For its 2010 season, the This Old House TV crew is tackling a curb-appeal Cinderella—a ho-hum house along the Charles River that they plan to transform into an architectural thing of beauty.
The 1940s Colonial Revival with Georgian influences is an anomaly among its suburban Boston neighbors. Compared with the cozy cottages and their meticulously maintained gardens elsewhere on the street, the house is charmless. It has a featureless facade, bland paint job, and a seemingly tacked-on garage (actually original to the house) whose flat roofline is incongruous with the house's hipped roof.
The back of the place isn't much better. A rickety sunroom on the main floor needs replacing, and the home's small casement windows do little to take advantage of its most valuable feature: commanding riverfront views. Those small windows also give the interior spaces a dark and dreary atmosphere—a condition further exacerbated by yards of dark-stained woodwork.
Enter local architect Harriet Christina ("Chris") Chu, who will work with TOH general contractor Tom Silva and team to add character and curb appeal. Chu's plans include a projecting entry-hall addition, a new front window, a fresh paint job, and a pergola that will tone down the garage protrusion. TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook will also add a welcoming bluestone walkway, as well as some elaborate gardens that'll no doubt make this one of the prettiest homes on the block.
The flat-topped garage will get a gabled roof, which will help it meld better with the house itself. In back, the old sun porch will be demolished and rebuilt on top of a new family room, which will extend from the walkout basement. A new deck with cascading stairs will also create a much-needed connection between the backyard and the river.
Inside, Tom Silva and his team will strategically remove walls to create more-open spaces, paint dark woodwork to brighten the interior, and add new, larger windows that will open up the house to the outdoors.
All of these plans are music to the ears of excited homeowners Raveen and Allison Sharma, who bought the place because of the neighborhood. While they admit their house has some fine attributes as is, they're looking forward to the enhanced river views as well as the new and expanded kitchen Chu has in mind for them. It will become an ideal spot for the couple and their two children to gather at mealtimes, as well as a place for Raveen, an avid cook, to prepare his favorite dishes.
Over the course of 16 episodes, the perennial challenges of limited time and a limited budget will run up against this house's specific hurdles, which include asbestos removal, termite damage, new EPA lead-paint-removal laws, and conservation measures to protect the river.
In the end, though, this "transformation on the Charles" will be dramatic both outside and in, as the TOH team and Chu work together with the Sharmas to create a bright, up-to-date home that's worthy of its neighbors—and its site on Boston's most famous river.
New episodes of the Auburndale house project begin airing in October on PBS. Check local listings for dates and times in your area.