Nelly & Ivailo's Brave New World

Nelly & Ivailo's Brave New World

Ronee Saroff
Feb 16, 2010

Name: Nelly, Ivailo, and Theo
Location: Brookline, Massachusetts
Size: 991 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years

When childhood sweethearts Nelly and Ivailo left their home in Bulgaria to pursue a new life in Boston, they had no idea what adventures awaited them. Ten years, two careers, and one child later, they found themselves knee-deep in one of the less-celebrated aspects of the American dream — the gut renovation.

With backgrounds in finance and web development, neither had any training or experience in interior design. But that didn't stop these intrepid home owners from realizing their pad's full potential. With discipline, determination, and occasional help from a carpenter friend, they worked tirelessly for several months transforming their dated, cookie-cutter condo into a hip urban hangout that combines European style with American ingenuity and Yankee thriftiness.

Evidence of creative home hackery abounds in this tidy, efficient space — from the floating shelf-turned-vanity in the narrow hallway to the movable top on the kitchen island to the wardrobes cobbled together from spare parts found in the "as-is" section at IKEA. Their most innovative solution, however, is the small alcove room, which added a much-needed second bedroom without sacrificing the sense of openness they were trying to achieve. Floating the partition walls away from the edges lets light into the windowless enclosure while stairs to the platform bed create a gentle separation from the living room.

Sheltered from the street by a row of evergreen shrubs, Nelly and Ivailo's Coolidge Corner oasis is the perfect spot to sip champagne and enjoy a bit of Eastern European hospitality. Nazdrave!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: Modern, contemporary, loft-like, simple

Inspiration: We looked online at a lot of photos. We love the modern Italian look, which is very sleek and unfussy.

Favorite Element: The bedroom enclosure is definitely our favorite element. We also like the cabinets around the fridge and the walk-in closet, which was narrow and useless before.

Biggest Challenge: Living in the space while renovating it was a huge challenge. We had to remove all the dust and debris and clean the whole space every day before our son came home. Another challenge, — which we still haven't solved — is figuring out how to transition from different ceiling heights between the kitchen and living room.

What Friends Say: Everyone seems to like it. People are surprised to see so much light in a North-facing condo on the ground floor.

Biggest Embarrassment: All the unfinished parts! There are some rough edges. We are always noticing little things that could be finished better.

Proudest DIY: Cutting down all the cabinets to fit perfectly was a big project. We also raised them off the floor to maintain the feeling of openness.

Biggest Indulgence: The construction. Most of the furniture and finishes were really affordable. Even the floor is a laminate we found at a big box store. It's stylish, but virtually indestructible!

Best advice: You need to be disciplined to do a project like this on your own. Be prepared to experience some tension and conflict with your partner! Also, try to balance what will appeal to future buyers vs. what you like. For example, the floor color we chose is not the most marketable, but we love how it brightens up the space.

Dream source: Bo Concept, Anthropologie, Adesso

Resources of Note:


    • Dining room table, chairs, wall cabinets, and coffee table from IKEA
    • Sofa from LaFlat
    • Club chair from City Schemes
    • Rugs from West Elm
    • Giraffe, candles, and candlesticks from Anthropologie


    • Cabinets, island, shelves, and wardrobes from IKEA
    • Refrigerator by LG
    • Carpet tiles from CB2


    • Child's room furniture and accessories from IKEA
    • Zebra blanket from Urban Outfitters
    • Lighting from IKEA and Home Depot

Thanks, Nelly and Ivailo!

Images: Ronee Saroff

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