I've realized I'm stuck in the Victorian era with my house tours lately! Obviously, it's a style that I'm drawn to; I didn't realize just how much until I started writing houzz tours. Through these interviews I have realized that within this architectural style, there is a wide variety in the way each unique home has been approached, including how they have been interpreted, renovated, and added on to by today's designers.
The word "green" in the title of this ideabook has a double meaning. In 2006, Treff LaFleche, a Principal Architect at LDa Architecture & Design
, made this 1906 Victorian in Newton Massachusetts his family's home. He tackled the project with the goal of achieving LEED certification standards of sustainability and energy efficiency. He reached this goal in 2009, and clearly, he had navigated some previously uncharted territory. The project was only the second gut-renovation single family residence in Massachusetts to be granted LEED certification.
You are an architect and this is your home. Was it your home before the renovation? What changing needs did your family have that led you to renovate?
We actually bought the home to "down-size" from a larger home in the same neighborhood (same street, in fact) after my oldest son graduated from college. We had two younger children at the time (2006). I saw this as an opportunity to prove to my colleagues and other clients that a 100 year old classic Victorian could be restored in a sustainable, green manner!
What condition was the house in before you started?
The house was originally built in 1906 and had not been renovated since the 1980s. All of the systems in the house were outdated and in need of complete
replacement. The house had little or no insulation and the windows and roof were leaking energy. Despite these conditions, the original formal rooms on the first
floor, including the main stair hall were in reasonably good cosmetic condition.
Please describe the neighborhood and how your house fits into it.
Treff: West Newton Hill was predominantly settled in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many of the Victorian and Colonial Revival homes were built by prosperous Bostonians who wanted to live in the "country" and commute to the city. The neighborhood is known for these wonderful old homes on beautiful tree-lined streets with gaslight streetlamps.
On that note, I worked for the Hingham Planning Board when I was in graduate school and I know trying to change something as minor as a screen door in some of these Massachusetts towns can be nearly impossible - did you run into much resistance from
All homes older than 50 years must go through the Newton Historic Commission review process whenever demolition of the historic fabric of the home is proposed. I had to go through that review as well and convince the commission that the renovation/ addition was sympathetic to the original architectural character and fabric of the home.
The benefits of designing your home are obvious, but were there any challenges this presented that you wouldn't have had if you were designing for a client?
The greatest challenge was maintaining the balance between design and sustainable features and spending my limited funds to accomplish an elegant, innovative home that still felt part of the architectural heritage of the neighborhood.
How did you meld the new addition with the existing house?
I'm quite interested in exploring the "seam" between the original fabric of a historic home and the added/renovated space that makes these homes meet the space and functional needs of contemporary living. Many of our clients appreciate our skill and
creativity to hide this seam between old and new, making the addition/renovation blend seamlessly into one integrated whole. In my own home, however, I wanted to celebrate this seam between old and new and emphasize the transition between the original,
traditional rooms and the contemporary spaces of the new family room and kitchen area.
Please let our readers know the moves you made that make this house sustainable and energy efficient.
The first sustainable accomplishment is that I chose to keep a larger percentage of the original house (interior and exterior) rather than demolish it in favor of new construction. The next critical changes I made were with the exterior envelope of the house...I replaced all of the windows, thermally imaged all exterior walls to identify areas of air infiltration, super-insulated the walls and roof, replaced the roof. The house is so efficiently tight that I am able to use significantly less energy for both heating and cooling. I also took advantage of the southerly sun-orientation of the existing house and exploited that by placing the new family room with its generous glass to benefit from solar gain in the winter. Tall existing pine trees provide shade cover on these windows in
the summer. I also used recycled materials such as the exposed structural steel beams and columns in the new family room and wood flooring. Finally, I was able to use FSC framing, plywood and decking material.
Treff, thank you so much for taking the time to share your home with us today. It's so inspiring to see that a green renovation can yield such a historically respectful and elegant result.