Living in the oldest home in Winchester, Massachusetts, sure has its charms. But with a blended family of seven, Craig and Kate Carswell knew the charm of a 1750 home wasn’t going to sustain their lifestyle for long. As the home had only one full bathroom, their kids would often run to the barn in the mornings and use the outdoor shower to make it to school on time. “I’m sure our neighbors saw lots of naked boys in towels running across the backyard,” Kate says.
The Carswells desperately needed more room.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here:
Craig and Kate Carswell and their five children
3,700 square feet (344 square meters); six bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms
Around 1750; new addition added in 2014
BEFORE: While quaint, the existing home, shown here, was neglected and in need of updating. The Johnson-Thompson House, as it’s called, is a Georgian two-story farmhouse and is the oldest structure in Winchester. The house is attributed to William Johnson, a prominent local resident when Winchester was part of the town of Woburn. Caroline Johnson married Timothy Thompson in 1858, and the house remained in the Thompson family until 1994. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photos by Eric Roth Photography
The Carswells hired Cummings Architects
to put life back into their nearly 300-year-old home. While certainly livable, it needed some maintenance and upgrades. Lead architect Mathew Cummings says the previous owner was an architect with more modern taste and had hidden a lot of the historic characteristics, such as the original beams, and the layout of some of the spaces, such as the kitchen, was awkward.
For the original portion of the home, shown here, the scope of work included structural work, insulation, central air, new and refinished wood floors, woodwork, new wood windows — and lots of painting.
Builder Shawn Cayer of Windhill Builders says that every step of the demolition process was carefully monitored so that the integrity of the original workmanship stayed intact and the materials were preserved for reuse.
Cayer removed the old cedar shakes and installed new traditional cedar clapboard siding anchored with hand-driven stainless steel ring shank nails, and painted it a historic gold color.
Exterior siding paint: Stuart Gold HC-10; exterior trim paint: White Sand OC-10, both by Benjamin Moore
Untreated cedar shingles cover the exterior of the new addition, seen here. The addition includes a kitchen, a living room, a laundry room, three and a half bathrooms and two bedrooms.
Two new oval windows in the foyer bring more light into the once dark space. The front door has salvaged hinges and an old-time lock with skeleton key from Wiliamsburg Blacksmiths
. Kate’s grandmother’s wet bar acts as a console table.
New eastern white pine flooring, a staple in the Northeast at the time the house was built, was installed throughout the home, except in three of the upstairs bedrooms, where the wood floors were refinished. For natural variation, the planks on the first floor vary in width from 10 to 16 inches, while those on the second floor range in width from 8 to 12 inches.
Wall paint: Covington Blue HC-138; trim paint: Cream Fleece 233, both by Benjamin Moore
BEFORE: Prior to the renovation, the Carswells had set up their dining room in this space, which became a parlor after the renovation. The door on the left led to the original kitchen, which got replaced by a mudroom. A new kitchen was included in the addition.
The parlor serves as an intimate living room. The sofa has a pullout bed for guests. The doorway behind the rocking chair leads to the new mudroom.
Kate tackled the decorating herself, and says it’s a work in progress. Most of the furniture is from Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, but some of the items sprinkled throughout are from HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx. “I’m always on the prowl for the perfect fit,” she says. Other decor items she found online, in garden centers or on vacations. The antique rocking chair was a gift. The mirror above the wet bar seen through the door on the right once hung in Kate’s great-grandmother’s house. It then hung in her grandmother’s house and her mother’s house.
Wall paint: Cream Fleece 233; trim paint: Great Barrington Green HC-122
Before the renovation, this bar area off the parlor was a passageway that housed some white adjustable shelving. Black walnut forms the countertop in the foreground, while honed granite covers the countertop in the back.
Cabinets: Ipswich Cabinetry; hardware: House of Antique Hardware; cabinet and trim paint: Philadelphia Cream HC-30, Benjamin Moore
The new dining room occupies a space in the original structure, to the right of the foyer. The beam running through the ceiling is original to the house. Classic floral drapery in gray and earth tones and a style-appropriate light fixture over the dining table nod to the era when the home was built.
Wall paint: Horizon OC-53; trim paint: Philadelphia Cream HC-30, both by Benjamin Moore; drapes: Pottery Barn; light: Lucía Lighting & Design
Off the dining room, the kitchen and living room occupy the new addition. These two spaces embrace a more open plan and allow natural light to flood the interior of the home. Although there’s about 270 years’ difference between the two structures, there’s little visual delineation between old and new. Cayer says the details in the design and the finishes make it appear as though the house has always included these rooms. “The details had to be spot-on to create that flow,” he says.
