The Atrium house, a remodeled apartment  by Ruhl Walker Architects in Boston’s Back Bay section.

Visitors climbing three flights of stairs from the street to reach the upper unit of this 1850s Boston rowhouse may need a minute to both catch their breath and regain their bearings. The traditional 19th century entry and common hall, replete with painted wainscoting, elliptical staircase and turned newels, sets the expectation for a typical suite of dark, semi-updated Victorian rooms. Instead, upon entering the unit, the front door opens into a three-story atrium with sunlight bathing the space from a large skylight above. A custom live-edge walnut dining table with sling-back leather chairs and lacquer banquette anchors the center of the space, with a gleaming kitchen and a warmly modern living room opening out to either side.


  Where there used to be partitions, the space now flows uninterrupted from the front to the rear of the building. A wall of tightly laid gray schist stone tile similarly unites the space top to bottom.One floor up, a transparent glass bridge spans across the atrium, connecting two bedroom suites, allowing light to penetrate down to the entry level while providing unrestricted views across the apartment.

Located at the core of the building, white Carrara tile and contrasting koto wood veneer make the en suite bathrooms bright and inviting.At the top level, a home office, with a custom steel and wood desk, now opens onto a private reading terrace in a new dormer, and overlooks the atrium and entry from above. Across the atrium is a media room, a guest bathroom and stairs to a renovated roof deck. The rooftop, with its stainless steel kitchenette, affords 360 degree views of the city, and an all-weather TV and infrared heater makes the built-in naturally weathering cedar banquette the perfect place to relax with friends most the year.

 Warm and tactile materials and abundant natural light soften the apartment’s modern aesthetic. Matte white lacquer cabinetry and a soft reconstituted gray wood veneer complement the white Carrara kitchen island and stainless steel prep counters. Custom stained oak flooring and stainless steel and wood railings unite the common spaces of the apartment. The clean-lined furniture, with practical but luxe fabrics allow more whimsical pieces – Naoto Fukasawa’s “Papilio” wing chairs with dressmaker zippered backs, and two Tom Everhart “Peanuts” lithographs – to stand out. The overall effect is both soothing and uplifting – a perfect respite at the end of a busy day in the city.