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Braver's New World

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

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.

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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