Unsuspecting visitors to this remodeled apartment in Boston’s Back Bay section are in for a surprise. “You climb three flights of stairs through a dark, Victorian stair hall,” says architect Brad Walker, and upon entering the apartment, “you step into the bottom of a three-story atrium.” Light spills through the roof, 38 feet overhead, into the dining area at the center of an open great room. A glass bridge spans the atrium, linking two bedroom suites at the apartment’s second floor. Floating staircases access the third-floor study and media room and a roof deck above.

Previous remodels had stripped the apartment of historical character, leaving Walker free to gut the interior and apply a fresh palette of materials. “The design agenda was to keep things clean and modern and neutral,” says Walker, who created a loft-like atmosphere with broad expanses of white wall surface and white oak flooring, and a band of stone masonry that rises the full height of the atrium. “The light is coming down three stories, and we wanted something nice for it to react with,” Walker says.

Walker says he envisioned arrival here as “a surprising, enlightening moment,” and the CHDA jury certainly felt that effect. “It’s got so many layers,” one judge said. “I love the balconies looking down and the skylit well.” Another judge applauded Walker for his willingness to sacrifice some square footage to create the atrium, noting, “It’s a small piece of the plan, but it makes the whole project.” 

On Site To enlarge the apparent size of the apartment’s existing windows without disturbing the building’s historic Beacon Avenue façade, architect Brad Walker ganged double-hung units in black-painted recesses that make each pair read as a single element. The padded-out wall also conceals a retractable shade.