OverUnder turns iconic Boston building into single-family residence

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Boston architecture studio OverUnder has renovated a heritage-listed Victorian home, extending the property to the rear and updating interiors with a contemporary, minimalist palette.


The property is located in the South End of Boston, an area characterized by its Victorian and Italian architectural influences.

The three-unit property has been renovated into a single-family home

The exterior appearance of the building is under the protection of the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC).

The challenge for OverLess was to complete a complete renovation of what was previously a three-unit house into a new single-family residence, without compromising the exterior appearance of the building.

Interior view of living space at Boston House
OverUnder demolished the interior of the house and redesigned it from scratch

“The interior of the house was completely demolished right down to the side brick walls, the front facade and the roof,” the team said.

“Since the design team decided to remove all of the interiors and the back wall, they had a blank slate to work with.”

A blackened steel staircase connects the upper levels

As the demolition work progressed, the team discovered that the party walls did not have the expected load-bearing capacity that would be required for the new configuration.

They addressed this problem by creating ring beams – horizontal structural members bolted to party walls on each floor – to support the new floors.

Access to the basement is via a staircase lined with wood

“The new floor joists extended inside the ring beam, which created a much stronger wall and floor, making the building structurally sound,” OverUnder said.

The architects laid out the 3,100 square feet (288 square meters) of the interior over five floors, including the basement, creating space for four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms.

A bedroom built wardrobes at Boston House
The studio used Douglas fir for the built-in elements throughout the house

An extension was built to the rear of the house, facing Waltham Street, using bricks salvaged from the demolition process.

This volume houses the kitchen and the back deck on the first floor, as well as a home gym, a new entrance and a cloakroom on the ground floor.

The staircase leading to a spa in the basement is completely clad in wood.

“We wanted to create the impression that it was cut from a single block of wood, so the walls, steps and risers are all Douglas fir and finished with the same white soap and lye,” said OverUnder.

A mud room was created as part of an extension to the rear

A blackened steel staircase connects the remaining three levels continuously and is illuminated by a skylight in the roof.

At each landing, OverUnder has included glass railings rather than steel, which helps bring as much light as possible to the interiors.

The Boston house is located around the corner
The Victorian-style property is located in Boston’s famous South End neighborhood

Other interior finishes include laundry washed Douglas Fir, which was used for the flooring, fitted wardrobes and accent walls.

“We also removed any unnecessary details such as baseboards, window and door frames, and ceiling cornices,” OverUnder said. “We used frameless doors and put the plaster back on the window jambs and created a half inch shadow space between the bottom of the walls and the floor.”

The rear extension was built using bricks removed during the interior demolition

Despite the structural challenges and the compact footprint, the result is a property with generous interiors and a contemporary feel.

Also in Boston, Merge Architects carried out a lodging corrugated steel clad development facing the harbor. There have also been plans for a carbon neutral development using CLT timber construction by Generate.

The photograph is from Bob o’connor.


Project credits:
Architecture: OverUnder
Interior fittings: MVA Home
Site manager: Plattypus Construction
Structural engineer: Davidson Engineering
Geotechnical engineer: KMM Geotechnical
Civil Engineer: Doyle Engineering
Lighting consultant: System7


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