A backyard becomes a family retreat in Rockport

For an architect, sometimes the smallest project can present the biggest design challenge. This was the case for Chris Brown, principal of b Architecture Studio, when North Shore clients approached him and project architect Kurt Stavdal to transform a two-car detached garage on their property into a hospitable pool house, which offers much more than just a place to change into and out of your bathing suit.

“They wanted a separate, comfortable place for their adult children to stay when they were visiting,” Brown explains of the owners, Kevin and Dee McCurry. “Our plan was to completely transform the underutilized garage and outdoor space, which was essentially a blank slate.”

Steps below a small farmhouse and an artist’s studio, the transformed backyard offers four different living spaces within a confined area.

A garage bay was kept, mainly for storage. The remaining 285-square-foot space has been cleverly re-imagined within the structure’s original footprint, and the rear patio that was previously standard on the double lot has been renovated into an oasis comprising a 12-foot by 20-foot swimming pool and a courtyard filled with a pergola. and a fire pit. Huge granite boulders forming a natural-looking wall nod to the town’s origins, Rockport.

Although there are essentially four outdoor spaces for the family to enjoy, a sense of intimacy prevails. “We wanted the scale to be modest and reasonable, not overwhelming,” says Kevin McCurry, explaining that it was important to him and Dee that the newly renovated structure and landscaping aesthetically match their small mid-19th-century farmhouse.

Brown, who is a master at using every square inch in projects with strict New England constraints, credits the soon-to-be-empty-nest McCurrys with having a clear vision for the future: the intention of keep your property a place for the family to enjoy for years to come.

The new pool house has a cozy living room, a full bath, and an impressive kitchenette. No shortcuts were taken in design and material decisions. “The fun part for us,” says Brown, “is that we design all of the interior spaces as if they were an entire home project, with attention to detail, craftsmanship, finishes, and finish selections.”

The collaboration with Premier Builders was strategic as the contractor is known for its cabinet making prowess. Brown and Premier designed a queen Murphy bed that folds out directly onto a custom sofa without moving it. Even the cushion on the main sofa stays in place. Built into this wall is overhead storage for seasonal and occasional use paraphernalia, while below and to the side of the sofa are cupboards and drawers for more frequently used items.

“When it comes to a confined space, the location of everything is a big issue,” says Brown.

Among other amenities, the kitchenette has a beverage refrigerator and dishwasher, so guests don’t have to run to the main house to retrieve items they need. Premier Builders milled the kitchen shelves from a joist that was no longer needed in the garage, wood that was also used behind the Murphy bed and in the rear shelves on that wall. Wide plank ceramic tile flooring looks great and is also durable, withstanding foot traffic to and from the pool.

The bathroom, with its subway tile and beadboard, also has an upscale residential feel. “The glass doors on the walk-in shower and glass partition are details you’d find in many of the entire homes we design,” Brown notes, adding that the wall-mounted rainfall showerhead and black finish on the hardware are also details you would see in a master suite bathroom. “The client did not want him to feel different [from a nicely appointed home].”

Outside, the gunite pool and patio, made of high-quality concrete pavers that mimic bluestone, expand the dining and living space, while the pergola connects the pool house to the outdoors. “Clients wanted to have both the use of the pergola and the straps to create shade,” says Brown. “[These features] It also helps define the dining table area, a place where you can play around with lighting options and candles to make it a fun place to hang out at night.”

Giving up the two-car garage was a small price to pay for what the family got in return: a completely separate guest room and outdoor haven for entertaining. The McCurrys, who had played with this firm for 10 years, are generous with their praise for the architects. “Chris and Kurt took our ideas,” they say, “and improved on them.”


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