House Tour: Steve's Remodeled North End Sanctuary

House Tour: Steve's Remodeled North End Sanctuary

Kyle Freeman
Aug 1, 2008

Name: Steve

Location: Boston, MA

Size: 693 sq/ft

Years lived in: Rented for 7 years, Owned for 3 years

For those who aren't familiar with Boston's North End, affectionately known as "Little Italy", it's the city's oldest neighborhood and one of the most vibrant and intimate neighborhoods in Beantown. We've always wanted to step foot inside more North End apartments, so we were delighted to have the opportunity to tour Steve's remodeled North End treasure...

Steve's condo is a deep labor of love. When Steve decided to upgrade from renter to owner three years ago (in the same space) he was confronting some significant health challenges. Maybe that's why there is a particularly palpable sense of joy and humble pride you feel upon entering his space. Steve clearly poured his heart into this demolition and remodel, in which he transformed a compartmentalized and partitioned dark space into one bright free-flowing open floor plan.

Steve's decorating and design style is definitely minimalist (he's in the process of adding some artwork) which allows for greater appreciation of the architectural details like the interior brick wall, the lovely blue tile in the bathroom, the sleek pocket door, and the self-designed grey tile mosaic in the kitchen.

AT Survey

Style: Modern minimalist with influences from Northern Europe (e.g. Germany, Sweden) and Asian (e.g. Japan, Hong Kong) architecture and living spaces.

Inspiration: I purchased the apartment which I had rented for many years. The previous owner had subdivided the space, but I always knew the apartment could be more than it was. So the day after closing, I began a process of demolition to the studs (no walls, no drop ceilings, no counter tops - just pure open space) to live and get a feel of what the place could be. Though it was not easy, I lived for months in the space while developing a scapbook of ideas from design magazines. Then one day in Germany I was reading a magazine, 20 Private Wohntraume, that profiled an apartment in London. At that moment, my ideas started to flow and I began the creation process. I had found my starting point.

Favorite Element: The creative collaboration between myself, the architect and the builder. Due to budget constraints, I worked with the architect during the design process, but was left to execute and interpret the plan with the builder.

Biggest Challenge: Since it was a complete gut renovation, how to distribute the construction budget across multiple rooms while monitoring overall investment so that it could be recouped in the long term. Plus, I had to move into a hotel for two months.

What Friends Say: Considering that my previous furniture collection consisted of a card table, two folding chairs and a mattress, "I never thought you could do this."

Biggest Embarrassment: I should have involved the HVAC contractor much earlier in the design process which would have allowed for a more creative use of space. Ductwork is hard to change after the fact.

Proudest DIY: Did more than half of the demolition myself. I remember the words of the Home Depot salesperson, "Buy this sledgehammer and crowbar, turn off the power and start swinging." Also, I picked out all of the fixtures, appliances and tile (I surprised myself. See "What Friends Say?").

Biggest Indulgence: The bathroom medicine cabinet. Due to the design of the bathroom, I needed a vertical setup rather than the traditional horizontal orientation. When I saw it in a catalog, I knew it was the perfect fit, but it cost more than my dishwasher.

Best advice: Don't be afraid to get professional help early in the process. Though it might seem like an extra expense, it enabled me to be more creative, make better decisions and develop a more satisfying finished product. Trust your gut feeling when making decisions.

Dream Sources:

Architecture: Katy and Kristen at THEREdesign

Construction: Dave at Colony Construction - 508-524-0629

Appliances: Yale Appliance

Art: Pam Reynolds

Kitchen and cabinetry: Ikea

Inspiration: Dwell magazine, Interior Design Magazine, Taschen Books

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