Michelle's Pipe Factory Condo

Michelle's Pipe Factory Condo

Kyle Freeman
May 25, 2010

Name: Michelle
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Size: 940 square feet
Years lived in: 6

Once in a long while I walk into someone's home for the first time and even before my coat comes off I'm giddy with excitement, thinking "This is SO an Apartment Therapy House Tour." In fact, the clarity can be consuming and distracting from the original intent of my visit. Such was the case the first time I visited Michelle's dreamy two floor, two room Cambridge condo. I certainly love my own home but Michelle's is one of those places that make me feel a little unfaithful — I'd cheat on my place for the chance to live in Michelle's!

Here are my favorite elements of Michelle's home: the abundant natural light, thanks to the giant expanse of windows on both floors; the living space is limited to basically two open rooms so it never feels like there are neglected, unused parts of the house, which makes the home feel so inhabited; the warm wood tones and simple white walls and trim provide the perfect backdrop for her colorful collections, artwork, and decorations; an industrial structure with beams and high ceilings that still manages to feel cozy and welcoming; and the palpable love Michelle feels for each and every object in the space. As a thrifter, Michelle admits that curating the objects is her greatest challenge but I love that she errs on the side of abundance for the sake of being in contact with things that bring her, and I'm sure anyone who visits, immense visual delight.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My style: Equal parts mid-century modern, primitive tribal and industrial eclectic (aka Things I Like).

Inspiration: Found objects, modern design, Gropius' house in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the permanent collection of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Met in NYC.

Favorite Element: The open concept, high ceilings, great light and view into the courtyard. Having essentially only two rooms means that I get to use all of the space every day.

Biggest Challenge: Curation. I love to collect stuff and frequent thrift stores, Craigslist, yard sales, flea markets and eBay. Attempting to keep my home from feeling cluttered (and my limited closet space from overflowing) is a constant (and not always successful) struggle.

What Friends Say: "What's with the glass…?" My sister and mom are jealous of my luck and picking skills at Goodwill/yard sales and on trash day.

Biggest Embarrassment: Attachment to objects: it's not very Zen…

Proudest DIY: It's a tie between the framed sterling silver dragonfly brooch (made as part of a class on jewelry making/small metal sculpture at the Mass College of Art), and the Thonet library chair I found locally for $10 (complete with old, dried gum stuck underneath), and refinished in red.

Biggest Indulgence: The high quality reproduction Barcelona couch, chair and ottoman (although these were purchased over a decade ago when the Dollar was stronger than the Euro). The white fiberglass Laverne Tulip chair purchased two weeks before I was laid off.

Best advice: It's a cliché, but it's true: surround yourself with things that you love — eventually your personal style will emerge. When choosing big pieces, try to stick to things you think will have staying power (classic or unusual pieces that you think you'll still love 20 years from now).

Dream source: Do the markets of Marrakesh and Istanbul count? Locally, I'd like to discover a cache of un-plundered thrift stores.

Resources of Note:


    • Walls and ceilings: Benjamin Moore's Wedding Veil
    • Trim and doors: Benjamin Moore's Decorator's White
    • Steel I-beams: Benjamin Moore's Charcoal


      • Arp/Ball Poster (Kunsthaus, Zurich)
      • Arp Pochoir (eBay)
      • Chair lithograph, Clayton Pond
      • Small Paintings at bottom of stair wall (Matt Sesow)


      • George Nelson Bubble lamp
      • Thonet library chairs (eBay)
      • 1970s Parsons table (second-hand store)
      • Heywood Wakefield buffet (second-hand store)


      • Custom Wall-Mounted Shelves (talented local artist and furniture maker Chris Mountain)
      • High quality reproduction Barcelona daybed, chair and ottoman (Steelform)
      • Laurel mushroom lamp (shade found at thrift store, base purchased online)
      • Infinity raw steel mirror by Room & Board (discontinued, found on Craigslist)
      • Chicago Three Box Shelving (Blu Dot)
      • Bench Box with Casters (OFFI)
      • Vintage Eames rocker
      • Laverne Tulip Chair, c1960, Estelle and Irwin Laverne


      • Original artwork by Philippe Lepatre, Gerald Nailor, Otto Piene and Matt Sesow; portrait by Savo Wise
      • Castore 25 lamp, Artemide (Craigslist)
      • Cream colored leather loveseat, Cattelan Italia (second-hand furniture store)
      • Umbra Hub 36-mirror with black rubber bezel
      • Cherry shelving (designed by Swing Design, discontinued)
      • Paul McCobb Planner two-drawer nightstand
      • Maurice Burke leather sling chair (rescued from my aunt's trash and reupholstered)
      • Vintage blonde makeup table (purchased at Brimfield flea market in the early1990s)
      • Thonet library chair, refinished in red (thrift store)


      • Original art: Robert Indiana, Mordechai Rosenstein

    Thanks, Michelle!

    Images: Kyle Freeman

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