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Charlie Allen Renovations, Inc. | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
617.661.7411 | info@charlie-allen.com | www.charlie-allen.com



Julie PalmerVisitors to this 1850s Victorian in Cambridge entered a cramped, dimly lit foyer, their eyes drawn to steep stairs leading up to a dark, second-floor landing. The home’s living area was down a narrow hall while the adjacent front room became a storage area for strollers, coats, books, and other possessions. The homeowners asked us to provide a more welcoming and functional front-of-the-house.

Julie PalmerSOLUTIONS: The staircase was rebuilt, creating a more comfortable incline with wider treads. Original period detailing was retained with matching balustrades and handrail, and a larger newel post, an exact design replica of the original. A wall at the second floor landing was removed, creating a larger, bright landing space.

It became apparent during planning that enlarging the staircase would require removing a window from the living area. The decision was made to preserve the original wood window and relocate it to the foyer, providing welcoming light in the entryway.

Julie PalmerThe front room, which had become a de facto closet, is now a stylish library/office, with original wide pine flooring and custom-made cherry shelving for books and mementos. With the addition of a coat closet, cold weather gear and strollers are hidden away. The desk is positioned in view of the living room, where the children spend much of their time playing.

We were also able to introduce a much needed half-bath off the main hallway.


ASK MARK: Lead paint was used in our homes for centuries before health concerns resulted in its being banned more than thirty years ago. Late last year, CAR project development manager Mark Philben and the rest of the CAR team completed training in new federal regulations related to lead paint removal, and are now lead certified remodelers. This quarter, Mark shares what the new regulations mean for you.

Mark PhilbenQ: I’ve heard that there are new federal regulations regarding lead paint that affect every home in the U.S. built before 1978. What do I need to know?
A: It’s true, earlier this year, federal guidelines known as the Lead Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) went into effect. In a nutshell, the RRP requires that contractors be certified in lead paint removal and that they follow strict guidelines when working in houses built before 1978. Why? Lead was a key element in house paints for centuries for its ability to improve both the appearance and the performance of paint. In fact, it’s still used in many countries around the world. Unfortunately, however, we now know that lead paint can be very harmful if swallowed, either as paint chips or dust, causing damage to the nervous system and stunted growth in children, and a myriad of health problems for adults as well. Because it was not banned for household use in the U.S. until the fall of 1977, any home built prior to 1978 may have lead paint issues.

At Charlie Allen Renovations, we’ve always taken great care when removing lead paint, ensuring that dust and chips are contained and removed safely from the home. And our entire team was certified in the new regulations late last year, months ahead of the deadline.

Here’s what you need to do when hiring a contractor to remove lead paint:

  1. Ask if your contractor is registered with the EPA as to being certified and trained on the RRP rules.  Request documentation.
  2. Ask if the contractor's employees have been trained and if they will be working on the house. Subcontractors who are working on site need to be certified or at least have on-site training done by someone who has been EPA certified.
  3. Ask for the RRP handbook. All contractors are required to hand them to clients and have them sign the pre renovation form. Failure to do so should be a big red flag for anyone considering remodeling.
  4. Ask who will do the lead testing in the house.  In Massachusetts, off the shelf testing kits are not legal. Lead testing needs to be done by a certified lead testing company.
  5. Finally, ask if your contractor has had experience in working with lead, whether removing it or encapsulating it. And be sure to check references.


Charlie Allen - NewsHarvard Magazine featured grad Charlie Allen ’70 in its July/August issue’s Montage section, which generally focuses on the arts. In the article, writer Jonathan Shaw says: “Restoring a Greek Revival or a Victorian home to its period means balancing the preservation of the building’s historic fabric against the needs of modern daily living. Doing that well is an art that Charlie Allen ’70 has been practicing for nearly 40 years in the Boston area....Allen’s creativity shows in his clever solutions for specific problems that plague many historic buildings, such as lack of storage space or inadequate natural light.”

Charlie is among the contributors to a new book detailing the mysteries of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House on Brattle Street in Cambridge. Home to the Cambridge Historical Society, the house was built in 1685 and renovated and enlarged at numerous points over the centuries. Recently, the need to replace faulty wiring offered the opportunity to employ new technologies – and old-fashioned research – to find out which part of the home is the original structure. Read all about it in Rediscovering the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, available through the Cambridge Historical Society: 617/547-4252.

The January 2011 issue of Old House Journal will run an article by Charlie detailing the process of bringing functionality to fireplaces that are no longer usable, whether due to age or because they’ve been co-opted by the home’s heating system. Look for it at newsstands or www.oldhousejournal.com



Charlie Allen - Period Home“Cape” style housing is quite popular in Greater Boston, which is not surprising as the Cape was first popularized on Cape Cod in the 17th century, when the dwellings were known as Cape Cod cottages.

The first Cape houses were basic structures with appealing clean lines and symmetry. The chimney was always placed at the center of the home, in line with the centrally located front door. A pitched roof with end gables and six-paned windows capped the single-story structure and handsome shutters bracketed the windows.

Reverend Timothy Dwight IV (1752-1817) first recognized the Cape as an architectural style. As president of Yale University, he toured Cape Cod in 1800 and later published his impressions of the region in the book Travels in New England and New York (1821-22).

Here he describes the simple Cape style: “....The houses in Yarmouth are inferior to those in Barnstable, and much more generally of the class, which may be called with propriety Cape Cod houses. These have one-story, and four rooms on the lower floor; and are covered on the sides, as well as the roofs, with pine shingles, eighteen inches in length. The chimney is in the middle, immediately behind the front door, and on each side of the door are two windows.... This is the general structure and appearance of the great body of houses from Yarmouth to Race Point.... Generally they exhibit a tidy, neat aspect in themselves, and in their appendages, and furnish proofs of comfortable living, by which I was at once disappointed and gratified.”

Hard to know why Reverend Dwight was disappointed by the “comfortable living” offered by the Cape style, but clearly, centuries of area homeowners have considered the Cape a particularly cozy and welcoming design, and the style enjoyed a revival, with some changes, between 1930 and 1950. This more modern wave of homes is larger, generally offering two floors of living space and up to 2,000 square feet total. Dormered windows bring light within and architectural character to the exterior. And chimneys, now included for aesthetics rather than necessity, moved from the center of the house to their now standard placement on one side.



Time to RenovateNovember 4: Cambridge Historical Commission meeting. Call 617/349-4683 to confirm meeting location, time, and agenda.

November 5: Renewable Energy Fair: a four day event showcasing new technologies that make efficient and sustainable energy use a reality. At the Museum of Science, Boston. Call 617/723-2500 for more information.

November 17 – 19: Build Boston: more than 200 workshops, sessions, symposiums, and tours for members of the building and design trades, at the Seaport World Trade Center. (www.buildboston.com)

November 17: The Museum School Art Sale. Now in its 30th year, this annual event offers works from students and alumni at great prices, benefiting the Museum School’s scholarship program. At the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 617/267-6100.

December 4: The New England Model Train Expo is the region’s largest holiday season train show. At the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center, Marlborough. 508/460-0700.


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Charlie Allen Renovations | 91 River Street, Cambridge, MA 02139