The clients' originally stated program was to build an addition off the kitchen that would provide them with an open, airy family room off the kitchen to hang out in. The house itself was already quite large and lovely but most of the existing spaces were very formal and they wanted a casual side of the house.

As we talked more, I began to sense that there was another unstated problem – the clients had a pet peeve about their house that they were begrudgingly living with. Here they were, in a magnificent home, but the entry sequence was far from ideal. In fact, they confessed, they almost didn't buy the house because of it. Set atop a large hill and via a treacherous circuitous route, the front door was virtually inaccessible and certainly never used. Family and friends alike would come in the "back door" which meant coming through the garage entrance into the basement, up an extremely awkward and narrow set of stairs that planted you in the back of the kitchen. Not the way they dreamed their guests should "arrive". However, they had looked at the stairs with several contractors and consulting designers and none had been able to think of a way to bring the stair to code or to find a solution.

My design challenge became this back door stair. By looking at the circulation and possible ways to carve space to alter the path of travel, I was able to create a generous switch back stair that would lead guests invitingly up to the first floor and land them in the formal foyer facing the living room. This seemingly small gesture, not even stated as part of the program scope at the start of the project, changed the way people passed through the house and transformed the way the clients felt about their home. An example of good design at work!

•  SBJ ARCHITECTURE, 223 Grant Ave, Newton, MA   •