Empty Nesters Renovate a Dark and Dated Condo

Empty Nesters Renovate a Dark and Dated Condo

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Name: Mary and Tom Eirich
Location: Watertown, Massachusetts
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years, owned

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We had previously lived in Belmont, Massachusetts, for 30 years and had decided, as empty nesters, to move to the north shore, not far from the ocean. After a few years of being further from our children (and, eventually, grandchildren) and also missing the conveniences and cultural benefits of being close to the city, we decided to look at real estate closer to Boston. After some careful searching, we came upon a condo in Watertown that was comfortable enough for two people but also large enough to entertain. The only downside was that the space, which was one of the first in Massachusetts to house individually-owned units, had been virtually untouched since it was built in 1975. It was dark and dated with wall-to-wall carpeting and it begged for more functionality.

The location provided underground parking—very useful during the winter season—and is also within walking distance of restaurants, shops, drugstores, grocery stores, banks, a hardware store, and public transportation. Thus, tackling a renovation to make the space what we wanted was well worth the effort.

Although smaller than the homes we had previously lived in, the space provided the opportunity to start fresh and streamline some of our tastes, prompting us to contact interior designer Erin Glennon and architect Judy Leich to assist. By knocking down a wall and adding a closet to the entry, the kitchen became much more open and functional from a workspace perspective. High-gloss white paint was selected for the cabinetry and backsplash to keep the space light and modern, particularly since the kitchen has no windows. (Drywall was left for part of the way up on the back wall so that art could be displayed, which prevented the space from looking too sterile.)

Under Erin’s direction, we purchased a few modern pieces that were better scaled for the rooms. The small, mid-century style white chair is easily moved, which is ideal for hosting company, and the Noomi chair from Design Within Reach swivels for added flexibility. The long coffee table with shelf below offers plenty of space for magazines and trays and also serves as a way to display accessory pieces, such as our collected pottery. The extendable table in the dining area seats up to 10 people. Using a large sisal rug in the living area also helps to delineate the living space from the dining area, but there is still an openness between the two areas so the space feels less divided.

With many friends and family in the area, we wanted to be able to host dinners and gatherings, so this layout has proved very versatile for entertaining.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Comfortable and sophisticated.

Inspiration: The desire to keep things from getting cluttered.

Favorite Element: The kitchen. In all the places we’ve lived, this is the most functional kitchen we have ever had. Even without a window the colors and finishes selected make it feel light and airy and the space look so much larger than it did before we renovated.

Biggest Challenge: Sharing space in a much smaller footprint was initially the biggest challenge, but we’ve adjusted to it and have become much more accustomed to minimizing and simplifying in the process.

Proudest DIY: Tom and our son worked on the demo and the electrical in the hall bathroom—it saved us some time and money.

Biggest Indulgence: The Noomi swivel chair by Design Within Reach. Not only is it stunning to look at, but it’s also incredibly comfortable, so it was well worth the purchase price.

Best Advice: If you are able to hire a professional designer to assist with the renovation process, do! It will save you a lot of time and headaches, and you will be happier in the end.


Kitchen, dining room and living room — Benjamin Moore, Titanium 2141-60
Bathroom – Benjamin Moore, Peach Cobbler 2169-40
Bedroom – Benjamin Moore, Simply White OC-117

Sofa – Crate & Barrel
Sofa pillows (black and white polka dots) – Holliewood Style
Swivel chair – Design Within Reach
Coffee table – Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (older model – no longer available)
Original art on window wall – Morgan Dyer

Table — Expand Furniture
Dining chairs – Design Within Reach
Dining chandelier – Circa Lighting

Backsplash tile — Tile Showcase, Watertown MA
Counter top material – Caesarstone
Dutch oven – Williams-Sonoma

Duvet cover — West Elm (no longer available)
Faux fur throw – World Market (tiger print no longer available)

Sconces – Designer Bath in Watertown, MA
Faucet – Kohler

Thanks, Tom and Mary! Thanks to designer Erin Glennon.

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