Wall paint: Manchester Tan HC-81; trim paint: White Dove OC-17, both by Benjamin Moore
All of the new eastern white pine flooring was installed using hand-driven nails fromTremont Nail Co.
, just as would have been done in the 18th century. In this image, you can see the nails in each of the planks.
The kitchen countertops are a mixture of black walnut and honed black granite. The ceiling beam, while structural, helps to visually tie the new and old sections together.
Kate says during the week, the house is full of action and the kitchen island is command central, with homework, art projects and the inevitable grazing with five kids. With all the sports practices and games, it’s rare that all seven of them are home at the same time during the week, so meals are eaten primarily at the island. Kate says even when they host parties, eventually everyone gathers around the island. On weekends, the pace slows a bit and meals are eaten in the dining room, which Kate says is her favorite room, especially when it’s cold and they have the fireplace going.
Pendants: Besa Lighting
During the renovation, Cayer found bricks being used as insulation inside an upstairs bedroom wall. He cut them into veneers and repurposed them as a kitchen backsplash. Because they’re handmade bricks and are different sizes and thicknesses, they’re not uniform and have a little sway to them. “We felt that it brings even more character to the house,” Cayer says.
Cabinets: Ipswich Cabinetry; hardware: Richelieu; cabinet paint: Dune White 968, Benjamin Moore
A sitting area greets the family at the top of the original staircase and railing.
Stair tread paint: Jet Black 2120-10, Benjamin Moore
The star of the project is the master bathroom in the new addition. Kate says it’s truly the wow factor when she shows people the house. Cummings says the two-story bathroom is a bright, cheery space to start the morning and a refreshing break from the old home’s lower ceiling heights.
Standout features include a glass shower with bench, a wide double vanity with custom cabinetry, a salvaged sliding barn door that hides a walk-in closet, and a claw-foot tub.
Shower wall tile: Medium Marmol Venatino Brush porcelain, Tile by Design; shower floor: octagonal midnight tumbled slate
The deep double-ended roll-top claw-foot tub rests in an alcove between the walk-in closet and the water closet. Made of a mixture of volcanic limestone and resin, it retains heat better than cast iron or acrylic.
Wall paint: Wickham Gray HC-171; trim paint: Coventry Gray HC-169, both by Benjamin Moore;Cheshire tub: Victoria + Albert
The master bedroom sits in the original home, and a palette of period-appropriate grays is an elegant improvement over the previous light yellow and blue color scheme. Cayer says old doors from the period were combined with replicated new handmade planed ones and installed in the original part of the house. However, since antique doors aren’t a standard size, new door frames were required to make them fit. Configuring antique door hardware to make it operable proved challenging as well.
The fireplace is original to the house, and only needed cleaning and the mantel painted.
Wall paint: Wedgewood Gray HC-146; trim paint: Coventry Gray HC-169, both by Benjamin Moore
In the bedroom where the insulating bricks were found, the family and the design and construction team decided to frame and expose some of the bricks as a nod to the history of the home.
Wall paint: Sail Cloth PM-21; trim paint: Lehigh Green HC-131, both by Benjamin Moore
Wide-plank pine flooring continues from the kitchen into the laundry room. “With five kids who all play multiple sports, the laundry is endless,” Kate says. A cheery red and white chevron wallpaper and framed poems and pictures from her kids make it more enjoyable.
Wallpaper: Feather, Serena & Lily; wall paint: Revere Pewter HC-172; trim paint: White Dove OC-17, both by Benjamin Moore
French doors connect the kitchen to a covered porch while another set opens from the family room to a fire pit area. “We also have a great big yard and detached barn that houses Ping-Pong, air hockey, foosball — where you can often find the boys,” Kate says.
Here’s a plan of the home’s first floor. The original portion of the house is visible on the bottom and left side; the addition’s borders are the solid brown lines.
The second-floor plan illustrates the new master bathroom and bedroom at the rear of the house. The master bedroom is at the bottom right, while the bedroom with the partially exposed brick is at the bottom left.
The third floor features a new large bathroom to serve the two kids’ bedrooms and playroom.
“The home’s features are being maximized to the fullest, and the home seems to suit them all so comfortably,” Cayer says. “A lot of living is still going on in this historic home.”
Architectural and structural design: Mathew Cummings, Cummings Architects
Builder: Shawn Cayer of Windhill Builders
Cabinetry: Ipswich Cabinetry
Front door and historic wood trim: Matt Diana Housewright
via Houzz Tour: A 300-Year-Old Home Adapts to a Modern Family of 7