In Cambridge, a Bent Street Renovation

People / Places / October 20, 2016

In Kendall Square, that hip, happening and on-fire section of Cambridge, Mass., architect Tom Huth has taken an auto body shop turned artist’s studio into a light-filled gallery and home.

M.I.T.’s on one side of it and East Cambridge’s on the other. It’s situated in an old Italian working class community that’s rapidly transitioning from low-rise utilitarian structures to trendy restaurants. This particular building was one-story tall with a loft.

“They wanted to make a real home out of a very large space,” he says. “It’s 100 feet long and 25 to 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall – a shoebox – with very rudimentary lighting and air conditioning, and a concrete floor that was breaking up.”

He patched the concrete and laid hardwood, tongue-and-groove floors. Above is a 100-foot-long skylight with windows made of Kalwall, a translucent polyester. “The quality of light in the space is just amazing – it changes all during the day,” he says. “And they light it from the exterior at night.”

On what was essentially a blank canvas, the Harvard-trained architect gave his clients a big kitchen – “because they’re fantastic entertainers and love to entertain” – and a bedroom with master bath, and a studio for her and a TV viewing area for him that’s separated. The idea, he said, was “to accommodate all that’s there, and to make it all exciting – to go up that step or along that gangway to get to library.”

The clients were busy buying art while renovated the space; when he was done, they filled it with works by Dorothy “Doffie” Arnold, Graceann Warn, Robert Cardinal, Charles A. Winter, Patrick McCay, Jo Hay, Frank Townsend Hutchens, Paul Ecke, Pat Keck, Jerome, Lagarrigue, and the wife’s own mixed-media pieces.

Eleanor, a striking, orange fiberglass cow, and Venus de Robot, a larger-than-life rolling sculpture, serve as focal points and conversation starters.

“It’s out there,” he says. “They love collecting and they’re still collecting – it’s all to their taste.”

And a decided step up from an auto body shop.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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