Room for All: Space for a Large Family
Liz and Michael Smith’s Massachusetts home is the hub of their family. On holidays, at least 30 people gather at tables that stretch from the formal dining room into the kitchen.
Their laughter rises to the vaulted ceiling in the bright kitchen. Here, food-laden platters depart the soapstone island for the tables of eager eaters and return, as if on a sea tide, as stacks of empty dishes.
Liz grew up with her grandmother living with her family. “She was a major influence in my life,” recalls Liz fondly. “She was a schoolteacher whose favorite advice to my sisters and me was to read a book. She was open-minded, nonjudgmental, and all my friends liked her.” It doesn’t take a visitor long to realize that the memories of her grandmother inspired Liz to create a house that welcomes all generations.
The Smiths asked architect Benjamin Nutter to design a house with enough room for all the grandchildren to sleep over. He succeeded. The house fills not just with grandkids but their friends, too, for overnights of movies and popcorn.
Upstairs you find a children’s wing. The girls’ room is painted a soft rose with green trim, and their walk-in closet serves as a playroom, complete with doll beds, a mini hutch, and teddy bears. The boys’ room is a cozy dorm with two green walls and two blue walls and colorful matching quilts neatly tucked into four twin-size beds (see “The Detail”). Books and toys are stowed in built-ins, but, as Liz says, “the kids go through here and in short order everything gets taken out and played with.”
Downstairs, a crafts room with a big pine worktable and sink is next to the kitchen, with the butler’s pantry — well stocked with snacks — tucked in between.
An open concept with plenty of activity zones speaks to the Smiths’ contemporary lifestyle, but the exterior, a traditional Colonial reproduction, reflects their New England roots. The Smiths wanted the house to be historically accurate. “For the exterior features on this home,” recalls Benjamin, “we studied Georgian houses in the area.” Benjamin Nutter and Rick Bernard, the project architect, examined Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, and gleaned important details such as the cornice and rake trim at the rooflines, the proportion of windows to the overall facade, and the size, location, and brick of the chimney. “Stylistic clarity is a theme that’s central to our design approach,” Benjamin says.
For the interior, Liz, at first, couldn’t imagine using a decorator. But in the end she did. In a magazine, she spied perfect tiles for the master bath — they look like sea glass. She tracked the tiles to the Boston Design Center, where she met Michal Twine, who soon became what Liz calls her “design facilitator.” “The biggest thing she did was help me with colors,” Liz says. Stroll through this house and you’ll soon feel the tranquil effect of butter yellow and sage green, all complementing Liz’s collection of antique quilts and yellowware pottery.
“The client gods smiled down on us,” Benjamin says. “The Smiths are decisive, organized people who want quality in design and materials. In our culture of instant gratification, they recognized that building a house is no different than it was hundreds of years ago — masons still work brick by brick, and good craftsmanship takes time.”