Some Unusual Renovation Ideas for a Brownstone Duplex




Thank you so much for all of the brilliant renovation ideas you’ve been sending my way for my soon-to-be new place in Boston. I’m overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity of time. But, I too know how tempting it is to design an empty space.


Now, I had no idea, so many of you would send me designs to help me work out some of the renovation challenges.


If I had known, I would’ve included the lower level. I didn’t include it because I felt that one floor was plenty to deal with for one post. In my mind, the main purpose of the post was to introduce you to the apartment. And, of course, give you a few of my PRELIMINARY  renovation ideas.


Please know that nothing I’m saying is written in marble. ;]




Alas, my “boyfriend,” the incredibly handsome and smexy DeVOL kitchen, and I have decided to call it quits. It’s not that we don’t love each other. He says that he needs more SPACE and is feeling smothered in our small galley rekitchenship.


Since I tend to be co-dependent, I feel that I could make things work (especially after he’s gotten an oven high on chocolate cake fumes). Alas, I know all too well that when a man shuts down, it’s best to let him go.


I guess I’m just not completely ready to submit myself to the dark side.



So, for those of you who think I have lost my marbles, you’re right. But, usually, I come around and see the light before it’s too late.


jeanstoferdesign instagram


Thank you wonderful Jean Stoffer!!!


I just came across this post from last May about great kitchen combos, hardware, lighting. You know, I should read my own blog. haha!


Still… I am thinking of doing dark lower cabinets.


I said, “thinking.”

However, I’ve pretty much locked down the layout and design.

It’s actually effortless. And, if I wasn’t so wiped, I’d draw it out for you. I promise that I will– very soon.

Even though it’s about a foot bigger than ideal, I’m pretty dead set on using my cherished bookcase in the kitchen along the wall currently home for the sink.

The sink will get moved to the back wall, along with two dishwasher drawers to the left. (or one 18″ dishwasher.) Flanking the sink are two tall upper cabinets with glass doors and shelves that light up.


source unknown - white glass cabinets flanking sink - renovation ideasThis is the idea.


The right side wall will have counter height cabinetry across until the refrigerator. The range is in the center with a marble backsplash and shelf, ala deVOL and Jean Stoffer. To the right, is a 24″ counter-depth fridge; panel ready, I think. That is plenty big for me.


entry with closet


I will leave the entry closet for now. But, that could be a fantastic project down the road, perhaps.

But, guys!

I mean, GUYS!!!

You know that I love you and love your renovation ideas, except please don’t tell me I should take down the wall between the kitchen and entry to “open things up.”


Opening things up, too much is exactly what I have been harping about not doing.


I feel that an entry needs to be its own space. There is nothing else. No kitchen. No living room. It is ONLY when one walks through the entrance that one sees another space. Well, Ideally.

Another renovation idea I will most likely hold off for a while is closing off the den/bedroom.

main level commaveHere is the floorplan again for the main living space.

The reason for not doing it is that it’s not really necessary. There’s already a big closet in the bedroom and a big one in the entry.


Laurel, are you going to freakin’ show us the downstairs already?


Yes, after I freakin’ mention the spiral staircase, again. :]

Some of you are concerned about lugging stuff up and down the spiral staircase. Well, I don’t have to! Nosiree. I can use the home’s original staircase to get to the lower level. It’s just outside my front door. (you can see it on the plan, above)

Also, I have two exterior access points from the parking area.

Yes, that’s right. I face the alley.

Buttttt, I have that glorious southern exposure. I don’t need a view. It’s not my habit to spend time looking OUT my window. Besides, I won’t be able to see past the exquisite moulding!

Okay, time to see the lower level.

Drum rolllllllll…

This is how the downstairs looked several years ago.

bedroom and garden level - renovation ideas And this is how it looks today except I got the door swing wrong on the bathroom door. But, it gives you a good idea of the configuration. Oh, and that’s my furniture, not what’s currently there.


Now, you can see why we can’t take any space below the spiral staircase to create a new staircase.


Here are some common mistakes folks make with their staircase designs.


