A House That's a Perfect Fit for a Family
The 1870s Italianate had lots of character but no breathing room for a couple with young kids—until the TOH TV project team arrived
Six years ago, Heather and Malcolm Faulds were condo dwellers in Cambridge when they fell for a 2,100-square-foot Italianate in the Boston suburb of Arlington, now the subject of the current This Old House TV season. "We loved the character of the house," says Malcolm, including its decorative roof brackets, double-height entry foyer, quartersawn oak floors, and original interior trim. "But we had a pretty long list of what needed to change, right from the start," says Heather. In sum: Open up the first floor, create a new kitchen where the family could gather, and retain the period details.
Enter architect David Whitney, who created a big open kitchen, sent the home office upstairs, and fit in a mudroom, a powder room, and a coat closet near the front entry, within the existing footprint. The plan called for adding just 200 square feet—to create a second-floor master suite over the kitchen.
Shown: The bold red exterior—painted Benjamin Moore's Raspberry Truffle—is authentic to the period of the house. Tom added a new, architecturally appropriate front-porch railing where one was lacking.
For TOH general contractor Tom Silva, the biggest challenges were below grade, where the leaky, crumbling rubble-stone foundation had to be fixed. Only then could the delightful discoveries begin, such as the original plaster crown molding uncovered in the living and dining rooms. "Those original elements really make the house feel like it still has its old character," says Tom.
With the place brought up to its full potential, living in a dream home is now an everyday reality for Heather and Malcolm and their two children, ages 7 and 5. And that to-do list they made when they bought the house? Done.
Shown: Tom replicated the original corbels under the eaves of the upstairs rear addition. The lower level was sheathed in white-painted pine beadboard to suggest a room that had been converted from a sunroom or porch.
Landscape architect: Cricket Beauregard Lewis, CBL Landscape Design, Arlington, MA; 781-643-2242
The living room, just off the entry foyer, retains its existing windows and some original details, including newly exposed and restored crown molding. Tom used the original 8-inch baseboard as a template for the base molding throughout the house. The entire home got an energy-efficient makeover, with insulation added in the walls and attic and new ductwork for a high-efficiency gas boiler installed in the basement.
Interior designer: Christine Tuttle Design, Dedham, MA
With its drop ceiling removed, the dining room sports newly exposed and repaired plaster crown molding and a window bay, now minus a hulking radiator. Tom filled in missing floorboards with matching quartersawn oak planks. He also made the passageway between the dining room and kitchen wider and higher, enhancing the open layout.
The window-lined eat-in kitchen was carved out of a home office at the back of the house, a cramped central kitchen, and a dividing wall with a defunct chimney. Prefinished chestnut floors and a teak island top warm up the white cabinets; in-floor radiant heat adds real warmth underfoot. With its microwave, sink, dishwasher, and seating, the island is meal-prep and snack-time central.
Kitchen designer: Kitchen Dimensions, Saratoga Springs, NY; 518-583-0081
Windsor chairs and barstools: D.R. Dimes.com
Paint: No. 2013 Matchstick (walls); Farrow & Ball
Kitchen windows: Jeld-Wen
Chestnut floor: Lumber Liquidators
Sink and Faucet: Kohler
Kitchen island top: The Grothouse Lumber Company; 610-767-6515
The cooking area is defined by black soapstone countertops. A cooktop with a patinated-copper vent hood sits along one wall; a baking center with undercounter ovens occupies the perpendicular wall. Flat- and glass-panel cabinets climb to the ceiling for ample storage. Subway tile and an apron-front sink complete the vintage feel.
The master bedroom was configured from an existing bedroom but enlarged to allow for a large closet and a dedicated bath, defined by pocket doors. Neutral colors with off-white walls and white trim keep the suite light and bright. The quartersawn oak floors are original.
Paint: No. 2008 Dimity (walls); Farrow & Ball
The master bath was created by expanding the second floor with additional square footage over the kitchen. Steam shower fittings and in-floor radiant heat add spa-like amenities. Limestone tiles cover the walls and floor, with a pebble stone surface in the shower. The double vanity is topped with white solid surfacing.
To give the family's new basement media room a sense of enclosure—and to create a decorative element in the adjacent play space—Tom built a sliding barn door from original floorboards that he salvaged from the attic. "I just oiled the wood and left some nails and imperfections," he says. Prefinished laminate flooring, painted rubble stone, and new drywall help give the basement an entirely fresh look, feel, and function.
While the footprint did not change, the first floor was opened up to accommodate the new kitchen, pantry, powder room, and mudroom areas.
On the second floor, the smallest of the four bedrooms is now an office. Only 200 square feet was added upstairs—to build a master bath and closet and to make a larger kids' bath.