Claire Herthum Major and her husband, Rich, searched for months for a mid-century modern house.
“Janet Schwartz, from C.J. Brown, took us to quite a few, but the ones she showed us had already been renovated, fooled with or added on,” Claire Major said.
Finally, she showed them exactly what they weren’t looking for — a traditional house in Jefferson Place.
“We walked in and both said, ‘Love it!’ Except for the addition of a bathroom and office in the ’60s, the house had never been touched,” Claire Major said.
Two years ago, after an 18-month renovation, the Majors moved into their redesigned midcentury treasure.
“We completely gutted the house,” she said.
Even the exterior has a new, fresh look with large pane windows and concrete stepping stones that lead to the front entrance.
To create one major public space, the Majors took out all the walls between the living room, dining room, kitchen and den. The fireplace, now greatly reduced in size, is the only element that remains of the old space.
The front door opens to the spacious room, with the dining table and chairs to the far left and a seating area around the “smokeless, ventless, odorless green fireplace.” Behind the front room is the large den and sleek modern kitchen.
Because the living room and den spaces are very long and narrow, Claire Major wanted to break up the ceiling expanse in both. In the den area, she created a 3-foot-deep ceiling alcove with paneling from the original den.
In the front area, she divided the living and dining areas with a decorative redwood ladder attached to the ceiling.
“I dislike very long walls with nothing on them and very long ceilings,” she said.
Throughout the home, especially in the ceiling alcove, the Majors used the paneling from the original den and the previous owner’s study.
One contractor told the Majors that the old paneling could never be saved. Rich Major, an engineer, and the Majors’ son Alex, now 27, took a nail sink and hammer and carefully removed every piece. Then they planed and stained the wood to give it a contemporary look perfect for the home.
“Needless to say, we didn’t hire that contractor,” said Claire Major, who was thrilled with Paul Connelly, the contractor they did use for the project, which was designed by architects John and Eryn Lackett.
“We started drawing our own plans and then gave them to John,” she said. “He added and improvised.”
The Majors added a luxurious master bathroom and converted two of the four bedrooms into his and her offices.
Everything in the house leads to the beautifully planned backyard with massive patio, pool, koi pond and outdoor kitchen. Craig Rhodes, of the Newton Landscape Group, designed the landscape.
Rich Major built the knockout greenhouse, where he “piddles.”
“He engineered the whole greenhouse to fit together like Lincoln Logs, without nails,” said Claire Major, who spent 15 years doing organization development consulting and then three years consulting for defense contractors. Finally in 2010, she turned her avocation of art and interiors into her vocation through her business, artvark, ltd.
“I am a self-proclaimed interior designer,” she said.
She does projects for clients, but spends much of her leisure time “scavenging.”
“I go to thrift stores, estate sales and the Rotary Trash and Treasure sale,” she said. “With a little bit of time and effort, you can find things and make them like new.”
Her own home is filled with things she has found and repurposed.
“I wanted this house to have some funk to it,” she said.