It occurred to him that the new building would have much
higher ceilings, and so the existing kitchen and living room
could be enclosed — like a box within a box — for the
couple to live in while the rest of the enlarged house was
constructed around them.
“I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this, but I knew it
would work,” Wilson says.
Cronin, exhausted at the thought of having to move someplace else, put her faith in his instincts and grudgingly agreed.
Wilson plotted every square inch carefully, adjusting the
height and width of the proposed second-story addition to
guarantee that no neighbor’s views would be impeded.
With permits in hand, and in less than two days, the architect and his son Chase built a compact “crate” to enclose
the existing kitchen, dining and living room. They made
sure the crate was completely sealed with tape to keep the
dust out. A window, salvaged from the old laundry room
and installed into one of the crate walls, allowed Wilson
and Cronin to both glimpse a bit of their beloved view
and monitor the crew’s daily progress from demolition to
In that surreal setting, life went on inside the tiny crate
while Wilson and Cronin surveyed the changes around them.
For instance, even while four concrete piers were drilled and
tied to a new foundation just a few feet away from the crate
walls, Cronin sat at the dining table working on notes and
charts for her patients. And as the new staircase rose gradually
to a master suite perched above a new glass-enclosed dining
room, friends and family came to admire the spectacle or for
intimate dinner parties inside the crate.
“It was cozy and it worked,” Cronin says. “But there were
days when I was on the phone working from home while a
construction crew walking around on top of the crate had
their radios blaring. Some mornings, I would wake to the
noise of three excavators just outside our bedroom window.”
They surely suffered all those disruptions with some
discomfort, but their proximity to the construction had its
rewards, especially for Wilson, who puts a premium on material finishes and textures in his work. Perhaps for the first time
in his 30-year career he got to be on the front lines watching
the details of his plans being executed in perfect sequence.
In that surreal setting,
LIFE WENT ON INSIDE
THE TINY CRATE
while Wilson and Cronin
surveyed the changes