Today, the North End is still the place to be. So when a Minnesota couple found a narrow lot for sale, they jumped at the chance to become part of this vibrant community filled with historic landmarks and charming eateries. They bought the lot and called longtime friend and interior designer Bruce Kading. Having worked with him for many years on projects from Manhattan to Medina, they knew Kading could capture the North End’s unique spirit of place without recreating ye olde Boston.
“The North End has a wonderful mix of history and modernity, so my team and I immediately envisioned a simple yet sophisticated brick townhouse that felt as though it could have been an old warehouse,” Kading says. “We had a marvelous time exploring the neighborhood and developing a visual vocabulary that combined classic industrial warehouse style with a modern New England aesthetic.”
He and his team worked with the clients’ architect to design a tall, 22-foot-wide loft-style brownstone with one story below ground and six above. The foyer features a vintage-patterned concrete tile floor leading to the upward-spiraling metal staircase and wood-paneled commercial-grade elevator, which all share the first floor with a three-car garage — a rare luxury in a historic urban neighborhood.
The second floor features two guest bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms fitted with sleek showers, 1930s-style porcelain sinks and aged hickory floors. The third floor is home to the owners’ suite finished with a deft mix of vintage and modern details. The bath pairs industrial-style exposed plumbing with classic marble and contemporary frosted glass. The pièce de résistance of the fourth floor living room is a 1920s coal fireplace that Kading and team converted to gas and set into a wall of steel panels with riveted seams and a waxed finish.
The fifth floor kitchen/hearth room, as in Colonial times, is the heart of the home. The floor-to-ceiling steel-framed windows cast glorious daylight on the modern fireplace, a 14-foot center island with a pewter countertop, limed oak cabinetry with a library ladder, and an iridescent glazed-tile backsplash surrounding an antique iron fireback plate from 1788, the year Massachusetts became a state.
The top floor houses the airy exercise room, a handy juice bar and a well-placed outdoor kitchen on the sizable terrace with a panoramic vista of Boston Harbor, Little Italy and Old North Church, where patriots hung two lanterns to send the famous “one if by land, two if by sea” message to their Charlestown neighbors in 1775.
“When my team and I sit on the rooftop terrace with our clients, looking out over the bay, we have to pinch ourselves,” says Kading. “Designing a new home in the heart of Boston’s oldest neighborhood was an honor, a privilege and an experience we’ll never forget.”