Let me also point out the many fabulous perks to this place. As you can see, I have a lovely walled-in garden.


secret gardenHere’s the garden again.

But, getting back to the design at the bottom level. If it had been me, I would’ve done many things differently. I would’ve borrowed some space from the bathroom, and then I think there might’ve been ample room for a real staircase.  However, it clearly wasn’t a priority for the seller.

Many of you sent in designs, but one I’d love to share one that was JUST sent in by David. Thank you so much!


altered floor plan - Boston Brownstone - renovation ideas


David is obviously a designer. And this is an excellent design. But, the changes would mean redoing BOTH bathrooms. And, getting approval to move the front door. I’d also need to close up the kitchen some. But, if I was starting from scratch, this makes so much sense!

So, in the end, I probably won’t change the spiral staircase at this time. However, I have found some lovely spiral staircases that have a lot of customization opportunities. You can also design your own. So, I was messing around with that today. Below is a couple that I like.

the iron shop spiral staircase - renovation ideas

the iron shop spiral staircase


the iron shop white spiral staircase - renovation ideas

And Lowes has 100s of spiral staircase kits.

So, if I survive the next three weeks, my focus is to concentrate on the basic renovations such as floors and painting.


And, the kitchen.

One other thing I’ve been thinking of in terms of renovation ideas. And, maybe this could be done in conjunction with the kitchen. I did not actually see the pocket doors. However, I imagine that they’re fabulous! I could see redoing the front hall closet and possibly using those doors instead of what’s there. I’d have to beef up the front door, however.

Maybe with an overdoor or in French, it is known as a supraporte. Yes, I had to look it up! I learned it only as an “overdoor.” An overdoor is a panel over a door, sometimes with ornate carving and then painted. Or sometimes an overdoor has art, like a trumeau mirror, often does.


Supraporte - overdoor - French design over a door


This is a very fancy one I found. (source unknown)

Okay, that’s all for now. As you can well imagine, this is a fairly intense time in this process.

Below are a few items mentioned in the post.


Please click on any image to learn more.


Thanks again for all of your great renovation ideas, love, and support. It means the world to me!


PS: Lots of new HOT SALES since the weekend to check out.

Plus, it’s Amazon Prime Day!!!


So, please click here to get taken to Amazon for their fabulous deals. Only one day!


67 Responses

  1. I too say to get rid of the spiral stair case. It will take a bit of creativity but it is a trip hazard. Stairways are the most dangerous part of a house and spiral stairways are super dangerous.
    I look forward to seeing all you do to your beautiful new home.

  2. LOVE the bookcase in the kitchen! LOVE the glass uppers. LOVED that first inspo picture of the bistro kitchen.
    You know what? This is YOUR house now and YOUR redo for YOU. Let the next guy make his own redos and don’t let “resale” hold you hostage. Do a two or 3 burner induction cooktop, 30″ oven and make space in a cabinet for a convection toaster oven. Ilove my Breville toaster oven and it’s hidden in an upper cabinet. I use it all the time. Actually, you might find you need more refrigerator space than cooking space. My 30″ counter depth fridge is perfect for my single life/serious cooking. Good luck finding a “small” microwave (& let me know if you do). 🙂
    Those spiral stairs look fab! My 91 year-old-friend never had a problem with hers. She tied a basket to a string to send items to the lower level!
    I know you’re having fun and that’s the BEST part!

  3. OMG. If I put laundry there, I would be hanging all of my “delicates” from under the staircase treads! LOL I’m not a fan of a shared laundry, because I like to toss my laundry in at night, go to sleep, and flip whatever can go into the dryer the next night (with the aforementioned “delicates” hanging nearby). I would definitely need my own laundry tucked into a closet someplace. I had a thin stackable and rolling laundry hamper/folding table with valet rods that pulled out in a closet outside my bedroom when I was single. It was amazing. I really miss that set-up, even though I have a huge laundry room, now on the ground floor of our house. 🙁

