by Suzanne Besser
When they were house hunting several years ago, a young couple living on Charles Street knew exactly what they were looking for. It took them a year to find it.
And when they did, they remodeled it to fit their lifestyle so attractively and effectively that it was chosen one of eight unique kitchens in Beacon Hill and Back Bay to be featured on the 2016 Creative Kitchens Tour, sponsored by the Beacon Hill Village on April 9.
“We wanted a house that reflected the way we live,” said the wife and mother of three young children. “We don’t live formal lives. Our tendency is to spend most of our time in the kitchen. We love to cook. It is how I relax. I wanted a spot where our kids can create and be kids while my husband and I are cooking.”
But many of the brownstones in Boston are still set up in their original layout, such that the kitchen is located in the garden level and the more formal rooms are on the first floor. “But that layout would have been too formal for us,” said the homeowner. She said they love to entertain, but prefer casual informal dining with everyone happily crowded together around the table. In addition, they wanted to use every bit of space in their home instead of having any unused rooms.
So the couple asked one of her childhood friends, Beacon Hill interior designer Nina Farmer, to come along with them on the hunt for the new home. Farmer was well aware of how they lived and wanted to entertain.
“I had the unique opportunity of looking for the right house with my client,” said Farmer. “It took almost a year of searching because of the specific requirements they wanted met…one of which was that the kitchen has easy access from the front door.”
“When we discovered this house, we loved the bones of it,” said the mom. “It had a gorgeous kitchen on the lower level with access to the garden and formal parlors on the first level. But it didn’t fit the way we live. We wanted more useable space and a bigger kitchen.”
Farmer saw the first floor, originally built to be a formal double parlor with two fireplaces and an adjacent narrow hallway space next to the stairs, as an opportunity to create a large eat-in kitchen and sitting area.
“When I saw the house for the first time I immediately envisioned joining the two rooms together to create a floor-through space, removing one of the fireplaces to make room for cabinetry and an extra superfluous staircase to fit in a powder room and coat closet,” said Farmer. “This allowed us to create a breakfast area, working kitchen and a seating area with a fireplace.”
She designed the kitchen cabinetry to extend along the entire sidewall and tiled the other exposed areas in a white brick subway tile to help the continuity of the space. At the other end of this room is the living room. Throughout the project, Farmer was cognoscente of the historic quality of the house but also updated it so it looks and feels current.
And the young family loves it. On the garden level with easy outside access to an alley behind are the scooters, strollers and multitude of other kids’ gear accumulated by three young children and a Yorkshire Terrier.
On the first floor with easy access to the street level is the gleaming white and spacious kitchen filled with all signs of their family life. Below the island’s counter are book shelves laden with cookbooks and children’s books, Go Fish cards and a game of Zingo.
A look behind the doors of the floor-to-ceiling cabinetry on the right sidewall reveals a cabinet for each child to fill with his or her own special toys and treasures; those higher up are reserved for the parent’s desk accruements and other gadgets necessary for every day life.
On the other side of the island are all the top end appliances and accessories the family cooks might need to cook up a storm while the children busily entertain themselves. And all can gather around the fireplace in the living area at the rear, or step out onto an adjoining deck reaching out above one of Beacon Hill’s legendary hidden gardens.
The third annual Creative Kitchens Tour will be held rain or shine from 1-4 p.m. on April 9. A limited number of tickets are available for a special pre-tour Luncheon at the Hampshire House, which will honor the Tour’s founder Kitty Flather. Tickets for the Luncheon and Tour are $135, and should be purchased in advance.
Tickets for the Tour only are $50 and may be purchased in advance at www.beaconhillvillage.org or by calling the office at 617-723-9713. They will be available on the day of the Tour for $60 at the Hampshire House, 84 Beacon Street, or at the Cambridge Trust Company, 65 Beacon Street. All proceeds benefit Beacon Hill Village. For more information, call 617-723-9713.