Architecture goes from mundane to modern at Brookline
Kriper, who grew up in Uruguay, came to Boston in 2007 to work for the architecture and urban design firm Machado Silvetti; about 10 years ago he opened his own business. He said he is particularly fond of adaptive reuse projects. “It’s very rewarding work to bring historic buildings back to life,” he said.
The interior of this building – made up of small, fragmented spaces, outdated systems and decaying materials – was gutted. The outer shell, however, has been treated as an important element of a historic district, especially on the street frontage.
The house is now clad in crisp white siding. Traditional elements include the original fieldstone above the foundation; copper eaves; cedar on porch spindles, foundation lattice and underside of porch roof; and black metal frames and leaves for the windows, doors and skylight. A horizontal band halfway up the side of the building reflects its division into two units. To show off the refreshed Victorian style, crews removed overgrown bushes so the house is once again fully visible from the street.
While the front looks like it might have once looked, the rear is decidedly new. Black metal cladding marks an elevator shaft, rooftop skylight, and contemporary bay window. Contemporary gates provide access to each of the two units, and there is a new two-car garage and heated driveway.
To create two spacious units, Kriper found additional living space in areas usually relegated to storage: the basement and the attic. In Unit 1, which measures 2,565 square feet and occupies the first floor and basement, he dug in to create 9-foot ceiling heights on the lower level. Unit 2, 2,386 square feet, gained a high upper floor when he raised the attic ceiling to the rafters. Each four-bedroom unit connects the levels using elegant cantilevered staircases with oak risers. An elevator serves unit 2.
“We wanted to make the interior floor plan as open as possible,” Kriper said. To support this volume of space, a large concealed steel beam spans the building from front to back at the height of the dividing line between the two units.
“The spaces look effortless, but it took a lot of precision and craftsmanship to achieve this look,” he explained.
Kriper called the City of Brookline “very progressive” in its handling of historic neighborhoods and buildings.
“The policy is: restore in kind, but when adding don’t do ‘fake old’ and imitate what’s there,” he said. “It made for a satisfying and successful renovation.
“As architects, we want to add to buildings, but when working with old buildings, it takes some care. Sometimes you have to let the building reveal itself. It’s not always easy to find the balance.
At 523 Washington St., the balance between a Victorian exterior and a modern interior is a stunning combination.
Regina Cole can be reached at [email protected]. Subscribe to The Globe’s free property newsletter – our weekly digest on buying, selling and designing – at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on twitter @GlobeHomes and boston.com on Facebook.