  4. Hi, Laurel!
    I have an 18″ dishwasher in my beach cottage. I would encourage you to opt for the 18″ dishwasher over two dishwasher drawers, because you then have the option of removing the top rack for an oversized piece. With two separate drawers you are limited to the height of the largest drawer. Just my two cents, but I like to keep my options as open as possible. And I know, you can always hand-wash crap, but why?? Hugs, Suzie

  5. Hi Laurel,

    Wow, lots of input from your friendly readers. I’d say do the stuff that creates a huge mess prior to moving in so that you don’t have to deal with it twice. Floor refinishing and kitchen redo are big ones. Why not at least get an estimate for what what it would cost to eliminate the spiral staircase and create one where David suggested. At least then you will know if its financially feasible.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      Well, the first obstacle would be getting permission to move the front door. Understandably, I’d rather not start off angering my neighbors by what might sound to them like a frivolous renovation. I also need to be sensitive to the fact that the folks who converted the building to condos in 1979 still live in the building and are architects. Yes, that’s right. They are architects. And, who knows? They might think it is a great idea. I’ve never met them. As for the expense, I already have a very good idea that it is unreachable for me.

      Not only does it mean fixing the 36 sq. ft hole left by the current staircase, moving the front door, and fixing where the current door is, matching the existing, wainscoting, on and on… (I could end up having to replace the entire rug in the front entrance, (a wool Wilton which is mucho bucks) it means ripping up the entire entry, losing that large closet, and losing another closet which will become the new entry. Plus, definitely having to close up the bathroom entrance to the den/2nd bedroom.

      But, the clincher is that the new staircase impedes on BOTH bathrooms. Not that both of them couldn’t give up a foot or two, but it means redoing both of them, as well and they were recently redone. It would definitely be well over $100,000.00 and probably more. Plus time and possibly living in a rented space for a while. This is the kind of renovation that should probably only occur if the entire place was being redone. It would be affecting the well-being of the other tenants and possibly for months.

      It would be far easier to open up the back of the room (where the cabinet currently is) a few feet and run a staircase along the back of the room, using half of the current hole. That is the only option that makes any sense to me in terms of expense and mess and I think it would look quite nice. However, it still might be prohibitive, money-wise. Still, I’ll explore the possibility.

  6. Laurel, the second floor has an “entry hall” that parallels the hall from the bathroom – an inefficient use of space when space is a premium. I would suggest turning the entry hall into a pantry for the kitchen and having the main entrance moved to the right. The closet, if really necessary, could be made smaller and moved to face the hall directly. These would be relatively simple changes that would significantly increase kitchen capacity.

    Enjoy your new home! There are few things in life as rewarding as making a new place into your own home.


  7. I’m fine with the spiral staircase as long as you avoid using it since you have alternative stairs. I almost slipped off a spiral stair in my thirties and was afraid to use it again. Even if you don’t use it, consider carpeting the treads – the one I slipped on had bare wooden treads.

  8. Hi Laurel,
    I think you’ve nailed the kitchen design. I also liked the suggestion of one of your other readers about submitting the staircase redesign as a project for one of the architectural schools. Personally, I wouldn’t spend anymore time right now looking at new spiral staircases unless you’re absolutely sure that’s the way you’re going to go. Save that $5k for your final decision/solution. Yes, the ones you showed, including the one from Paris are lovely. But how much of that loveliness are you going to actually see, given that the most attractive portion of a spiral staircase will be mostly concealed behind walls in your case (if I’m reading your floorplan correctly). You have enough to do between now and move-in. Given the number of dependencies on both floors associated with the stair project, I think you’ve made a wise decision to circle back to this later.

    As we can see from your floor plan, the building laundry is just across the hall and you have easy access from your MBR. That’s fantastic because your MBR is the area of your home that’s likely to generate the heaviest or bulkiest laundry… clothes, sheets, bath towels, etc. You have the building stairs available for toting your main floor linens and such to the laundry room.

