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This 5-story townhouse is located in Boston’s historic South End. The homeowners are a husband, wife and two young children. When the home was purchased, it was in terrible shape. The roof had been leaking for decades and the back wall was slowly coming off. Most of the original architectural detailing was gone. It was, however, located on a unique shared park - a collective backyard.
Creative Floor Plans
The husband and wife team of Jeffrey Butz and Pamela Klug had renovated other homes surrounding the park and the clients said “we want that.” This house, however, was 4’ narrower than the one they had seen and of course nothing would fit. It was this narrower dimension that provoked a lot of the creativity on the home’s layout. On the second floor, for instance, there is the hallway, a full bathroom, a laundry room, a guest room and two kids’ rooms in less than 600 square feet. This led to the opportunity of having a giant sliding door, a sliding wall really, separating the kids’ rooms and making the whole floor seem much more spacious.
The top floor, the master suite, was too narrow to have a central bathroom so the only place to locate the bathroom was at the front of the house. In a larger house this would seem extravagant and here it becomes a beautiful space for the master bath.
Oddly enough the front and rear parlors are complete recreations, nothing was left of the original rooms because the water damage was so bad.
Butz & Klug put a lot of thought toward the home’s rear window wall. The clients wanted to open the house up to the collective park but didn’t want it to be out of character with the other surrounding buildings. Subsequently, all the rear windows are custom made. Butz & Klug designed wood windows with very thin profiles that matched the original woodwork so that the texture and scale of the windows would be consistent with the original windows on the park. This consistency of detailing allowed them to use a variety of window types that would adjust to the use of the room. The parlor has three fixed glass and two triple hung windows, a type consistent with the room’s historic detailing. These triple hung windows can be used as doors when the two lower sash are raised. When the upper sash is down it offers ventilation with its screen. There are two triple-hung windows so that during a gathering when folks want to go out on to the deck they can circulate in and out.
On the master bedroom level there is fixed glass and one door to the outside with a skinny opening for cross ventilation.
The kitchen has the best windows. Butz & Klug has always loved the openings in buildings during construction when there is nothing there, and it is always a bit of a disappointment when the building is finished. So they wanted to try to preserve the power of that construction moment in the finished home. In the kitchen the rear windows and curtains fold completely out of the way into a cabinet leaving almost no trace of their existence and creating a floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall opening. There is a retractable screen so the doors can be left open all day during the summer and the kitchen becomes almost an exterior room, part of the park.
On the lowest level, where the kids hang out, the connection to the park is direct and the windows are similar to the top floor,
Butz & Klug did the interiors and designed many of the details in the home including a desk, sink, towel warmer, furniture and window hardware which is 3D printed. They worked closely with several interesting craftspeople including the steel fabricator who put steel in the back wall to within 1/8” tolerance over 65 feet.
In Victorian and Georgian London one would find houses like these with amazing woodwork and very roughly textured floors. This is because the floors were swept by hand with sand to clean them and the process left this wonderful texture. Jeffrey Butz and Pamela Klug always loved the contrast between that well-crafted building and the pronounced texture of the floor, which by the way feels great underfoot. So, in this house they used wide plank engineered white oak that is wire brushed to create a worn texture and is finished with Woca (Danish) oil so it looks like nothing is on it.
As an urban house, it is energy efficient since 60% of the exterior is shared by the neighbors. It recharges all of its ground water, which is an issue in Boston since it is located on fill.