3 Things to Know About Living in a Converted Firehouse, According to Someone Who Did

published Mar 16, 2020
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Credit: Jake Belcher

When Tim Williams decided he was ready to buy a place in Boston, he, like many homebuyers there, was stunned by the prices. After a quick search of the lower end of the market, he found a converted firehouse for sale in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

“The firehouse was literally the cheapest place on the market the year I was looking,” Williams says. “And it happened to be one of the places I could afford.”

Though he says it was fairly dilapidated and unattractive at the time, Williams sprung for the condo inside the firehouse and managed to transform the 398-square-foot space into an exceedingly charming home. He has since sold the place, but shared three things to know about life in a converted firehouse. 

It’s important to embrace your home’s historical significance

Williams was quick to dig into the firehouse’s history, and soon learned it was home to one of the first automated fire trucks in Boston. “I have a picture of the firehouse from back then,” he says. “I can actually see my living room window—the bay for where the fire truck was parked is where my living room is now.”

Williams also sourced a century-old map of the neighborhood, and was able to identify the firehouse on the map. He says having that connection to his home’s history makes living in a unique place all the more special. “It’s cool to see that permanence even though the neighborhood has changed a lot,” he says.

Credit: Jake Belcher

But resist the urge to make that its only significance

“There might be a tendency for someone moving into a converted place to have that be the theme of the dwelling,” Williams says. In other words, firehouse dwellers may be inclined to decorate with fire station-themed art and ephemera. While Williams admits it’d be easy to find old firehouse decor, he prefers to let the building’s historical elements speak for themselves. 

“Showcase those (elements) by making everything around them functional or beautiful,” he says.

He points to his home’s arched window. He prefers to let it be the focus (and main light source) of the room, rather than distracting from it with forced decor. Once you embrace a space’s one-of-a-kind features, Williams explains, the rest of the design seems to fall in place naturally. 

And be open to being surprised

“There’s always the the element of surprise that comes with living in an old place,” Williams says. From hidden closets to unexpected quirks, converted house owners likely never have a dull moment.

“There’s a cavernous space at the top of the firehouse that nothing has been done to,” he says. “I went up and snuck into the ceiling one day and it’s just this beautiful, gorgeous unused space. So it was fun to explore around there. Sometimes you find stuff that’s very old and kind of junky, but I love stuff like that.”