    The question that pops up in my mind is where you will work in this home? Is that brown shape on your MBR floor plan your desk? Do you drink hot tea, coffee, or other beverages while you work? Would you like to easily step out to your lovely garden with a nice cup of tea or perhaps an adult beverage at the end of a work day without having to think about navigating the interior (spiral) stairs with said beverage? On the MBR level, there appears to be a space to the left of the stairwell (when you’re looking down on the presented floor plan). Is there a grounded outlet on one of those walls? Perhaps you could fit one of those dorm style refrigerators in that space to store some chilled waters, creamer (if you use it), juices, small bottle of wine, block of cheese, etc. You could just bring your “stock” in from the outside entrance on grocery store day or use the building’s stairway for that. A single free-floating wall shelf could accommodate a small coffee maker, electric tea kettle, a couple of mugs and/or wine glasses, and a small cheese board. You already have a water supply in the next room ;). By no means am I saying that you should take your main meals downstairs or convert this space to a full-on kitchenette. You should enjoy every inch of your new home!!! Rather, I’m suggesting an inexpensive way (prototyping) to test an idea. If you find that it enhances your “any hour of the day or night” utilization and enjoyment of the lower floor’s indoor and outdoor space AND you’ve identified any constraints associated with changes to the stairs, you can always choose to amp up the functionality and design appeal later by installing a small sink, water line, and/or upgrading to the adorable mini SMEG shown in your Tiny Kitchens post ( :). Alternatively (yawn), you may be able to extend the plumbing from the wet wall and install a stack washer and dryer in that space.

    1. Hi KP,

      I was thinking of having a mini-fridge, downstairs. And, maybe a small microwave. Great idea. That also will come in handy should I ever want to have a friend over for dinner and sit outside.

      I can tell you right now that I am not going to be working in that tiny space by the spiral staircase. The thing is, there’s a built-in there with filing cabinets. That’s okay. I doubt that I’ll bother removing that. At least for now.

  9. I think people have forgotten that you, as a ballet dancer, have good balance. I’ll put in that lifts tend to be prone to breaking down and expensive to fix. And ugly. I was hoping you would say there was a hallway staircase. You now have a destination for when you want to take a break from your office. You can go out into the hallway, down the stairs, and into your cosy breakroom/bedroom, or the garden. I was wondering if the contractor could just replace the outer railing of the spiral, or maybe rig up some rectangular pieces with molding to dress them up a bit. In the meantime, burnished brass/gold spray paint and some fabulous fabric on the two railings that face the room? I see why they did the white paint, but…

  10. Laurel,

    Welcome to Boston! So exciting. I hope, once we’re through the worst of the pandemic, to spot you walking in the Back Bay. I promise I won’t bug you, except maybe for an autograph or photo ;).

    Love your reno ideas, and second or third what other reader(s) have said: replace that circular staircase with a lift. Simple, relatively inexpensive options are easy to find. In 10 years you will thank yourself. Maybe sooner!

    Looking forward to more of your wit and creativity.


  11. A common laundry was the case in majority of these buildings not too long ago so it is not unusual. There were even buildings that didn’t have their laundry and they had a deal with the other building to use theirs! This situation luckily changed in the past 10-15 years, with washing machines getting smaller people squeezed them into bathrooms, cupboards, closets, wherever they fit. My wild guess is that if there are some larger units above Laurel’s they probably already have their own, so few units might still be using the common laundry. I would recommend looking into a washer & dryer combo (one single unit) and try to fit it in somewhere, a closet or even a cabinet under a countertop. I did that, yes, in a kitchen, I hid a Bosch washer and dryer under the countertop hidden by nice cabinet doors, looks great!

  12. Hi Laurel,
    So you have a shared laundry situation? That would have been a deal breaker for me. But maybe you’re used to it.

  13. Oh goodness, you’d really replace a spiral staircase no one wants to use with another spiral staircase? At least LOOK at home elevators. Seems like one could fit perfectly in the hole, be beautifully encapsulated, and you could live there forever. The good thing is your den can be your bedroom eventually too. I’d do that now and make the garden level a studio space with its own simple mini kitchen. There’s your Airbnb with separate entrance and in this location (I’m from Boston) you can get much more than you could’ve gotten in Northampton. Enough to pay for the dream kitchen eventually. Yay!

