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South Boston townhouse goes from dilapidated to a show streak


Home improvement

Architect Owen Thomas worked with homeowners to transform a house wreck into a bright, minimalist family home.

AFTER Thomas fashioned a corner window in the dining area with standard size windows and natural white oak sills. The suspension is from Visual Comfort & Co. Nat Rea Photography

“I was on Redfin every day for a year before I saw this house,” Jake Cacciapaglia said of the very run-down south Boston townhouse his family of four now call home. “The fact that there were only three published photos suggests there was hidden value,” Cacciapaglia said.

His wife, Kathryn Yee, was skeptical because they had never renovated a house. “I didn’t want anything to do with it,” she laughed. That said, once they crunched the numbers, explored the neighborhood, and learned that the park across the street was planned for a new playground, she was on board.

The couple, who moved from Dorchester, hired Owen Thomas Architecture ( to redesign the house, built in the late 1800s, with a modern bent suited to the neighborhood. Cacciapaglia acted as a general contractor with his father, builder Stephen Cacciapaglia of SC Woodworks ( Yee oversaw every aspect of the interior. “Owen was an extremely flexible partner to work with our forces,” Cacciapaglia said.

BEFORE The stucco house had a single dormer window projecting from the gable roof and pilasters flanking the front door. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)
AFTER Recycled composite shiplap siding resembles the clapboards of adjacent buildings, but extends vertically for a more modern feel. The third-floor skylight, which Thomas designed to echo the adjacent one, is painted gray to stand out. “The separation of the roof and the main volume helps the upper floor feel smaller,” said the architect. — (Nat Rea Photography)

By building over an existing hump on the first floor (originally a bathroom, now a sunny dining area), Thomas increased the living space from 1,510 to 1,830 square feet without expanding the footprint. Altering the roofline also helped, turning what was an attic with steeply sloped ceilings into a fully usable third floor. “We created a shed dormer in the front that echoes the dormer in the house next door, and raised the roof in the back so that it was almost flat,” explained the architect.

The couple imagined minimalist spaces bathed in light. “Open space and storage for boots and strollers are competing interests,” Thomas pointed out. In the end, the couple opted to push the utility, like the laundry room, upstairs and the storage to the unfinished basement. “I wanted the sightlines through the house to be unobstructed when you walk in,” Yee said.

The front door opens to a tiny tiled foyer with hooks and a bench rather than a closet. Cascading greenery on the back patio, visible through the mostly glass back wall, draws the eye through the home. Past the seating area, a white Caesarstone island anchors the kitchen with clean-lined but not overly modern cabinetry. The old bathroom boss, rebuilt with corner windows, is a dreamy dining area.

BEFORE The existing conditions, namely the existence of a kitchen on the second floor, indicated that the house had been used as a two-family. At some point it appears there was a fire on the third floor, which appears to have been used as bedrooms. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)
AFTER Thomas hid a powder room under the stairs, just off the kitchen through an archway, which was Yee’s idea. “You step down into the bathroom so there’s enough height to get up,” the architect said. The maneuver also made it possible to enlarge the dinette by 10 inches. — (Nat Rea Photography)
AFTER In the kitchen, the very deep cupboards allow you to store pots, pans and crockery. Yee set out to get the perfect amount of Shaker on the doors and find the right warm gray paint color – Benjamin Moore “Wind’s Breath” – to subtly contrast the white walls. — (Nat Rea Photography)
AFTER Thomas fashioned a corner window in the dining area with standard size windows and natural white oak sills. The suspension is from Visual Comfort & Co. — (Nat Rea Photography)

An airy staircase with a simple black-painted wooden banister leads to the second floor, where three bedrooms share a bathroom. Western afternoon light pours down the stairs, complimenting the interior glass wall of the flexible third-floor space, which serves as a living room, playroom, and office. “Knowing that part of the house receives golden hour light, I wanted it to be a space that everyone could enjoy,” Yee said. The couple’s bedroom is behind them and their bathroom door opens onto the hall, easily accessible to all.

AFTER The children share a bathroom with a double sink painted by Benjamin Moore “Cushing Green”. — (Nat Rea Photography)

“We’ve thought about every last square inch of this house, and it lives very well for us,” Cacciapaglia said.

Yee agreed, calling the setup effortless. “The irony is that that house I sent away is now a house we love so much.”

BEFORE After discovering that the entire rear facade and foundation were rotten, the team systematically removed, repaired and rebuilt the foundation and the frame. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)
AFTER The couple installed synthetic turf from Turf Tek in the garden around a small bluestone patio. — (Nat Rea Photography)

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