Home of the Month | September 2015


704 29th Ave. North
The Unanticipated and Positive Consequences

Visiting with Dr. Lauren Archer is a little like taking one of those fun survey courses in school, covering topics of general interest. You’ll leave a little more informed about architecture, design, economics, animal behavior, and philosophy, to name just a few.

The lessons start the moment you walk through the front door of her 1928 home, which she explains is in the Dutch Colonial revival style.

Greeted by the three full-time canine residents, Gigi, Molly, and Riley (a fourth dog comes during the winter months, along with Lauren’s mother), visitors learn that small poodle mixes can achieve remarkable vertical leaps of approximately 4 feet. Pointing to the new windows throughout the house, Lauren also quickly explains the economic benefits, especially in terms of insurance premiums.

 

And those lessons all come in just the first few moments! Walking through the rest of the property offers insights into how one person has responded creatively and innovatively to some of the unexpected events in life to devise a functional, beautiful environment. From the moment Lauren first saw the house, she had ideas; on her second visit, she spent what she estimates was more than an hour, walking slowly through the space to define what
changes she could make and how.

The small, separate outbuilding in the back yard, next to the garage, was key to the property’s appeal. After the loss of her father, Lauren wanted her mother to come stay during the winter months, rather than having to worry about her shoveling Boston-area snow, but also wanted to make sure they had spaces for privacy. Thus one of her first projects, after buying the house in 2007, was to renovate the suite, transforming a single, utilitarian room into a divided and cozy space, with a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen area, full bath, and large closet for the laundry facilities.

In the main house, Lauren was dismayed by the layout of the upstairs rooms—especially the shared bathroom between the master bedroom and a guest room. The process of transforming these rooms was extensive, but now, it’s hard to imagine them any other way. She expanded one bedroom, adding a closet and building a wall to separate it from the master bath. Then, she added a door from the hallway to the second bath, clearly differentiating the bath that would be for the use of guests from her own private space. In so doing, she also gained a new and unexpected source of daylight into the hallway in the process.

While redoing the closet in her master bedroom, Lauren came across that dreaded Florida problem: unexpected and previously undetected termite damage to the wood floors, which had been painted attractively with white marine paint. But again, the unexpected led to something great, in that Lauren found Balamar Floors, a company owned by a local Crescent Heights resident, to redo the floors to match those in the rest of the house.

A built-in bookshelf in the library was lovely, but it served mainly as a lightweight knickknack holder, so Lauren had a carpenter friend shore it up so that it could hold her literary collection.

Adding storage was an ongoing drive; as Lauren notes (and most Crescent Heights residents know all too well), “Being an old house, storage is always at a premium.” These changes transformed the room into one of her favorites in the house. The lanai instead is the favorite of the dogs. To her surprise, renovating the lanai was one of the easiest projects she completed, with a coat of paint, some new light fixtures, and updated furniture. And thus, as you walk by the house, you are likely to find Gigi, Molly, and Riley perched on the back of the couches in the lanai, standing watch and ready to protect their space from any threatening cats, squirrels, or birds.

It makes sense that birds might make this yard a stopping place, to the lush, tropical pool deck. Added by a previous resident, who according to house legend was something like 6’6” tall, the huge pool is more than 10 feet deep in places. Even the spa is deep, with a fountain feature cascading into the pool. It is, as Lauren notes with a laugh, a little like Gilligan’s Island, except that there would be little motivation to try and escape from this oasis.

Changing virtually everything in a house is not a quick, easy, or inexpensive process. But Lauren takes a philosophical approach to renovating: “Save up, fill the pot, then do a project that empties the pot. Save up, fill the pot, then do another project that empties the pot.” She had long held this view, but it solidified around four years ago, when Lauren suffered a terrible bicycling accident. Prevented from working—either for her private practice or in her role as the Senior Medical Officer for Navy Reserve Medicine in the Southeastern United States—she was forced to halt several ongoing projects and wait to start others.

But from this unexpected and unwanted event emerged some other, unanticipated, and positive outcomes: creative ideas for renovations that she could do on a smaller budget, recognition of the benefits of having good contractors who do great work, and a newfound appreciation for some wonderful and talented friends who helped implement her vision for her home. It’s a lesson she is happy to share, and one that makes spending time in her inviting, educational home all the more enjoyable.

Photo Credits: ©Elisabeth Nevins Caswell

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