An Elegant Pied-à-Terre
A short walk from Boston’s theater district, a tiny condo in an historic home is now a New Hampshire couple’s weekend getaway.
Skip and Debbie Windemiller know how to live large in a small space.
The couple—busy owners of D.W.’s Oceanside Inn and Oceanside Real Estate in Hampton Beach—first started looking for a weekend retreat a few years ago. “We don’t have time to take long vacations,” Skip says. “We work seven days a week.”
They focused their efforts in one of their favorite destinations: Boston, a quick, forty-fiveminute drive from the Seacoast. Initially, they wanted parking access and room for guests. “We ended up with neither,” Skip muses.
The room’s black and gold wallpaper and mahogany window blinds are from Wicked Awesome Wallpaper and Paint in Hampton. The custom drapes are by Exeter Handkerchief Factory in Exeter.
The four-hundred-square-foot pied-à-terre they discovered is in historic Beacon Hill, on the first floor of an 1850s home built for a former Massachusetts governor and his family. The building—steps from the theater district, restaurants and Boston Common— was among the neighborhood’s first condominium conversions. The condominium itself needed a complete redo. Despite its condition, the Windemillers made an offer the same day they saw it. They brought in longtime friend and collaborator William Soupcoff of TMS Architects in Portsmouth, to transform the small space into a cozy, luxurious weekend getaway.
The small space, with old windows facing the street, originally encompassed one room with a bathroom. Its floors were rotted and the small kitchen area, located in a corner, dated to the 1950s.
Soupcoff’s challenge was maximizing the space. “The space is very small, so Skip and Debbie wanted to make it as appealing as possible,” he says. “Every inch had to be used effectively to get the most out of it.” He’s worked with the Windemillers before, on both residential and commercial projects. For the condo renovation, the couple acted as general contractors and decorators, implementing Soupcoff’s vision but adding their own unique design. “Skip has a wonderful eclectic style, contemporary but with traditional elements,” Soupcoff says. “He’s extraordinarily resourceful.”
Everything about finishing the space was challenging, Skip says, from securing approvals for new windows through the local historic district commission, to installing new plumbing and electrical wiring. To re-route plumbing in the bathroom, Skip needed a local plumber who was small enough to crawl into a space above the ceiling to do the work. Old walls were ripped out and replaced; ceiling, window and door molding was fixed and repainted. Ornate original doorknobs and keyholes were accidentally painted over during this renovation, and then had to be scraped and repainted. Even the marble fireplace, also painted over, had to be scraped and restored to its original luster.
The finished residence combines cozy elegance with contemporary convenience. Each living space is delineated by different flooring: refinished quarter-sawn, original oak floors in the main living room; marble tile in the bathroom; and wood flooring in the kitchen. Soupcoff designed a galleystyle contemporary kitchen, incorporating it into the existing space. An entryway distinguished by a carved wooden arch separates the kitchen from the living area. There’s just enough room for compact appliances and granitetopped counters. Deep, European-style, mahogany veneer cabinetry provides additional storage.
The Windemillers’ residence is the only one in their building without a separate bedroom. Soupcoff cleverly solved that problem by designing a Murphy bed, which conveniently folds up and down into a custom-designed wall unit. A small dining area was created by placing a table and chairs in the front of the room, between two large windows overlooking the street. “We used the space in multiple ways and designed furniture to accommodate the bed,” Soupcoff says.
Skip took advantage of the residence’s twelve-foot ceilings when renovating the bathroom, which is all limestone and marble. To create a sense of space, he installed a pyramid-shaped ceiling and covered it in raw silk. He maximized storage throughout the space using closets and custom-built cabinetry.
Inspired by art
The residence’s elegant furnishings and accessories were inspired by a large painting Skip purchased in New Orleans, a portrait of Dutch painter Peter Paul Rubens in his studio by an unknown artist who was possibly one of his students. “I was going to hang it in our inn, but it looks wonderful in the condo,” he says. The painting, now hanging over the fireplace, is the room’s focal point. Colors in the painting are echoed by black and gold wallpaper, a black ceiling, and glossy black crown molding. Sumptuous silk drapes frame the windows; mahogany blinds ensure privacy. Antique furnishings and accents, juxtaposed with the modern kitchen and bath, help make the whole space appear larger. “The layering of textures, colors and materials is the most interesting aspect of the space,” Soupcoff says. The Windemillers try to escape to their Boston retreat at least once a week. It has everything they could want—comfort, privacy and convenience. All this is proof that living large doesn’t require a lot of room.
William Soupcoff of TMS Architects in Portsmouth maximized the condominium’s living space by designing a custom-built Murphy bed. The bed is easily stored when not in use (top photo); bedding is from Bloomingdale’s (bottom photo).
The bathroom (below) and kitchen (above) strike a contemporary note. The Tiffany-style light fixture in the bath is from the shop at D.W.’s Oceanside Inn, owned by the Windemillers; the sink is by American Standard. Kitchen cabinetry is from Neff Kitchens, Ltd.; artwork on the far kitchen wall is by North Hampton artist Doris Rice.