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Staying faithful to modernist roots during a Lincoln kitchen redo

The owners asked their architect to rethink the dated 1950s galley kitchen while playing off the glass-backed home’s original sensibilities.

The four beams that support the home’s classic mid-century-style gable roof extend from indoors to out and are painted gray to accentuate the architecture. “The architects made a point of revealing the home’s structure; we want to celebrate the appearance,” architect Colin Flavin says.
The four beams that support the home’s classic mid-century-style gable roof extend from indoors to out and are painted gray to accentuate the architecture. “The architects made a point of revealing the home’s structure; we want to celebrate the appearance,” architect Colin Flavin says.(Nat Rea)

In deciding to purchase the glass-backed split-level 1955 home in Tabor Hill, a modernist colony in Lincoln, Joanne and Tom Arneman were drawn to its history as much as its design. The architects were a husband-and-wife duo, Robert T. and Jean Coolidge (he was a relative of President Calvin Coolidge), who attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the 1940s; Jean Coolidge was in its first class of female architects. That appealed to the Arnemans, who have entertained the idea of going into business together.

"Their story helped us form an attachment to the house," Tom says. And because it was created for the architects' goddaughter, the house was built with sturdier-than-usual materials and construction methods. "It came from his heart," Tom says.

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The Arnemans, who moved from Arlington in May with their kids, Eva, 6, and Roman, 4, hired Colin Flavin of Boston-based Flavin Architects to rethink the dated 1950s galley kitchen. Playing off the original sensibilities, Flavin widened the footprint to a still-modest 10 feet by 16 feet to add some breathing room and accommodate the must-have island. Flavin left the kitchen in the center of the home, with the dining room in front and the family room behind, but opened up a wall with an ingenious cabinet design to take advantage of the woodsy view.

"The style is sympathetic to the original era," Flavin says. "I think the Coolidges would have really liked it."

The Arneman family gathers around the L-shaped island, with Joanne and 6-year-old Eva perched on clear acrylic counter stools that help keep the narrow area in front of the glass sliders open and airy. Blue-gray cabinetry sets off the kitchen from the swaths of white surrounding it and also grounds the space, which floats in the middle of the house, extending to neither walls nor ceiling.  Upper cabinetry is supported by  two posts, eliminating the need for  a solid backsplash and allowing peekaboo glimpses of the dining area and the outdoors beyond.
The Arneman family gathers around the L-shaped island, with Joanne and 6-year-old Eva perched on clear acrylic counter stools that help keep the narrow area in front of the glass sliders open and airy. Blue-gray cabinetry sets off the kitchen from the swaths of white surrounding it and also grounds the space, which floats in the middle of the house, extending to neither walls nor ceiling. Upper cabinetry is supported by two posts, eliminating the need for a solid backsplash and allowing peekaboo glimpses of the dining area and the outdoors beyond.(Nat Rea)
Architect Colin Flavin captured extra space to accommodate the range by carving into the chimney and removing two flues. The original tile remains on that wall and was painted pale gray. At Flavin’s suggestion, the front door was painted shocking pink.
Architect Colin Flavin captured extra space to accommodate the range by carving into the chimney and removing two flues. The original tile remains on that wall and was painted pale gray. At Flavin’s suggestion, the front door was painted shocking pink.(Nat Rea)
Clear globe pendants from West Elm hang above a vintage mid-century-modern table the Arnemans bought from a friend, who had inherited it from her grandmother. The couple installed automatic blinds for the windows, which face south.
Clear globe pendants from West Elm hang above a vintage mid-century-modern table the Arnemans bought from a friend, who had inherited it from her grandmother. The couple installed automatic blinds for the windows, which face south.(Nat Rea)

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.