  14. Lots of opinions here in the comments. My advice is do what you want. You seem to have a Knack for it. ; )

    Have fun and enjoy your new digs. Looking forward to reading about it.

    Love the cabinet in the kitchen idea.

  15. Hi Laurel,
    I love your kitchen plans, esp. the sink at the far end. We have a similar counter depth fridge and it is big enough for two, so it will be fine for you! Since many contractors use Yale appliances, you might wander into their showroom at an early date and see if you can get some recommendations.
    The Boston area has a few schools of architecture. Have you thought of contacting some professors and see if they might use your floor plan in a practicum where all the students work up their ideas to solve the spiral staircase dilemma? It’s almost free (see below), and you might get a unique, affordable solution. A friend of mine did that with her house in Philly a few years ago and got a great solution to her issue. It was set up as a student contest, the winner got something like $500 and a write-up in the college paper-and a fantastic item for his resume. A win-win! Just something to consider.

  16. Suggest: Save cash now by painting the handrail on the spiral staircase (AKA Neckbreaker) Perhaps an overlay on the stair treads. In the kitchen, you need storage. Open shelves are dust catchers. Use lazy susans and pull outs. Drawer dishwashers are expensive and awkward. Use Bosch, but check CR to be sure you get the right model. Please avoid the trendy gold look on kitchen hardware. Good luck!

  17. this is my third post today; i need to get off the page. contractors. i got a reference when i was about to do a medium project and i have to say i rave again and again about these guys: twin peaks cons. llc. they are in foxborough and go to boston. website. ask them about the name, it has nothing to do with the tv series.

  18. to add to all the dire warnings re spiral staircase. forget the broken bones the real issue is a subdural hematoma. if you are alone ,fall and no on else is there death is a real possibility. this happened to katherine graham owner of the washington post. if someone is there you can be rushed to the hospital, have your brain operation and live. happened to me and i was on a spiral staircase. best hospital to be rushed to (from experience) Deaconess.

  19. I love your ideas for the renovation. The spiral staircase will be beautiful. (and fun!) Congratulations on your new place! Best wishes for your new adventure and getting your place just the way you want it. The garden is wonderful, too. I love it.

  20. I love David’s plan for the staircase. Yes it would take some work but I think in the long run you would really benefit from having an actual staircase vs the spiral. Where it is now will affect your furniture placement, and it just so doesn’t fit the 140 year old look and feel of your beautiful condo. I would think actual stairs vs the spiral staircase would also help the resale value, something always to consider. And of course the safety issues many have brought up. But, regardless, best of luck with your new home!

  21. Laurel, your 8” of Design thoughtfulness solves so many problems: Congrats! 😀
    Kitchen/Entry pocket doors: Brilliant idea to use the original pocket doors as the new doors for the entry closet. Lovely, just perfect. Looking forward to seeing them in the space. Transformative.
    Keeping the Entry: Another brilliant idea to keep a separate entry by bringing out the Entry/Kitchen 4.5” wall to the north living room wall elevation, increasing its width to 8”, and matching/coordinating the existing paneled wall architecture.
    Architectural Cohesion: So smart to create architectural cohesion by eliminating the confusing hodge podge north wall architecture through creating two passageways out of the one passageway. It will look fabulous once it reads: “Two Passageways” instead of reading now as “Hey, there is a 4.5” section of drywall stuck in the middle of her gorgeous passageway!”
    Focal Point: Also, I love how your idea solves the unfortunate problem of the 4.5” x 13’ section of entry/kitchen drywall being the architectural focal point for the north wall due to its position combined with it architecturally conflicting with the rest of the wall’s architecture.

  22. I was not going to comment on the spiral as I didn’t want to rain on your parade; however, as others have already warned you: they are very dangerous.

    My left leg was ruined when I was only 31 years old on a spiral at the top of my stairs. I never fully recovered and broke my ankle again on a staircase.

    If you have no room for a regular staircase, please get a lift. You cannot imagine the agony I have lived with now into my early 70s.

