Double Townhouse

Total renovation of two townhouses to create a single residence
Cambridge, MA

General Contractor Bortell/Stroud Associates

Our client, an MIT professor, had been living in his small, vertical 1976 townhouse for ten years when he purchased the adjacent house. The houses were designed by Bell and Fandetti who built many "townhouse communities" throughout Cambridge in the 1970s and 80s. The mono-pitch roofs, split-level plans, and exposed wood structures give the buildings a distinctive character. The buildings may be dated but they have terrific bones: good light, a compact plan, soaring vertical spaces, and an elemental structural system made of wood columns and beams with exposed metal fasteners.

We removed both existing stairs, which were no longer code compliant, and designed a new one that became the organizing device for the combined buildings. We added steel columns to reinforce the flimsy original structure. The newly acquired house had more outdoor space than the original, encouraging us to open the interior to the yard with a three story bay and sliding glass walls. A large dormer on the mezzanine level allows the office to feel like a nest.
The combined townhouse is, at a little over 2000 square feet, still relatively small, but along with the requisite living room, dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom we were able to include a man-cave, dressing room, dance studio, guest room, and three bathrooms.

One of the joys of having smart, engaged clients is that they suggest things like using Ingo Maurer's Porca Miseria chandelier in the two story space above the dining table, or using Penrose tiling.

After a fair amount of research and the help of a can-do tile installer, we had porcelain tiles cut into a "kite and dart" pattern, created full scale templates for the tile installation, and designed a bathroom unlike any other with tiles adhering to a mathematical formula that insures that—contrary to standard tile patterns—this one never repeats.