Traill Street House

Cambridge, Massachusetts

MTA was commissioned to renovate this historic nineteenth century Cambridge home, originally designed by the architect Lois Howe. The homeowners, both professors of African American art, music, and linguistics, wanted a brighter, more functional space for entertaining large numbers of colleagues, family, and friends. The goal was to create a contemporary design while maintaining the formal, elegant aspects of this grand home. The homeowners’ extensive collections of art, photography, and music also greatly influenced the design, guiding the spatial, lighting, and organizational strategies, as well as the choice of wood and color in every room.

The design expresses MTA’s philosophy about circulation, light, and the importance of creating a relationship between the building and its site. The original structure and facade of the house were maintained, however, the home now features an open kitchen, family room, and dining area downstairs that open to the large south-facing patio through a new ribbon of mahogany windows and doors. Contemporary sliding doors allow the casual kitchen and family room to be separated from the dining room on those occasions when the couple host formal dinners served by catering staff.  

The traditional small rooms and service stair in back of the house were removed and reconfigured to create a master suite upstairs, opening the space to the wooded and sunny landscape of the backyard. The rooms in the front were updated and transformed into a formal living room downstairs and his and her studies upstairs.