    Safety first!!

    I love all your ideas otherwise.

  23. “Some of you are concerned about lugging stuff up and down the spiral staircase. Well, I don’t have to! Nosiree. I can use the home’s original staircase to get to the lower level. It’s just outside my front door. (you can see it on the plan, above)”

    She has an downstairs door.

  24. My kitchen was gorgeous when the painters left three years ago. Top cabinets white, bottoms dark paint. Today there are more dings in the bottom cabinets than I care to mention. I probably should have then repainted as the dings are quite visible. I will soon be eighty and the only one who lives here. Just sayin…..

  25. Hi Laurel, this is a wonderful adventure for all your readers! I agree w all suggestions re considering a small lift in lieu of spiral staircase. Also, would you consider a 24” stove? Re marble counters – a big pain in the neck. People summon up counters in restaurants and bars which are spotted over years but thus look okay but it’s not the same as individual marks here and there that can drive one crazy. And finally, would it be possible to install soundproof board on the bedroom wall that is backed by the common space? You won’t want to hear noise from people at their storage units, etc. Congratulations again!

  26. Hi Laurel, perhaps people are suggesting the wall that separates the kitchen and entryway be removed because as one stands and looks at it, it does look like a partition, cutting up an original room in the building. Maybe consider a door to one of the two spaces it divide—either the kitchen, or entryway.

  27. I’m not Cassia but I’ve used Yale Appliance multiple times and had only good experiences with them. I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.

  28. Please consider getting rid of the spiral…I know you will have to make other sacrifices. They are not only dangerous…I had a friend that not only broke multiple bones but had a severe head injury from a set at her home in Colorado. Also trying to get furniture etc up and down them are a nightmare. Can’t wait to watch your progress! Congratulations on your new place.

    1. Hi Leesa,

      I guess you missed the part that talks about the alternate real staircase and the two points of access in the rear of the house. No stairs at all, in that case, for moving furniture in and out of the lower level. Of course, I don’t disagree about the dangers of a spiral staircase. We will have to see what’s possible. And, then the cost.

  29. Laurel, I am so excited for you and can’t wait to see what you do. That is a BEAUTIFUL place!! I love old homes, maybe not the plumbing and electrical but the home itself. I have learned so much from following you and appreciate your humor.

  30. Cassia, I was just looking at Yale Appliance (I am in NH). I wanted to get rid of my freestanding range and put in a sleek slide-in range. I never heard of Yale Appliance (I’m from Texas) and have seen horrible reviews of random appliance dealers. Is their service and their business really great?

    Thanks in advance!

  31. Oh, Laurel, Don’t change the guest bathroom. Imagine if you had a house guest and you invited friends over to meet her. She’s on
    a different time zone – She’s running late and waltzes out of the bathroom into the living room for the trek down to the guest bedroom – in her waspy travel robe, her hair wrapped in a towel and her bunny slippers – not good! Love your home – is the exterior limesstone? It is beautiful.


  32. btw I totally get why you are sticking with the spiral staircase to avoid the cost and time and approvals required of a much more major reno. I know no one would choose spiral as a first option, but you are fit and youthful and in cases where you or guests aren’t comfortable or you have stuff to carry, you can use the common staircase. There are always trade-offs, right? Also, on the kitchen, by eliminating very tall uppers on the long walls, you are saving a lot of money while making it feel much more open.

  33. Laurel,
    Congrats. It’s really very exciting to follow you through this adventure. I would like to second Marji’s advice of doing an 18″ dishwasher instead of two drawers. It not only takes less space, but they are more reliable as well. Be sure to allow room on the left for you to stand at the sink while loading the DW. You could put a magic corner in there for additional secret storage. Also, would it be possible to slide the door over into the kitchen so that it’s centered on the sink/back wall? That way you’d recoup 3 feet. I know it’s a fair amount of work but the gains are significant! Check our Yale Appliance to buy your appliances. They are a multi-generational, local family owned business that services what they sell. Best of luck!

