New Beginnings

A modernized historic home demonstrates the possibilities of restoring an older structure without being a slave to reproduction.

By Sun Joo Kim | Photography by Dan Cutrona

While most homebuyers use only a Realtor to find a house, Jess and Ben Bodamer approached things a little differently, and decided to add a builder to their search team.

From the beginning, the couple knew they wanted their new home to be an antique house. “We have both always loved old homes,” says Jess Bodamer. “Ben is trained as an archaeologist and I grew up in a community of older homes in Ohio. So new construction was always out of the question for us.” Plus, she says, “Buying an older home also allowed us to personalize the space and make it our own.”

The Bodamers, who were living in Boston at the time, did some online research to find a local builder and were drawn to the historic renovation work of Lineal Inc. After meeting with Ben LaMora, owner of the Harwich- and Duxbury-based design-build firm, they felt their personalities and visions meshed nicely with the Lineal team—“always an added benefit,” says Jess.

The couple worked closely with LaMora to find an antique house with good bones, suitable for renovation. They ultimately found a Georgian Colonial from the 1700s on the old Captain’s Mile of Route 6A, the longest historic district in the U.S. Heeding LaMora’s expert advice, the Bodamers looked past the overgrown landscape and odd layout and saw the potential in the size, location and, of course, the history.

A house with growing pains

Similar to the Bodamers’ life as a growing family—their second child was on the way during the renovation process—their newly purchased home had also grown over the years to include a series of additions. The first addition was a Beverly Jog, an L-shaped addition almost exclusively found on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The jog led to a third structure that included a maid’s room. The last expansion was an enclosed breezeway attaching the house to an 18th-century barn, now the garage. To renovate the rambling structure, the Bodamers worked closely with LaMora and the Lineal Inc. team on various design proposals.

Like many older homes, the Bodamers’ house had grown awkwardly into contemporary times, accommodating modern appliances and functions in less than ideal spaces—such as the washing machine positioned next to the stove in the kitchen. And while multiple, tiny pantries added character, they also divided a portion of the house into small, separate rooms.

“We wanted to create spaces that are comfortable for modern living, while highlighting the existing character of the house. In antiques especially, we like to emphasize and work with what’s already there,” says LaMora about the design goals. Summarizing the plans, Bodamer says, “We wanted to preserve the historical integrity of our house while simultaneously modernizing it.”

Additions and subtractions

Tearing down walls to connect the kitchen to the rest of the house and creating a laundry room were major steps in opening up the house. Although the kitchen was designed as a temporary placeholder, the Bodamers say they ended up loving it so much, they plan to keep it as is.

Apart from exposing the post and beam structure, the design-build team also carefully removed and preserved elements that were added during and after the 1860s addition. Details such as roundels, frame trim and built-in storage were restored to enhance the historic feeling of the home. As LaMora explains, “Those details are what makes these homes special. You can’t just take an off-the-shelf product and expect it to blend into a historic house.”

Since the original ceiling heights were as low as six feet, one of the most significant design decisions was to remove some of the plaster ceilings and expose the structural collar ties and joists. The resulting ceilings dramatically improve the spaces. New beadboard and barnboard clad tight to the rafters accentuate the spaces further.

With taller, brighter ceilings, the house began to take on the clean, light feeling that the designers and their clients wanted. Throughout the house, fresh coats of white paint and pops of saturated color add to the clean aesthetic.

To rescue some of the character of the main house’s original era, the Lineal Inc. builders restored and refinished the pine plank floors and revealed details such as block and trim doors. The team also installed “new” flooring in one room: antique wide-plank pine (with original patina) salvaged from an antique home on Martha’s Vineyard. The planks were methodically laid out in a new pattern so the original nail holes could be used.

The restoration work was not limited to the interior; muntin profiles of the original 12-over-12 lite windows were painstakingly refurbished by hand. Truly a whole house renovation, the project also involved extensive utility work, foundation reinforcement, upgraded heating and cooling systems, new cedar siding for all four structures on the property, new roofing and landscaping.

Just as the final touches were being put in, the Bodamers made their most exciting addition to the home: a healthy baby boy.

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