Rectangular window seats under an Art Deco fixture that hangs from a geometrically coffered ceiling carves out just one of the unique meldings of contemporary and Craftsman in Jane VanDyke and Dennis Gray's historical 1905 Ashland home.
"We tried to work with what's here and keep a historical perspective without doing a total restoration," explains Dennis of the clean lines and fine art touches that personalize the two-bedroom, two-bath home.
At just over 1,600-square feet, including an attic-turned-master-suite, the structure could have seemed confining, but Jane's expert eye combined with Dennis's carpentry skills and the help of two professionals, breathed excitement into century-old walls.
A stretch of restored white oak flooring, pared down period mouldings and new, heavy fir doors speak of the past. Maple cabinets and built-ins abound, all coated in a clear, natural varnish.
"There's a balance between enough wood to keep it warm, cozy and lived-in, without it getting 'cabin-y,'" says Jane.
To the left of the entry is Jane's office. Once a closed-off bedroom with a single door from a side hallway, the room is now sun-filled and open to the rest of the main living space through French doors.
To the entry's immediate right is the square nook. Originally an enclosed outdoor porch, the space is now boxed in by paned windows, offering seating on three custom benches.
"The window seats are a little unusual," confesses Michael Moylan, owner of MDM Construction, LLC in Medford. Moylan ran with architect Carlos Delgado's design for the nook, adding his own touch of fine furniture building. "The top of the window seats plane into the window sills, helping to create clean, contemporary lines."
Separated from the living room by two banks of half-height, built-in cabinets, the nook is both part of the bigger space and set apart.
"One of the ways Carlos kept the original flow was to design a coffer in the nook that reflects the coffers over the living and dining areas," says Dennis of the two gentle, inch-deep outlines that define the eight-foot ceilings.
Neutral gray-green paint on all the walls and light gold trim lets the couple's rose-colored rugs and accent pieces enliven the living spaces while a dark soapstone fireplace, banked by two square windows, anchors the main floor.
The fireplace replaced an old wood stove and long casement window. To add a sculptural, Danish modern sensibility, Moylan built an elegantly curved mantel.
"We had an idea for what we wanted to see for a profile," he says of the curved maple piece that seems to float above the fireplace. "I laminated the maple, radiused the curve into the wood, then mortised it into the wall."
More built-ins divide the dining area from another signature nook. Housing the breakfast table, custom benches and paned windows, the eating nook used to be an enclosed laundry room with water closet. Opposite is the galley kitchen, brightened by new over-the-sink windows and French doors instead of a single door opening onto the generous and charming backyard.
Originally the house was closer to 1,000-square feet and ended at the partial wall that now separates the dining room from the kitchen area," Dennis says. The kitchen was added some time in the 1980s. "Otherwise, the kitchen is pretty much the way it was when we bought it, except for the stainless appliances and cabinets."
Honed, dull black granite now tops the new maple cabinets.
Down the bookshelf-lined hallway is a guest/grandkids room, lively in yellow paint with white trim. Attached is the main floor bath, which was created by popping out part of the back of the house.
Also nestled down the hall, across from a door leading to a private, magnolia-lined side deck, is the stairway to the master suite. Once fully paneled in wood, the pitched-roof room is now more like a garden than a belfry.
"This is twice the size bedroom we've ever had," says Jane, indicating the breezy seating area in front of a wall of windows, a long and low bookcase, entertainment center and full bath, remodeled by Dennis.
By using some of the home's original structural elements like pitches, dropped beams, pillars and coffered ceilings, Delgado was able to refine and define this historic house without a total remodel.
"Jane and Dennis wanted to keep that character in there as a meeting ground between the two eras of contemporary and Craftsman," he says.
The end result is a spacious-feeling home that richly evokes a significant regional period without being too finicky. And that's just fine with this detail-loving, but casual couple.