  34. Dear Laurel,
    It’s great to see beautiful antique furniture used in kitchens. Gives the room so much character. So glad your cherished bookcase may get to live there. The sink in the dead space with the two glass front cabinets flanking it will be gorgeous. I like seeing your mind at work on this project! Oh, and I like David’s plan. He’s really talented. But… if it’s not feasible now, maybe one day in the far, far off future, you could do the European Style lift in that spiral staircase’s spot. Reminds me of my time in Italy. So cool and romantic. Until they need maintenance. Ha! Ha! ;D At least you have a second staircase in the common area as a backup.

  35. Hi Laurel,
    I’m a former New Yorker so I know spiral staircases. Have a friend who at one time lived in a converted laundry bldg. She had a spiral staircase connecting upper bedroom
    floor. She had a bad fall 1/2 way down. From that time on she used the elevator to go up and down. Any possibility of putting in a small lift? Please consider..

  36. Beautiful 🙂 But, I must concur with some others in probably the upper age category (over 50) that the spiral stairs need some strong re-considerations. Even though I’m BLONDE, I’m not known to be a klutz – and you’re only (1) trip/fall away from this being a nightmare- IMHO. A simple slip @ 40 -followed by foot surgery & in a boot for 6 plus weeks – OH MERCY ! I like the earlier mention of a “Lift”. Is that possible ? Best of Luck and many BLESSINGS to you. You new digs are truly magical !

  37. Dear Laurel, Even though this is the first time writing to you, I’ve absolutely loved your website for such a long time now. Congratulations on your beautiful duplex. I love it and am so happy for you and this new beginning in your life. I’m kind of a frustrated designer and just want to run an idea by you for your new home. You’ll probably think I’m crazy but hey, why not?! Would you be allowed to create an outdoor space (deck) above your lower level garden so that you could use that from your living room?

  38. Hi Laurel!

    I just spent forever typing a reply on my phone only to delete it, so here is the summed up version.

    So excited for you! Excited to watch the progress! Thank you for sharing!

    As for my unsolicited advice. Keep the upstairs floor plan how it is. I love how the bathroom and bedroom are connected. Better for privacy, convenience and if you ever have to use it for one floor living. Any guests using that bedroom will appreciate it too.

    I had an unplanned c-section this past spring for my 10 lbs 9 oz baby. BRUTAL recovery. I was a hot mess and could barely walk for two weeks. Appreciated our downstairs bedroom/bathroom making one floor living possible. You just never know what might happen.

    Good luck with the decisions! Sorry for typos, juggling large baby while typing. Ha!


  39. Laurel, could you please show us what you are thinking for the LR furniture arrangement? I keep thinking I’d want to close off the door to the bedroom (the one in the LR) because there’s not much wall in there but the doorway and trim is so nice the way it is! Also, I thought one of your posts talked about your preference regarding big bays like that so I am wondering how you will use it.

  40. I disagree with anyone who says don’t do marble! I say DO IT! I adore it and have had it in my kitchen for years. Nothing beats marble. It’s in kitchens and restaurants all over Europe. Water doesn’t stain marble, acidic things do. I am careful and my marble counters and island are in great condition after 8 years.

  41. Hi Laurel, we’re in the Boston area, and have discovered it’s tough finding good contractors who are available soon and don’t cost a fortune! Be aware that it might take a while to find a contractor, and you’ll likely faint when you get the estimate. Sorry…that’s just the reality around Boston.

  42. Am doing cartwheels (no not really as too old) but am so happy for you and your purchase of your soon-to-be home. Its absolutely beautiful! As to future renovations I’m sure no matter what you do will honour this grand lady.

    With that said though, regarding the spiral staircase speaking namely for myself who has an inner ear disorder and on occasion experience cycles of vertigo I know I would encounter a problem navigating it particularly because of its open risers. Just a thought on my part with hopes that perhaps for yourself, eventually you will consider another alternative to it if planning to make it your forever place. Fondly

  43. I’ve had Madre Pearlz quartzite in my kitchen for 8 years and love it. It resembles marble but is heat and stain resistant.
    Your home is beautiful.

