Growing plans

When you're remodeling with young kids in mind, it's wise to also consider the long view.

By Marni Elyse Katz
June 26, 2011

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When Emie and Daniel Michaud Weinstock hired an architect to renovate their newly purchased home in Cambridge’s Coolidge Hill neighborhood, the directive was simple: It should be light and happy. Emie explains: “When the kids come back from a day at school, I want them to think, ‘I’m home!’ and be really happy to be here.”

Emie, 34, a public interest attorney, and Daniel, 37, a consultant on institutional organization, moved in with their two young children, now 1½ and 3 years old, from a condo in East Cambridge after a six-month renovation. The three-story home now has everything they need – four bedrooms plus a dressing room, two full bathrooms and a half bath, kitchen, dining room, living room, three covered porches (1,780 square feet of space altogether), and a small yard.

Though the two-family house was built in 1915, the couple wanted their interiors to be open, airy, and, as Emie emphasized, “modern, modern, modern.” Architect Maggie Booz of Cambridge-based Smart Architecture balanced their desire for an open plan with a family’s need for private space. Although the children are underfoot by necessity right now, at some point, both parents and children will want a degree of separation. (Having raised three children of her own, the oldest now in college, Booz is well versed in architectural family planning.) So, while she opened up the old dead-end kitchen to the dining room to create a large communal space, she kept the living room intact as a distinct room without much disturbance from other parts of the house.

A tight lot and strict zoning regulations ruled out the possibility of expansion, so making the most of the existing square footage by ensuring rooms served more than one purpose was essential. In addition to reconfiguring the kitchen and merging it with the dining area, Booz made sure the study could accommodate two users and also function as a guest room.

The children’s rooms, located on a separate level, are not just for sleeping – they’re playrooms too. With an irregularly shaped floor plan and sloped ceilings, the third-floor bedrooms are a preschooler paradise. Thinking ahead, Booz took advantage of the nooks and crannies by slotting closets into spaces that might not otherwise be useful once the children grow taller than 3 feet.

A big believer in using built-ins sparingly in order to keep spaces flexible, Booz counseled the couple to forgo them in the dining room. Sure, toys are scattered around the open space now, spilling out onto the small deck and down into the yard, but it’s worth it. Soon enough, the kids will outgrow their toys, she promised, and the proper amount of space needed for a smooth-flowing dining room will have been preserved.

Earlier this month, the couple were grilling out while the kids played together in the yard. Daniel asked, “Is this what you envisioned?” Emie’s joyful answer: “Yes. Exactly!”

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at Send comments to