“Is Group Building a Good Gamble?” asks the headline of an article in the March 1946 edition of Better Homes & Gardens. The story centers on four houses overlooking upper Mystic Lake in Winchester that four MIT professors cooperatively planned and built in the early 1940s.
The professors bought the land, divvied up the lots and bargained collectively with architects, contractors and materials suppliers to save money. As of the article’s publication, the arrangement had apparently worked out quite well for all parties.
All four homes still stand today, including one occupied by Custom clients Wendy and Bill Swanton.
The Swantons previously spent 25 years in a 15-room late-Victorian house on Church Street in Winchester. They first worked with Custom in 1991, which makes them one of our longest-standing clients. In 2015 they downsized and moved into their current home — a Cape with a beautiful view of the lake.
Bringing the Outdoors Indoors
By last year, the Swantons were ready to address the one major project on their minds: renovating the kitchen, which had older appliances and an outdated décor.
“That was the biggest interior project we had to do,” Wendy says. “Other than that, the house was in really good shape when we bought it — very livable.”
As the chef of the family, Bill took the lead in picking out the appliances, including a narrow (24″) refrigerator. Other new additions included a stainless steel sink, hardwood floors, composite granite countertops and Bertch cabinetry.
Choosing the colors for the kitchen, meanwhile, were in Wendy’s purview. “I’m very interested in the fact that we now live in the woods on a lake where we have herons and other wildlife,” she explains. “Our kitchen reflects that.”
Accordingly, the handmade, ceramic tile backsplash above the stove depicts herons in the wild amidst touches of blue, green, orange and yellow.
“I loved the craft and the rustic look of the tiles,” Wendy says. “I wanted to have a focal point in what is otherwise a neutral style of kitchen, and I wanted to make the kitchen one with the outside. I think it works pretty well.”
Off the kitchen is a small addition that serves as a dining area. Custom vaulted the ceiling and installed two skylights and also installed tile flooring. The Swantons frequently enjoy breakfast there while looking out onto the lake below.
According to Wendy, the remodeling project has done wonders for the kitchen and dining space.
“It’s bright, sunny and light for pretty much the whole day,” she says. “It’s nice to be able to get up in the morning and not have to switch on the overhead light.”
Wendy credits lead carpenter Bryan Lamoureux with not only keeping the project on track, but also paying attention to the finer details.
“His carpentry is great. He did a spectacular job getting the molding and cabinet heights right and working with the different types of woods to make sure they worked together,” she says. “He and the rest of the Custom team made it such a good experience, but I knew they would having worked with them before.”
“It was a pleasure to work with Custom, as always,” Wendy adds. “We trust them and know they’ll always do a great job. They’re just wonderful to work with.”