House design

The Watt O’Keefe studio has been at the forefront of smart renovation.


Accented by white cedar fencing and lush grasses, a Sunbrella upholstered sectional by Design Within Reach and a Paloform fireplace anchor a seating area on the patio. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

For a software company executive with three children, the search for a new home meant not only finding a retreat from his own non-stop working life, but also securing a comfortable space for his whole family. “I wanted a very fluid and open design, with common spaces that invite people to come together,” he says. On the other hand, privacy was essential: “My three children are all at an age where they appreciate their personal space, so it was also important that they could each have their own bedroom,” he adds.

After about six months of property research, he found a few promising options on the top floors of a Beacon Hill condo building. But before making an offer, he reached out to Studio Watt O’Keefe, a Cambridge-based architecture / interior firm he had previously partnered with in the former Copley Square office. He wanted to know: was it possible to merge three separate units to build the house he envisioned for his family? For directors Belinda Watt and Michael O’Keefe, who visited the partially full spaces and helped him strategize, the answer was a resounding “yes”.

A modular and ottoman by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams mingles with a B&B Italia side chair and graphic rug from the Rug Company in the sunny living room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

And so, with the advice of his trusted associates, the executive bought a three-bedroom unit on one floor and also parts of two penthouses upstairs. Watt and O’Keefe, of course, were hired to help unify and reinvent the units, which together measure 3,600 square feet. “By taking the two penthouse options and combining them, [we were able to] create a much more private space [that] gave him the four bedrooms he needed, ”says Watt.

As to the other structural flaw the group needed to address, the issue was familiar to all concerned. Much like the old 19,000-square-foot Back Bay, Watt and O’Keefe office, renovated for the owner’s business in 2011, the units’ existing floor plans allowed for little natural light. “We had to open up the interior and get in as much light as possible,” says O’Keefe. On the lower level, for example, this meant eliminating a centrally located bathroom and replacing it with a wet bar. Open to the living room and kitchen on one side and to a welcoming multimedia room on the other, the new room allows light to circulate freely throughout the space.

The wet bar in the center of the lower level features painted walnut cabinetry, a Caesarstone countertop, and a backsplash made from honed Carrara marble tile. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

After failing to find a table that suited the size of the kitchen dining area, the team decided to collaborate with AM Design and Fabrication and Jeff Pizzi Furniture and Cabinetry on a custom piece, ultimately creating a steel number. and walnut that they could meet on the spot. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Built by Ty Crowley of Metalart, the staircase’s black steel balusters complement the nearby dining table, while the white oak handrail matches the staircase steps. “We wanted [the staircase] be clear and direct, ”says director Michael O’Keefe. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Regarding the dressing of the reconfigured mansion, the architects took inspiration from the design aesthetic proclaimed by the owner (“modern with clean lines, yet comfortable and inviting”) and worked to combine an architecture pared down to calming hues, natural materials and organic prints. Showcase the home’s white oak floors, custom walnut downlights, and eye-catching yet understated furnishings. “It was [meant] to be a refuge from his office life. So that prompted us to create a quiet, subdued space with a sober palette, ”says O’Keefe.

Yet there were plenty of opportunities to have fun as well: the owner’s taste for graphic wall coverings also influenced the design, especially in each of the bedrooms in the house, where the carpeted accent walls act as works of art. large-scale art. In the master bedroom, for example, an array of cascading leaves on an azure wall covering by Trove serves as the backdrop for a Ligne Roset bed. “We had always known we wanted the back wall to be dramatic, so early on we discussed how it should be a really dark blue,” says Watt.

Adorned with a Trove wallcovering that mimics the print installed in the master bedroom, the girl’s dorms also feature a Blu Dot bed. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

A red pendant light from MacMaster Design offers a playful touch in a son’s room. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Scenes from Beacon Hill fill the master bathroom with the partially frosted tempered glass panel that provides a visual connection to the adjoining bedroom. “[We wanted] to have long views in these deeper spaces, ”says O’Keefe. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Composed of thin sheets of fiberglass, a luminaire by Enrico Franzolini hangs above the bed in the master bedroom. The architects, along with JD Custom Woodworking, also created bespoke wall-mounted nightstands with walnut drawers for the space. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

While the print is undoubtedly a centerpiece, it is certainly not the only breathtaking aspect of the second level of the house. Just step out onto the 1300 square foot patio from the master bedroom or adjoining family room, and it’s easy to see why the owner wanted to get his hands on the entire western part of the roof, which was previously forked with 7- lattice of feet in height. “[It’s an] outdoor lounge, ”says O’Keefe. “It’s very private, but you also have this great city that opens up in front of
of you.”

In collaboration with landscape architect Kaki Martin, of the Klopfer Martin design group, the team divided the al fresco space into two zones: an outdoor kitchen, a dining room and a living room centered around a fireplace just outside. outside the family room and a more intimate spa. area with plush chairs and a copper hot tub beyond the bedroom. “[The owner] I loved the idea of ​​copper, ”says Watt. O’Keefe agrees. “It’s a big contrast to the ipe wood deck and the dark gray perimeter walls,” he says. Lush landscaping, including lavender shrubs and a variety of grasses, adds to the visual appeal.

Of course, while the finished outdoor space looks perfectly arranged – much like the rest of the ‘stylish but livable’ dwelling, as the owner puts it – it’s certainly child friendly enough, too. Overall, the family love their new digs. “The [kids] install soccer nets [on the terrace] and they love to use the spa, ”says Watt. “It’s nice to see them take over the space.”

The family often enjoys meals on the ipe wood patio thanks to a teak and aluminum table from Design Within Reach. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Imagined by Studio Watt O’Keefe and built by Zen Associates, a set of ipe wood steps lead up to the one-of-a-kind copper spa designed by Diamond Spas. “The tub has proven to be a great escape even in the colder months,” says the owner. / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Architect / Interior designer
Watt O’Keefe Studio

Entrepreneurs
Cafco construction management; Sea-Dar construction

Landscape architect
Klopfer Martin design group