Compact 3 bedrooms, 3 offices and more in a 2000 square foot home

Architect Pi Smith admits she is skeptical if she can comfortably accommodate everything on her clients’ wish list. “They wanted three bedrooms, three bathrooms, three studies, a good kitchen, a generous leisure space, and a large library,” says the director of Smith & Vansant Architects. Then add the comma. “In just under 2,000 square feet.”

Homeowners Giorgio Alberti and Michael White Smith and project manager Stephen Branchflower emphasized that rooms don’t need to be big — they have to be functional. The couple, and the family members he lives with, are all literature professors who have spent a considerable amount of time in Europe (Alberti grew up there). They are accustomed to what Americans might consider cramped spaces.

Although originally dark and depressing on the inside, the trio’s new home, 1960s Acorn Dick’s home in Lebanon, New Hampshire, had great bones. Rooftop homes have exposed structures that exude character. It also gives strong internal/external connections. “Beams and panels run from the inside of the building to the outside, and the bay windows range from keel to keel, all the way to the ceiling,” Smith explains. “The surrounding landscape creates a sense of spaciousness.” In addition, the current design suits their needs closely.

Cleaning the shell was a major factor in changing the dreary interior. Radiant heat under the baltic wood floorboards has replaced coarse plank heating. A new ceiling allows for ceiling lights, as well as additional insulation. On the lower level, the team added drywall to install the lighting there as well. Then they painted the walls and ceilings white and the beams a soft gray, leaving the rich mahogany mill visible. “The light is bouncing everywhere,” Smith says.

Removing the raised burners from the fireplaces made it easier to circulate, while covering the chimney with raw plaster preserved some of the texture and helped reflect the light. “The central chimney is a trademark of the deck house,” Smith says. “It is the element of organization that defines the spaces; the red brick was dropping everyone.” The visual interest comes from the books—the trio moved into 250 chests—and a solid art collection.

While the spacious living room catered to the trio—once they built floor-to-ceiling bookshelves—the kitchen didn’t. Smith cut a skylight in the ceiling and installed streamlined cabinets that push into the dining area, doubling as a sideboard. Then she redesigned the wall separating it from the kitchen, sized it to hold the refrigerator, pulled it down from the ceiling, and wrapped it in mahogany. The ceiling floats above the new feature wall covered in an array of brightly colored mosaics.

The large bedroom on the first floor was perfect for the third family. Besides renovating the bathroom, Smith only needed to remodel the front of the cramped space so they could fit in a desk. “I highlighted the small wall in order to delineate between it and the bed,” she says. “It feels like a gap now.”

Downstairs, Smith reorganized the hallway, filling it with functionality after borrowing a few feet from the guest bedroom/TV room. The base suite doubles in size, taking up empty storage space next to it. It now includes a good sized study, along with a wardrobe and a new en suite bathroom. What about that third study? Smith created it by dividing a 4-by-6-foot corner of the bedroom’s sitting area. The little gem not only faces the forest, but features an interior window that draws in light from the other side of the house.

The home has all the space the clients have requested, along with a high level of craftsmanship that they value. They made friends with the carpenter. Smith, too, is pleased with the results. “We’ve incorporated several strategies for managing small spaces,” she says. “Some of the best moves are the most accurate.”


General engineering: Smith & Vansant Architects,

contractor: George White & Co.,

Kitchen cabinets and bookshelves: Beautiful watershed furniture, catchment

More photos

The master floor bedroom suite includes a skylight with a desk, pictured in the foreground. A lifetime of artwork covers nearly every surface.Rob Cruces

Front glass shelves hold the scientists’ book collection.Rob Cruces

The artwork of Harumi Foster, a college friend of Bertie, hangs in his office. The small workspace is located in one corner of the base suite on the lower level. An interior window allows light into the hall.Rob Cruces

Mosaics by Oakland, California-based artist K.G. Greenstein hang on the new feature wall that separates the dining room and kitchen, while cookbooks fill the built-in shelves.Rob Cruces

Marni Elise Katz is a contributing editor at Globe magazine. To follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to [email protected]

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