A South End renovation cleverly brings in natural light
Unafraid to push the boundaries, a creative couple greenlights an unconventional design.
At first glance, Lark Carrier and Gerry Millet’s South End town house didn’t really need a renovation. “It was perfectly fine,” says architect Meejin Yoon of Boston-based firm Howeler + Yoon Architecture.
“Once we met, however, we realized they were interested in pushing boundaries of design to transform it.”
Carrier and Millet purchased the 2,100-square-foot, four-story dwelling in 1994. The couple — Carrier is a children’s book author/illustrator turned painter and Millet is a retired ad agency creative director and photographer — lived and worked in the house contentedly for years, but knew at some point they’d re-imagine it. In 2013, they contacted Howeler + Yoon, remembering a 2007 article featuring a Chinatown loft project the firm had designed. They knew Yoon and her partner, Eric Howeler, were the only ones for the job.
The goal was to modernize and bring light into the house while unifying the four floors. “Each level felt very separate as one moved though the dark stairwell,” says Yoon. At the same time, everyone agreed that new design elements should not supersede the historical elements, but rather work with and speak to them.
Inspired by the mid-20th-century Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, whom Howeler admires for creating “great examples of discrete architectural interventions within a historic shell,” the architects called for what are essentially light boxes on each floor. Made from panels of frosted glass edged in stainless steel, the boxes render one corner of each floor translucent by allowing natural light to pass through the windows in the back of the house into the middle of the rooms. In addition, LED lights are embedded in the boxes, so at night, with the flick of a switch, they glow softly — and can be adjusted via dimmer.
“They totally tie together the four floors,” Carrier says, “giving the illusion that there’s a shaft of light running from the top of the house to the bottom. It’s genius.”
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