Josh &amp Sarah’s Retro Somerville Condo

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Sarah and Josh
Location: Somerville, Massachusetts
Size: 1800 square feet
Years lived in: Only six months!

I tend to be a bit Jamaica Plain-centric for my Apartment Therapy house tours. But I finally crossed the river to check out Josh and Sarah’s retro-inspired condo in Somerville. It was worth the trek! I knew it was going to be a fun afternoon when Josh greeted me on the front porch, offering me two delicious cherry tomatoes he’d just picked.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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Front porch (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The foyer of their home, decked out with four large and colorful Heum posters, greeted me with the same openness and playfulness that I experienced from Josh and Sarah. These three (the house, Sarah, and Josh) were made for each other.

But that wasn’t instantly the case. You can check out their house blog to see how much work Josh and Sarah put into the house before moving in, to make this a place they love. After giving a lot of TLC to the bones of the house they turned their attention to designing the finish layer.

By keeping decorations to a minimum, relying on strong colored walls and limited cherished pieces, it feels like there is so much room to breathe and think and play in Josh and Sarah’s home. They’ve accomplished a rare design feat: a space that feels playful AND serene. (By the way, the camera exaggerates the orange in the dining room – yes it’s bright but it’s not as shocking as it appears in the photos!)

The inclusion of do-it-yourself pieces in nearly every room (e.g. Sarah made their bed and their quilt; Josh made a table for the guest room; and Sarah’s puppet feet and hands adorn the dining room wall) give their home a delightful handmade feel. (To learn more about Josh’s art endeavors, check out his website here.)

I’m so impressed that they allowed us into their home so soon into their occupation of it! They’ve only been living here since January and there are still projects to complete (e.g. Sarah is planning to make doors for their bedroom closet). Their openness to showing us their work in progress without every wall adorned or every nook perfected, mirrors the same openness that’s felt in their space. The lovely feeling in Josh and Sarah’s home might also have to do with the fact that these two seem to really like and celebrate each other and that energy decorates their space in a way that no color or object ever could.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: Mid-century modern, DIY, and retrothrift

Inspiration: 1972-1976

Favorite Element: The neighborhood, the view from our windows– downtown Boston, the Zakim bridge, the Bunker Hill monument, and the local power plant. Also, we spend a lot of time perched on our giant yellow velvet chair in the kitchen. We bought it in Oakland, California for $35, and we’ve schlepped it across the country for more than a decade.

Biggest Challenge: We’ve never before had so many rooms to keep clean and no roommates to help out.

What Friends Say: When’s the next jam session? Did you make that furniture/quilt/piece of art too?

Biggest Embarrassment: The floors. Right as we were moving in we hired two well-meaning cleaners who scratched the shit out of our floors. We sanded out the scratches but have yet to re-finish them. Also, the bedroom closet. Sarah’s next project is to make us some shoji screen-inspired sliding doors.

Proudest DIY: For Sarah: the bed, made in 2005. For Josh: the shower floor; he tiled it himself (with some help from our friend Dave) after our contractor was incapable of getting the pitch right.

Biggest Indulgence: Our vintage dining room table and fuzzy chairs expensively shipped from California. They’re the first pieces of grown-up furniture we’ve ever bought.

Best advice: You end up with something cooler when you do it yourself.

Dream source: Eero Aarnio’s garage sale, Zimman’s fabric store, Grandma’s basement

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • All painted Trim, Hallways, Ceilings: Benjamin Moore Atrium White
    • Living Room: Benjamin Moore Squish Squash
    • Dining Room: Benjamin Moore Orange Nectar
    • Kitchen: Benjamin Moore Melon Popsicle
    • Office: Benjamin Moore Marmalade
    • Bathroom: Benjamin Moore Bashful Blue
    • Bedroom: Benjamin Moore Lazy Sunday
    • Guest Room: Benjamin Moore Harbor Haze
    • Music Studio: Benjamin Moore Spruce Green



    • Vintage chair: from Uhuru in Oakland, CA


    • Table and chairs: mystery mid-century modern designer, bought from Futures Collide on Ebay
    • Lampshade: bought at a street market in Coyoacan, Mexico City
    • Dishes: Toord Boontje, Rosenthal, Davistudio, Höganäs, and Rörstrand
    • Hands and feet: handmade by Sarah, were once part of a puppet


    • Couch and shag rug: inherited from Sarah’s parents ’70s living room set
    • Round yellow chair: a family heirloom from the ’70s
    • Brown chair: bought at a yard sale and professionally reupholstered


    • Desk: cutting table from Sarah’s grandfather’s flag factory


    • Bed and bedspread: handmade by Sarah
    • Side table: handmade by Sarah
    • Aquatron 8-track player: inherited from Sarah’s grandparents, converted to streaming airtunes player by Josh
    • Sound Parasite soft sculpture: handmade by Josh and Marilyn Fontenrose


    • Toilet: Toto Eco Drake
    • Vanity: Ikea
    • Floor Tiles: Solistone marble pebbles
    • ShowerTiles: Magica Gallery and Handmade Bubble Glass


    • Couch: Crate and Barrel, hand-me down from our friend’s parents
    • Quilt: handmade by Sarah from her mother’s old clothes
    • Library table: antique inherited from Sarah’s parents, who bought it at a barn sale in Wisconsin in the ’70s
    • Wooden chair– inherited from Grandma’s first kitchen set from the 1940s, cushion made by Sarah with toaster fabric from Mali
    • Side table: handmade by Josh
    • Bowl: bought at a pottery factory in Fez, Morocco
    • Baskets: bought on the street in Oaxaca, Mexico
    • Upholstered Chair: bought at a thrift store (supposedly it was a prop in a hollywood movie), reupholstered by Sarah, fabric from Zimman’s


    • Drum kit: 1958 silver sparkle Ludwig drum set purchased by Sarah’s dad as a teenager
    • Fender Rhodes 54 electric piano, 1968 Ampeg Gemini, 1977 Fender Studio bass amplifier, ’60s Kalamazoo amp, ’70s Ibanez lawsuit jazz bass, and many other assorted instruments: collected by Josh over the years

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Josh and Sarah!

Images: Kyle Freeman

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