A Carriage House Restoration in Beverly—A Unique Home for Modern Living
Marimar Homes creates a more efficient and up-to-date space, while respecting the traditional home’s history
Meg Erickson and Marie McInnes met 21 years ago while accompanying their three-year-old boys to playgroups and struck up a lasting friendship. That camaraderie morphed into a business partnership called Marimar Homes in 2015, when they saw a down-on-its-luck boat‐builder’s cottage and said in unison, “We could transform that into a jewel box.” A week later, the former model/fashion stylist and interior designer/architectural designer were the owners of a property in need of TLC. Six months later, the cottage was totally renovated and they were ready to take on a second project, a carriage house. “It became our niche,” Erickson says. “We’re captivated by carriage houses, and it’s become a signature.”
What may seem specialized turned out to generate plenty of interest—carriage houses are surprisingly prolific in New England’s coastal towns. “It was a sign of wealth to boast a separate carriage house. Their heyday came in the 1840s,” McInnes explains. They hold a definite charm, but they also come with their own set of problems. In a carriage house, hay was stored in the loft and carriages and horses were kept at ground level. “Hay doesn’t walk; it doesn’t move. The structure wasn’t made to support a live load.”
That said, carriage houses often had apartments for grooms on the upper floor. Originally, the living quarters were rudimentary and makeshift—such luxuries as closets were definitely not in the configuration. McInnes and Erickson found bottles of alcohol and liniments hidden in the walls, but that was just the beginning. There were structural issues requiring a deep dive into repurposing. “We had to take the place down to the studs,” Erickson says. “These projects are not for the faint of heart,” warns McInnes, who often calls in a consulting structural engineer for assessment when beginning a revamp.
A carriage house in Beverly Cove, Massachusetts, that once served the estate of attorney Israel Whitney is Marimar’s third project. Sited to catch the morning sun and shield horses from hot afternoon rays, it faces east on a small lot not far from Whitney’s mansion. The carriage house was originally fitted with big barn doors for loading carriages and lacked supporting structure beneath those openings. This renovation included everything from reconfiguring the structure with sturdy underpinnings to shoring up the roof with additional support. Although carriage houses tend to be voluminous, the goal of these two designers was to streamline space and repurpose the floor plan. In fact, they reduced the usable living space from 3,800 to 2,800 square feet. “We’re anti-McMansions. We prefer to show homeowners how they can live smaller and more efficiently in a home that still feels spacious,” McInnes says.
The partners try to repurpose whatever can be salvaged, including pieces of frame brought from one project to another and reconfigured to become finished accents. They sweat the details and install solutions they would like to live with, such as salvaged brackets to support kitchen counters. The top floor of the Beverly Cove carriage house was made into a master suite, but accommodating both a king-sized bed and a bedside table proved a logistical challenge. Their solution? A headboard built into the wall that doubles as a place to stash books and more. As a vestige of her fashionista past, Erickson installed a walk-in master bedroom closet, a signature space that also appears in other projects.
Carriage House Issues and Answers
Every renovation features a unique set of hurdles to surmount. While in the process of working on this carriage house, Meg Erickson and Marie McInnes faced several challenges:
- To support the weight of the second floor as a living space, they installed custom oak posts and steel beams.
- Erickson and McInnes prefer to save as much as possible. “It’s the green way to work,” McInnes says.
- When designing with exposed beams, all wiring is visible, and most electricians are accustomed to hiding their handiwork within walls. Integrating wiring neatly was key.
- Barns and carriage houses often feature a hole between floors for tossing hay down from the loft. Erickson and McInnes embraced that feature to bring additional light to the ground floor.
- While respecting the home’s history, they used up-to-date technology throughout the home, including smart thermostats, televisions, and the newest European kitchen appliances.
Let There Be Light
When Meg Erickson and Marie McInnes reduced the square footage in the Beverly Cove carriage house project, the goal was not only efficiency; they also wanted to fill the space with light. They brought light into the project by:
- Removing beams and floorboards to create openings that allow light from upper windows to stream down to the first floor.
- Designing open steel stair railings to expand the sense of spaciousness and recall the horse-stall iron detailing of the original stable.
- Making an open floor plan in keeping with the spaciousness of the original barn.
- Grouping windows together in twos and threes to increase light without losing the historic look.
- Painting the ceilings and beams white to provide a sense of overall luminosity.
- Adding a Juliet balcony and French doors to the upper level to partake of the sea air outside.
- Furnishing the house with multiple lighting fixtures that play with the contrast between old-world charm and modern motifs.
Erickson serves as the day-to-day point person, keeping tabs on contractors to ensure that nothing is wasted (“I’m always rummaging through the dumpsters”) and all goes according to plan. McInnes is at the drafting board and also troubleshoots. Together, the two women tweak the details. “There isn’t one window frame that isn’t discussed until we’re blue in the face,” she says.
Furnishings are considered while reconfiguring the floor plan. Each project is customized with cabinets, open shelving, and the finest kitchen appliances, all with functionality in mind. Bathrooms are appointed with custom rustic details. Similarly, they select paint colors befitting a coastal residence. The Beverly Cove house focuses on four base colors throughout, using solids, washes, and different strengths of bluish gray and white to define spaces and lend a sense of coherence and warmth. “It’s beach wash colors applied subtly in layers—not stodgy but fresh,” Erickson says.
“What we do is put a contemporary edge on old buildings. The result is a unique home for modern living.” – Meg Erickson
Decorated with furniture that gives the space life, the designers prove their calculations for usable space are spot on. “We call it rustic modern,” Erickson says. The result is a place that beckons and embraces with style. “What we do is put a contemporary edge on old buildings. The result is a unique home for modern living.”