written by:
photos by:
December 29, 2011
Originally published in Inspired Renovation

A revamp of this small suburban Massachusetts home doubled its size while giving the yard, the neighbors, and the planet a little breathing room.

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Modern geometric house with roof deck

Previously, the house had just a small screened-in porch as its only outside space, “unless you wanted to put plastic chairs on the front lawn, which some people did,” Braver says, laughing. A generous roof deck atop the garage was a winning way to allow a survey of the neighborhood during Massachusetts’ Indian summers.

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Outdoor wooden cedar slat screen

The cedar screen that extends out from the dining and living rooms traces the line of the actual setback and reads not as a wall of the house but as a delineator of exterior space. The same material is used on the railing on the roof deck and offers a bit of privacy without, according to Braver, “looking like a stockade.”

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Outdoor backyard area with see-through wooden fence

A pair of large outdoor rooms projects off the glassed-in living room at the front of the house (here) and the kitchen in the back. By better connecting the home to the outdoors, SsD further increased its livable area. “For the part of the year that they’re usable,” Braver says, “they’re wonderful spaces in which to read and to enjoy.”

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A modern renovation in Newton, Massachussets

To maintain a sense of scale with regards to the lot, the Braver house was built up, down, and back. Through a series of split-levels, the previously one-story home is now three-and-a-half levels, with much of the new square footage reaching into the backyard.The asymmetrical angle of the roof’s pitch isn’t architectural whimsy. Instead, it simultaneously hides an array of solar panels from view while optimizing its angle to the sun.

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Living room with open windows

The living room at the front of the house benefits from the privacy afforded from the cedar screen and the light let in by a wall of windows. The wood-burning stove and collection of paintings give the modern home a bit of New England charm.

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Modern interior with floor-to-ceiling glass windows

Always a pleasure to take in the outdoors from an executive chair by Eero Saarinen for Knoll.

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Exterior view of modern geometric angled house

The fenestration here mimics the stairs inside. The sloping site allowed SsD Architecture to put the interior spaces on a series of floors and half floors.

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Multi-floored living space with wooden floors

This office is up one flight of stairs from the ground floor, but still down half a level from Braver's library (seen through the door).

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Dining room with open windows

The dining room, just off the kitchen, is actually down a half level from the living room and entry. You can see the other outdoor room outside the sliding glass door.

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Modern geometric house with roof deck

Previously, the house had just a small screened-in porch as its only outside space, “unless you wanted to put plastic chairs on the front lawn, which some people did,” Braver says, laughing. A generous roof deck atop the garage was a winning way to allow a survey of the neighborhood during Massachusetts’ Indian summers.

Project 
Braver House
Architect 

John Braver’s sylvan neighborhood in Newton, Massachusetts, has seen its fair share of lot-busting renovations in the last few years. A common tactic—if you’re not buying two lots and combining them into a hulking manse—is to knock down one of the 1,100-or-so-square-foot ranch houses from the late 1950s and replace it with a setback-hugging behemoth built as high as the local zoning laws allow. But Braver, a doctor on the faculty of radiology at Harvard University, wanted more (or, rather, less) than what he saw all around him.

He employed Jinhee Park and John Hong of architecture firm SsD to help him “spread out a little bit” without letting his living room swallow up the lawn. By building up (to add a second floor and roof deck), down (to create a split-level kitchen and office space), and green (to benefit from a passive ventilation stack and a solar array to heat water) the Braver house has gone from 1,300 square feet to a more expansive 2,600 without blowing things all out of proportion.

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