  44. Laurel, check out Yale Appliances in the Boston area for your appliance needs. Straightforward, concise advice and service.

  45. Laurel, you are in my old neighborhood and hopefully soon to be again! Your garden is so beautiful and very special to have in Boston. I’m living through you right now and the only thing I will say about the kitchen is do not go with marble. Beautiful yes! But I had it in my 2nd boston condo (millennium tower) and I’m telling you it was a perpetual problem with staining and even water marks from a glass. I even had it honed. Gorgeous but impractical even for a single gal like me. In a small kitchen you will need to use all your counters, so try something heat and stain resistant. I LOVE your design eye and can’t wait to see what you decide on!!

  46. Hi Laurel, What fun doing this with you!! I think spiral staircases are a nightmare as you get older. I am thinking – put the downstairs closet back where it was and move the staircase opening upstairs to where the dining area is and try and get a regular staircase in there.

  47. Good Morning
    I am enjoying spending your money on some “maybe’ renovations and not so maybe renovations. While I applaud your choice of a south facing condo, that would be a number 1 for me since I have a south facing home now, and love your garden space, so important in the city, I still think you may regret the lack of parking. That being said, your choice. Given the usual Boston real estate situation, your condo will appreciate in value regardless of what you do, doing less is best. I applaud your decision not to do the dark green kitchen, that would be fine if you owned the entire town house. Beyond those comments, I would not even begin to try to tell you what to do, you have been in the design business almost as long as I have lived and don’t need me to tell you how to do it! But, as I said, fun to spend your money! looking forward to the next installment.

  48. Have you thought about a small old fashioned european lift instead of spiral stairs? I have wooden spiral stairs, and I am fine with them, but my visitors are not. A lift would fit easy and could look very glamorous as well. Just a thought

  49. Spiral staircases get scarier to use as one gets older. Not that you’re old, but eventually….. maybe consider getting a tiny elevator installed in the space that now holds the spiral staircase. They can fit little elevators in tight spaces.
    I enjoying seeing the photos of your new place, congratulations! Can’t wait to see the kitchen remodel.
    I, like Marji above, have an 18″ dishwasher, which is just the right amount of space for hubs and me.

  50. Laurel – LOVE the design of the kitchen – the sink on the end with the lit cabinets will create a pretty focal point instead of that dead end, and the L will give you a lot of counter space. I I like that you are not having uppers on the long walls, as I think it will make the kitchen feel more spacious and pleasant to work in, and lets face it – you can’t reach most shelves in uppers anyway. I have now taken all the uppers down in my NY kitchen and just have a couple uppers in our weekend place, and people thought I was crazy, but I couldn’t be happier (and I cook a lot). And as much as I love that dark deVol kitchen, to me, it doesn’t belong in a galley. And your bookcase will create a lot of storage plus give it an un-kitchen feel. Will you have a pantry outside of the kitchen? Also good idea to focus on the kitchen and stairwell rather than closing or opening walls at this point. Its good to live in a place to see how it feels, I think.. I can really picture it – what a lot of added value you are bringing to this home!

  51. Hi Laurel, How exciting for you. My advice would be to do what you are doing – hasten slowly. New kitchen, yes and the only other pressing item, besides painting etc. would be the ill thought out pipework safety rail around the staircase.

    Have you considered having a bookcase or display case built the same height, (code compliant) which would have a place on top for flowers or displays of a precious collectable? You may be able to source a piece of furniture that can be bolted into place. The dogleg on the other side could be a straightened up screen, (meeting the door frame) with a shelf extending over the stair. I am sure you get the idea . Just a thought.

  52. DEar Laurel,
    Please consider the 18″ D/W over the drawers. My mother has two galley kitchens and the 18″model is much handier than the drawers, plus it cleans better.
    I hope you get a Bosch. I have had two and they are quiet and easy to live with. The silverware tray on the top level is my favorite feature, and I had thought I would hate it.
    Now I am going back up to look at your very inspring plans for this dream apartment!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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