Stripping a structure down to the studs offers all sorts of freedoms. But with that approach come just as many decisions. Such was the case for Julie and Andres Heuberger, who transformed a condo in a classic 1920s brick Georgian in Brookline into a modern family home for themselves and their two sons. “We knew we wanted a minimalist open space where we could all be together,” says Julie, “but the specifics were overwhelming.”
Architect Michael Kim of Brookline led the way, turning what was a rabbit warren of rooms that hadn’t been touched in 50 years into sleek and functional single-floor living that melds the indoors with the out. Splitting the home in half lengthwise, Kim effectively separated the private areas from the public by tucking the three bedrooms behind the expansive living spaces. The kitchen and dining area, the home’s hub, aligns with 16-foot glass accordion doors that unfold onto a new deck. “We tried the kitchen in lots of different locations,” Kim says. “Once we discovered we could open it to the side yard, we slotted everything in place around it.”
On Kim’s recommendation, the Heubergers enlisted kitchen designer Charlotte Bogardus of Kitchens by Coco to fine-tune the layout of cabinetry and appliances. Design and color consultant Shelley Reed, who had worked with the couple on their previous home, guided them in choosing finishes and furnishings. “We didn’t make a move without first running it by Shelley,” says Julie. And builder David Cohen of Hampden Design & Construction in Newton brought the project to the finish line, she says.
The linear kitchen features a 16-foot island. While the design team initially discussed using one of the high-end Italian or German kitchen cabinet companies known for a minimalist aesthetic, they ultimately opted for custom millwork handcrafted by Fall River—based East Bay Cabinetry, a local and more cost-effective solution. A flush expanse of smooth ash panels, with limited hardware, spans the back wall from floor to ceiling. Forming a perfectly symmetrical arrangement, pullout pantries anchor each end, one flanked by an oven and microwave and one by a camouflaged 30-inch refrigerator. In the center of the wall of cabinets, disappearing doors hide a niche for smaller appliances and auxiliary counter space, under which are two sets of fridge and freezer drawers.
Stainless steel tops the island. “I like it even more,” Julie Heuberger says, “now that it’s a bit beat up.” The stainless double sink, which was welded to the countertop for a seamless effect, resides in the middle of the island, making room for seating on one end. A quick-to-cool induction cooktop, placed away from the seating for safety, was installed at the other end. A pared-down hood reads like a piece of contemporary sculpture, while two neat rows of LED panel lights are recessed into the soffit, which Kim used to define the approximately 16-by-16-foot kitchen and dining area.
Surprisingly, the stainless steel, which is echoed in the base of the white leather island stools ($10 each from Craigslist), has a warm vibe, reflecting the richness of the woods. The flooring is high-grade walnut in a rich brown, a color that simultaneously grounds the space, sets off the pale ash cabinetry, and pops against the white walls. “Combining different colors of wood works if they’re all high quality,” Reed says. “It was just a matter of figuring out which surfaces would be light and which dark.”
The flooring’s darker hue blends with the mahogany used for the deck, conceived, along with a new stone patio, by landscape designer Ed MacLean of Potted Up. As a result, when the wall of glass is retracted, outdoor and indoor work as a unified space, Reed says, practically doubling the living area. With a gas grill, a built-in wooden banquette to one side, and semi-circular loungers around a fire pit (that can also be topped to form a table), the deck extends not just the living space, but the season. “The kids are out there making s’mores well into fall,” says Julie. “It’s their favorite part of the house.”
When she pulls out the family’s original wish list, Julie thinks, Wow, we did pretty well. Even the boys’ friends, who are normally interested only in sniffing out where the video games are, comment on how cool it is, she notes.
Kim is tickled, too. “There’s no way you would know all this modernity is happening on the inside,” he says. “This same house that was built for a family in the 1920s works just as well for a family in 2014.”
KEEPING IT WARM
Try these tips for making modern more welcoming.
> Mix wood types, like this pairing of walnut flooring with golden highlights and ash cabinetry.
> If opting for white walls, choose a warm tone, such as Benjamin Moore White Dove, used throughout the condo.
> Select cabinetry in wood tones rather than white; they’re warmer, and the cabinets look more like furniture.
> Achieve an airier effect with a higher-than-standard toe kick for kitchen cabinets.
> Pay attention to details: A tiny indentation at the top of the island makes the countertop seem as though it’s floating.
> Incorporate rustic, earthy elements to contrast with sleeker finishes, such as the outdoor table from Restoration Hardware in the dining space.
> Bring the outdoors in with plants and verdant colors, like the chartreuse armchairs by Ligne Roset in the adjacent living room.
> Mix in rounded shapes to offset sharp lines, such as the circular patio furniture by Tropitone on the deck.