Home design: Carving out room for a bathroom in the attic and more space for family dining
Tim Pingree and Lucas Robertson, co-founders of SHAKE Architecture: Construction, spent months drawing iterations on the first floor of an 1848 Greek townhouse, a Charlestown house that Pingree’s friends bought after they moved from Australia. “It was a luxuriously drawn-out design process that was discussed at many dinners,” says Pingree, who first met the couple (and his own wife) at Williams College.
Pingree knew they would move the kitchen from the narrow outbuilding to the main part of the first floor and merge it with the living area at the front of the house. But where would the family eat? “They wanted a decent dining area with light and privacy without compromising the size of the kitchen and living area,” says the architect. The aha moment came in the middle of the night. Pingree realized that moving the back stairs to the outhouse at the back of the house (now a mud room) would create space for a cozy dining area off the kitchen.
Moving the stairs freed up space under the curved main staircase and a double-height room above. It was an ideal place to stow a banquet and dining table. The next question was how to shield it from the front entrance hall while still letting light through. Pingree’s solution was to design a curved wall that grows elegantly out of the sculptural main staircase. “We continued the existing shape so that it unfolds like the petals of a flower,” he says. “It was a formal geometric solution to the problem.”
The organization of the kitchen also required finesse. To accommodate the couple’s desire for a furniture-like central island with no appliances, the industrial area had to be placed against a wall – easier said than done given the massive chimney that ran through the house. “The masons cut a 36-inch span of bricks to create a niche for the range and then rebuilt the pillars on either side,” says Pingree.
They decided to leave the brick exposed during the construction process, and then fitted the adjacent wall with a reclaimed brick veneer. Pingree raised the lower sill of the rear left window so as not to disturb the sink and replaced the rear right window with a door that leads to a new mahogany deck. Cut Negresco granite worktops, an ode to the soapstone in the woman’s children’s home, match the black frames of the windows in sharp contrast to all white.
On a flight, Pingree combined the couple’s bedroom with the bedroom beyond, turning the back into a walk-in closet and bathroom. The rooms are connected by a wide passage interrupted by an original Italian marble mantelpiece from the 19th century that they have carefully restored. “We dedicated a generous amount of space to the connection between the bedroom and the bathroom to show off the fireplace,” says Pingree.
Floor-to-ceiling glass shower walls allow sunlight to enter the room from the tall rear windows, which is the woman’s favorite part of the renovation. She often uses her laptop by the bleached ash makeup vanity in the bathroom while her young children play on the original pumpkin pine floor. High oval mirrors with black frames reflect even more light in the room.
Knowing that it would take a few years for them to complete this major renovation, the couple asked Pingree to convert an existing bathroom before they moved in so they could bathe the children somewhere. It remains the only tub in the house. For the recent renovation, the couple hired Pingree to find space for a bathroom in the attic. By removing a knee wall, Pingree was able to wedge a full-height shower, a narrow sink, and a wall-hung toilet under an eaves. What used to be an unfinished, uninsulated closet is now a chic black and white bathroom with subway tiles.
The process is in sync with the language Pingree uses to detail the details of the architecture and construction. “It was about peeling things back and highlighting existing features with contemporary interventions,” he says. “It’s like an operation.”
Architect and Contractor: SHAKE Architecture: Construction, shakeac.com
Photo by Sabrina Cole Quinn / Styled by Leslie FrancisPhoto by Sabrina Cole Quinn / Styled by Leslie FrancisPhoto by Sabrina Cole Quinn / Styled by Leslie FrancisPhoto by Sabrina Cole Quinn / Styled by Leslie Francis
Marni Elyse Katz writes regularly for Globe Magazine. Send comments to [email protected]