DESIGN & ARCHITECTURE
CRAFTING A CITY SANCTUARY
This luxurious penthouse for an empty-nester couple in Boston is rich in bespoke details that celebrate American design, art, and craft—from the hand-pleated wallpapers to the striking two-story light “curtain” installation at the heart of the home.
For a couple and their family of visiting children and grandchildren, Boston-based Hacin + Associates created an ethereal, two-story, 5,800-square foot penthouse filled with pieces by contemporary American artisans and makers.
When the clients downsized from their family home in New Hampshire to a newly built luxury condominium in Back Bay, also designed by Hacin+Associates, the design team faced the challenge of incorporating the clients’ desire for a clean, minimal space into the historical context of the neighborhood. The subsequent residence was born from a curated selection of natural, carefully crafted elements that work together to create a modern identity amidst the tradition and formality of its surroundings.
“It was that rare opportunity to do it all with clients who were fully engaged, appreciative, and excited by the whole process,” says Senior Associate and Project Architect Matthew Manke.
The duplex is connected by a double-height atrium, featuring a custom light ‘curtain’ installation that illuminates a black steel-and-glass stair. Designed in collaboration with Studio 1Thousand, the installation contains two light volumes that slip past one another into the large great room, creating a visual bridge and a screen between upstairs and downstairs, and the living and dining areas. Like the custom-built stair, unique metalwork celebrates the client’s background in developing innovative technology for detailed metal fabrication. Similarly, black steel windows punctuate the home’s street view, framing Boston’s characteristic red brickwork. Outside, multiple terraces offer 360-degree skyline views and an inviting outdoor space within the confines of an urban setting.
The concept behind the penthouse is a celebration of American industrial design and supports the work of emerging artists and craftspeople. This focus inspired the use of unassuming, organic materials and layered, natural textures, such as woven paper carpets, clay walls, wild silk, and folded paper wall coverings. Collaborations with bespoke North and Central American furniture and lighting designers imparted a level of domestic authenticity and distinctiveness to the home using modest, utilitarian materials, such as plywood, concrete, marble, and blackened steel to yield functional artwork. Design partnerships with textile and wallpaper manufacturers produced custom, handmade flatweave rugs and stitched, hand-pleated wallpapers that enveloped the home in beautiful, soft textures. A level of humility exists in the forms throughout the penthouse, honoring the clients’ wish for a timeless, meditative space. All in all, the engagement of such craftspeople served a dual goal: to support and elevate great design and those working tirelessly to create it.
The creation of the 15-foot-long Calcutta marble island is an example of the team’s close attention to detail and their appreciation of craft. “We wanted [the island] to be functional,” said Senior Associate and Project Designer Jennifer Clapp. “That was a very special piece of stone-- multiple slabs that we had to seam together in a creative way to achieve the length we needed, with notch detail at both ends. To us, it represents the idea of showing the craft of the piece and celebrating design details that are as small as a joint.”
Metaphorically, the artwork in the space was curated in the same spirit of celebrating unexpected and humble materials in abstract ways. Featured in the home are pieces by artists Blaise Rosenthal, who produces geometric paintings with dragged charcoal on raw canvases, and Sheila Gallagher, known for her monochromatic landscapes created with the use of smoke.
“Thinking about the concept for this space, I was looking for artists that were working with materials in really honest ways that push the boundaries of the materials,” said Project Designer Rebecca Rivers. “This is especially true about the Sheila Gallagher piece in the living room.”
“I’ve said this to the team many times, but this is one of my favorite projects we have ever done,” said Founding Principal and Creative Director David Hacin. “I like the dynamic tension between what I would call an ‘architectural system’ and the personality and craft of the interiors. The white oak used in the study also appears in the kitchen, and the stones and materials used are consistent. In other words, the design doesn’t end at the threshold of the door to each room. There is a flow, and yet each space is distinct. It’s one of those projects where it all comes together seamlessly.