Editor’s Notes: Defenses and Delights

The past few years have brought a bonanza of remodeling work to architects, custom builders, and remodelers. That’s no surprise, considering our aging housing stock and increasing property values, but the persistent pandemic plays an outsized role as well in the frenzy. It’s as if we couldn’t stand the inadequacies of our homes for one more minute. 

I suspect another subtle motivator is the human compulsion to try to command at least one important aspect of our lives, while external forces impose restrictions and difficulties upon us that we cannot control. It didn’t take long for us to make major shifts in our priorities—in where we want to live and how we want to live. Who knew that dedicated home offices would become nearly as essential as a kitchen or bathroom? Or that outdoor entertaining space would commandeer almost as much attention as the coveted family room. 

This is our annual whole-house remodeling issue, and the projects are wonderfully, wildly different—two Midcentury projects in California and a duo of 200-plus-year-old houses in New England. 

Our cover story is an 1880s Boston townhouse reimagined as a multi-floor showcase for a dynamic semi-retired couple with keen taste. Although located on a severely constrained urban lot, architect David Hacin and his firm carved out a myriad of al fresco destinations—including a private ground-level plunge pool and a rooftop lounge with a view of the Charles River. 

The dazzling transformation ensures that every inch of the home’s six floors will be occupied and enjoyed to the fullest. And, indeed, it accomplished just that when the couple’s adult children moved home for the worst of the pandemic. There were places for them to convene as a family and places for solitary refuge as well. 

On the other side of the country, in Malibu, California, our Design Lab lead story is a 1970s house designed by Midcentury master Jerrold Lomax. Shortly before he died, he turned over custody of its remodel to Zoltan Pali of SPF:architects—a friend and protégé. The challenge for Zoltan, who revered Jerrold, was to honor the spirit of the man and the building, known as the Taylor Beach House, while taking advantage of today’s modern building technologies to attain its full potential.

Shoring up the structure and fixing flaws in its functionality were paramount, and SPF:a achieved both with virtually no sign of the surgical strikes to the exterior. On the inside, however, the house is newly imbued with light, air, and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. And yes, the firm managed to tuck in a few additional outdoor spaces, as well. 

  When under siege, as we have been and, perhaps, still are, humans have a strong drive to hunker down in our own private fortresses—with the essentials in place to weather the storm and a few delights to lift our hearts and spirits.