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HOMEOWNER'S GUIDE | Indoor Attic Play Space, Mudrooms, & More

Charlie Allen Renovations, Inc. | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
617.661.7411 | info@charlie-allen.com | www.charlie-allen.com



Indoor Attic Play SpaceFor parents, winter can prompt a particularly daunting challenge: what to do with the kids? When darkness falls early and cold temperatures and bad weather keep children indoors, owners of older houses – the kind without dedicated play space – can feel a bit overwhelmed. Not too long ago, we found the ideal spot for indoor playtime for a family living in an 1890s Shingle-style Victorian in Brookline.

While the basement is the first choice for a play area for many, if you’re living in an 18th or 19th century house then you may have only a partial basement, dating to a time when cellars were less about laundry, storage, and “man caves” and more about year-round food production.  The once common root cellar wasn’t built with the square-footage or easy access that a children’s play space requires, and if that’s what you’re facing, you should turn your attention to the attic, as our Brookline clients did.

We started the job by adding insulation and introducing a dormer and a redesigned roofline, which provides a fun, angular design.  A new skylight, flooring, and cheerful paint colors keep the room feeling sunny and inviting. 

With the needs of small children in mind, low shelving for books and toys was installed, and a charming period window, at just the right height for toddler-aged bird watchers, features a decorative - and functional - safety railing for protection. 

Indoor Attic Play SpaceWe also added an expansive bath suite next to the play space.  Its design acknowledges use both by kids, who enjoy the happy yellow color, abundant natural light, and Aesop’s Fable inspired shower tiles, and grown-ups, who appreciate the way the room is partitioned to allow multiple uses at one time (with the tub at the far end, for secluded relaxation.)  Period-friendly elements include nickel fixtures for the sink, shower, and bath, and pendant lighting on each side of the medicine cabinet.  A built-in storage unit provides ample room for towels and bath supplies.



Mark PhilbenJanuary is a good time to review improvements, both large and small, that can make cold dark days a lot cozier. Some of my favorites include:

Radiant Floor Heating: There’s nothing welcoming about cold bathroom tiles. But imagine stepping from the shower onto a floor that’s emanating warmth. In addition to its tactile pleasures, radiant floor heating disperses warm temperatures evenly throughout the room, minimizing drafts and cold pockets. There are several methods for installing radiant floor heating (as well as several different delivery approaches).

Steam Showers: One of our most popular bathroom renovations (selected as the ‘Bathroom of the Year’ by Boston Globe Magazine a few years back) features a glass shower with steam jets placed throughout – an especially luxurious way to enjoy a spa-like experience in the comfort of your own home. This project is best tackled while undergoing a bathroom renovation or introducing a new shower stall, as it will require cutting into the walls to install necessary plumbing.

Heated Towel Racks: A simple upgrade, these electric warming units make for a very enjoyable post-bath or shower experience.

Windows: In older homes, windows can be the leading culprit when it comes to drafts and heat loss. If you’re committed to preserving your original windows, heat and energy saving options include the installation of storm windows or simply introducing thermal insulated curtains.



Events CalendarCAMBRIDGE HISTORICAL SOCIETY ANNUAL MEETING: Sunday, January 27, 2 – 4 p.m.
159 Brattle Street, Cambridge
Following the election of the Society’s governing council (nonmembers are welcome, although they can’t cast votes), join the CHS for a free program featuring a discussion of sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt by his granddaughter, Cynthia Kennedy Sam. During his short life, Pratt, who died in 1917, created more than 180 pieces of sculpture, including the CHS’s Longfellow Medal. He also served as head of the Sculpture Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Saturday, February 23, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Diablo Glass School, 123 Terrace Street, Boston
Take part in an intimate glass blowing demonstration accompanied by a selection of great wines and finger foods. One lucky observer will leave with a special Diablo glass treasure. For more, visit www.diabloglassschool.com

Sunday, February 24, 5:30 p.m.

Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Avenue, Cambridge
The chilly stone caves beneath Formaggio’s Cambridge store hold hundreds of pounds of cheese. Go “spelunking” with Tyler and Matthew and explore “the science and secrets” of the Formaggio caves. You’ll learn all about cheese production and enjoy a great tasting as well. For more, visit formaggiokitchen.com.



Christ ChurchTraditional Building featured our work restoring Harvard Square’s historic Christ Church in their December issue.  And closer to home, the Cambridge Chronicle offered a great shot by Shelly Harrison of our work on the newly restored St. James Episcopal Church on Mass Ave. 

And look for more on Charlie’s work on these landmark buildings, and his passion for old houses in general, in the January 13 issue of Boston Globe Magazine on the “First Person” page. 

Remodeling Magazine spoke with operations manager Julie Palmer about our use of the popular renovation website Houzz, and we also offered our thoughts to Remodeling’s review of the “kitchen triangle” design strategy, where Charlie noted, “As a renovation firm specializing in period houses, we bring a lot of older kitchens up to date.  While everyone still wants a functional kitchen, the room is a lot more than the workspace it once was.  Today’s kitchen is a gathering space that needs to accommodate a lot of activity that past designers never had to consider.  Rather than being the overriding design strategy, the kitchen triangle has to integrated within a larger design that includes space for entertaining and sharing cooking duties with friends and family, for kids to do homework and parents to check email, for watching television and for dining.”

And in other news, we’ve been working on renovating our company branding.  Check back in spring for a fresh take on the “Charlie Allen Restorations” logo and a revised company name, too.



MudroomDoes your home have a mudroom? Around here, March and April are “mud season” with snow melts, rain falls, and dirt turning wet and sticky. Of course, it was much worse centuries ago, before pavement and the automobile limited our exposure to muddy ground. In those days, most homes had an entry space for the removal of dirty shoes and boots. Later, these spaces were often sacrificed when new technologies like the washing machine and dryer needed a home. Additionally, when looking for square footage to accommodate expanding kitchens and new baths, twentieth century homeowners often gave up the mudroom.

But for fans of organization and cleanliness, there’s nothing like a dedicated room for removing dripping coats and muddy footwear.  A distinct mudroom also allows for keeping chilly outside air from entering with guests. 

Today, many homeowners are bringing back the deep washing sinks that were an essential element of the mudrooms of the past, but also including room for toys and sports equipment, bench seating, message boards, and gardening supplies. Whether you’ve got one now or are considering adding one, let us know.


We love interacting with our friends and clients on social media.  You can find us on Facebook, Houzz, and Twitter, where we’re known as CARestorations.  If you have a few minutes and would like to offer a review of our services on Houzz, just visit our page there.


Charlie Allen Renovations | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

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