Home Improvement

South Boston rowhouse goes from rundown to run of show

Architect Owen Thomas worked with hands-on homeowners to turn a wreck of a house into a light-filled, minimalist family home.

Nat Rea
AFTER Thomas fashioned a corner window in the dining nook with standard size windows and natural white oak sills. The pendant light is from Visual Comfort & Co. Nat Rea Photography

“I was on Redfin every day for a year before I saw this house,” Jake Cacciapaglia said about the severely rundown rowhouse in South Boston that his family of four now calls home. “That there were only three photos posted hinted that there was hidden value,” Cacciapaglia said.

His wife, Kathryn Yee, was skeptical because they had never remodeled a home. “I wanted nothing to do with it,” she said with a laugh. That said, once they ran the numbers, explored the neighborhood, and learned that the park across the street was slated for a new playground, she was on board.


The couple, who moved from Dorchester, hired Owen Thomas Architecture (otarchitect.com) to redesign the house, built in the late 1800s, with a modern bent that fit the neighborhood. Cacciapaglia acted as general contractor with his father, builder Stephen Cacciapaglia of S.C. Woodworks (mahomeremodeling.com). Yee oversaw every aspect of the interior. “Owen was a super-flexible partner in working with our strengths,” Cacciapaglia said.

BEFORE The stucco house had a single dormer that popped out of the gable roof and pilasters flanking the front door. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)

AFTER The recycled composite shiplap siding resembles the clapboard of the adjacent buildings but runs vertically for a more modern feel. The third-floor dormer, which Thomas designed to echo the adjacent one, is painted gray to recede. “Separating the roof and main volume helps the upper story feel smaller,” the architect said. — (Nat Rea Photography)

By building atop an existing first-floor bump-out (originally a bathroom, now a sunny dining nook), Thomas increased the living space from 1,510 to 1,830 square feet without expanding the footprint. Altering the roofline also helped, turning what was an attic with sharply sloped ceilings into a fully usable third floor. “We created a shed dormer on the front that echoes the dormer of the house next to it, and raised the roof in the back to be almost flat,” the architect explained.

The couple envisioned minimalist spaces suffused with light. “An open plan and storage for boots and strollers are competing interests,” Thomas pointed out. Ultimately, the couple opted to push utility, such as the laundry, upstairs and storage to the unfinished basement. “I wanted the sightlines through the house to be clear when you walk in,” Yee said.


The front door opens into a tiny tiled foyer with hooks and a bench rather than a closet. Cascading greenery on the back patio, visible through the mostly glass back wall, pulls the eye through the house. Past the seating area, a white Caesarstone island anchors the kitchen with clean-lined but not overly modern cabinetry. The former bathroom bump-out, reconstructed with corner windows, is a dreamy dining nook.

BEFORE Existing conditions, namely the existence of a kitchen on the second floor, indicated that the house had been used as a two-family. At some point, it seems that there was a fire on the third floor, which looks to have been used as bedrooms. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)

AFTER Thomas tucked a powder room out of sight under the stairs, just off the kitchen via an archway, which was Yee’s idea. “You step down into the bathroom so there’s enough height to stand up,” the architect said. The maneuver also allowed for the dining nook to be 10 inches larger. — (Nat Rea Photography)

AFTER In the kitchen, extra-deep cabinetry goes a long way for storing pots, pans, and dishes. Yee worked to get the perfect amount of Shaker reveal on the doors and find just the right warm gray paint color — Benjamin Moore “Wind’s Breath” — to contrast the white walls subtly. — (Nat Rea Photography)

AFTER Thomas fashioned a corner window in the dining nook with standard size windows and natural white oak sills. The pendant light is from Visual Comfort & Co. — (Nat Rea Photography)

An airy stair with a simple, black-painted wood rail leads to the second floor, where three bedrooms share a bath. Western afternoon light spills down the stair compliments of the interior glass wall of the third-floor flex space, which functions as a lounge, game room, and office. “Knowing that part of the house gets the golden-hour light, I wanted it to be a space that everyone could enjoy,” Yee said. The couple’s bedroom is behind it, and their bathroom door opens to the hall, easily accessible to all.

AFTER The kids share a hall bath with a double vanity painted Benjamin Moore “Cushing Green.” — (Nat Rea Photography)

“We thought about every last square inch of this house, and it lives really well for us,” Cacciapaglia said.

Yee agreed, calling the setup effortless. “The irony is that this house I dismissed is now a home we love so much.”

BEFORE After discovering that the entire rear façade and foundation were rotted out, the team systematically removed, repaired, and rebuilt the foundation and framing. — (Owen Thomas Architecture)

AFTER The couple installed synthetic grass by Turf Tek in the backyard around a small bluestone patio. — (Nat Rea Photography)


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com