but disappears in the room’s minimalist landscape. In the bay window at the front of the house is a small play space for the couple’s two kids. (A bigger playroom is downstairs, along with a curtained-off Murphy bed for guests and access to the patio.)
The fourth floor didn’t change much; there are two bedrooms and a bathroom for the children, plus a laundry room. The top floor, however, was completely reinvented. The homeowners wanted the master bedroom suite to function almost like a studio apartment, with sleeping, bath, and office areas that flow from one to the next. The bathroom, which floats in the center of the space, is flooded with sunlight (and moonlight), thanks to the addition of two skylights. The room’s minimalist design echoes that of the kitchen, with simple gray cabinetry and contemporary chrome faucets. Pocket doors on either end of the bathroom connect to the sleeping area in the back of the house and the work area in front. The layout allows one spouse to work in the office without disturbing the other in the bedroom.
“The way that they live is reflected in the layout on that top floor,” says Klug. He thinks for a moment, and adds, “Really, the whole house fits the rituals of their daily life.”