Many homes in Arlington and nearby communities are perched on hills, which can present some interesting challenges during major renovations. This factor came into play in a recent project we completed for Belmont’s Lisa and Arrin Barmak.
The Barmaks have lived in their traditional colonial since 2011, which gave them plenty of time to consider what they liked about the house — and what they wanted to improve.
One big negative was the small kitchen, which didn’t leave enough space for cooking or entertaining. Another was the layout; like a lot of older colonials, everything was too closed off. In the upstairs, they weren’t taking advantage of the sweeping view of the Boston skyline.
By 2016, the Barmaks decided the time had come for some enhancements. “We wanted to do it while the kids were still young and would still be here for awhile,” Lisa says. “We figured, let’s do it now and enjoy it as a family.”
Rising to the Top
After interviewing five firms for the job, the Barmaks chose Custom. “We liked [president] Bill Farnsworth because he wanted to understand how we live and how the renovation would impact how we use the space,” Lisa says.
Bill delivered a draft plan and then went back and forth with the Barmaks on revisions. It was a collaborative process, and the Barmaks were pleased with the final plan.
Around that time, our kitchen and bath designer, Nikki DeFelice, stepped in. Lisa says Nikki was a big help with things like picking out cabinets.
“We’re two working parents, and we didn’t have a lot of free time to work on this,” she explains. “We looked to Nikki for recommendations on the cabinets, and she also pointed us in the right direction for fixtures and appliances. She knows a lot of people.”
The Solution for the Slope
What made this project so complex was the steep slope of the backyard. Soon after the Barmaks moved in, they had a five-foot retaining wall put in to flatten the yard. They also redid the patio, which subsequently got a lot of use. However, they could only access the patio by walking out a front door and around to the back, or by coming out through the basement. It wasn’t an ideal situation.
The solution called for replacing the three-season porch, which sat on stilts above the patio, with an addition that expanded the kitchen and included a deck off the back. Accessing the backyard with large equipment to install the deck would have been impossible. So instead the deck sits on high-tech screw pile footings.
The kitchen, which now opens up into the family room, has been a hit with the Barmaks. “It’s dramatically changed our day-to-day lives,” Lisa exclaims. “The kids do their homework on the island, we have our meals on the island, Arrin works there sometimes. It’s so much more fun to cook in a kitchen like this. And we’ve been entertaining more; it’s a great space for people to come and hang out.”
Outside, there’s a little less space for the patio — but what space remains is more functional. Lisa and Arrin have put in recessed lighting above the patio, which is now better protected from the elements, and have plans for an outdoor television and seating area.
On the second floor, we added a master bathroom with a roof deck overlooking Boston. “During the warm weather, we used the roof deck a ton,” Lisa says. “You’re way up there in the trees; it’s nice and quiet.”
Lisa praised lead carpenter Bryan Lamoureux for being masterful in coordinating the schedules of the various subcontractors and sticking to the project timeline. And now, she’s doing her part to spread the word about Custom.
“They did an awesome job,” she says. “They totally changed how we use the house. We’re very happy with their work, and we recommend them to people all the time.”