Navy Yard Renovation

When you are able to work with a place that starts with such fantastic qualities, all sorts of opportunities open up. This condo in Charlestown, Massachusetts has a gorgeous view overlooking a navy shipyard, and we knew we had to highlight this aspect. We started out with a great balcony and an abundance of square footage to work with. The problem with this condo was that it was not designed to make the best use of its space, and didn’t have the aesthetic for what the owners wanted.


The owners were looking to entertain with their space. They wanted the home to feel more connected and more communal, and to be a better fit for throwing parties, charming guests, and hosting their own cooking class. A large goal was to provide some definition and emphasize certain features while softening the overall presence. Some spaces felt awkward, and many areas didn’t flow together as well as they could. On top of that, the overall aesthetic didn’t match their style. The owners felt the old design was too ornate, a bit loud, and weren’t fans of the traditional European look with such heavy uses of color and gold. They were looking for more of a Scandinavian style, something that was a little more minimal, modern, and muted. A tall order, especially given the challenges we found, but one we were excited to begin and very proud to complete. 


We were approached by the designer Aimee Anderson and the architect Mary Mckee to work on this project together. Mary Mckee was brilliant with her space planning and making the home feel connected. Aimee Anderson’s meticulous design and choices for color palette, textures, and furnishings really brought everything together. Knowing their talent and being able to work with them definitely gave us even more enthusiasm for this full scale renovation.


Newton Kitchen Designs fabricated and installed the kitchen pieces, and we worked collaboratively with them to fulfill that design. We focused on building the steel perch at the far end of the island, as well as the 8 foot-long oak tabletop that connects to the opposite side of the island, which actually sits on top of a piece of half-inch steel. If you notice the tabletop, it actually looks like its balancing on a piece of really thin steel with no additional support or legs underneath it.


One nice feature was the sink, which was made very large and wide with a cutting board that slides across so that two people could be working at the same time. We also created a custom teak drying rack and a stone recess in the countertop, which we made waterproof. This created a kind of secondary sink for the water to drain down into the plumbing below, which was a really nice way to replace a traditional dishwasher.

We actually started with a solid wall behind the drying rack by the sink, and we found out that it would be very difficult to relocate existing plumbing in the building. Because of the shape the plumbing was in, we had to work with the building and negotiate so that we could not only fix the plumbing but push it over to the wall to the left of the sink. This allowed us to create a gorgeous view of the Boston Harbor from the kitchen sink, looking through the pantry glass. This also brought in natural light and went a long way to make this large open space feel welcoming, while still having a creative separation.


We also fabricated the oak shelves that float along the wall. We used a bright Scandinavian tile, and installed this nice oak with wood from a reclaimed lumber yard in Cambridge, the same wood we used for the tabletop. The secret behind the tabletop? We actually used the floor sander on top of the table to flatten it out and give a matching finish.


Another nice detail we included to help keep the look clean was the recessed outlets. We didn’t want the backsplash to have the visual interruption of an electrical outlet, so we installed a plug strip upside down in the bottom of the shelf. This gave the option for electricity without having to look at an obtrusive wall socket.

Have you ever seen something like this?

Interestingly, while discussing style and looking at design inspiration, one of the homeowners showed us something she wanted for the floor. She told us what she was thinking about and asked if we had ever done anything like that. Nick pulled out his phone, asked if the picture was what she meant. It was exactly what she meant, and she delighted to find out that is was actually Nick’s own kitchen! So, that decision became easier, and we very careful in implementing this piece. These transitions can always be challenging to make truly smooth and seamless, so we worked carefully with the whole team to place each individual tile in a particular spot. We wanted to make sure the design felt random, but also sporadic, so after we set the wood, we placed the tile and took pictures of different options to compare. When we figured out the perfect set up, our wood floor guys (a better name for their job?) hand-scribed each piece of wood to give this perfectly flush transition.

We really can’t get over how much with love this feature for this space and purpose. It was very thoughtful in that it was functional for spills and dragging chairs in this area, but it also communicated the separation of the dining space without creating more of a division. It also had the effect of drawing you down the line out on to the balcony, giving you the feeling as if the room almost trickled out into the water.


The previous owner had combined two units and ripped out some walls that created a large awkward bedroom where you would walk through the other additional bedrooms. When we redesigned the place, we wanted to really maximize that space. What started as one large room became a guest bedroom, an office, a laundry room and a closet leading into the master suite. 


We wanted to gain some space and put a closet in this bedroom, so we decided to remove the cabinet in the wall. When we opened up the wall and found this structural steel beam, we immediately saw the space above and below it as a chance to get creative. Rather than close the wall back up, we decided to turn the space around the beam into these triangle cabinets to give an interesting storage option.

It took us over 18 hours...

We really appreciate how the bathroom came out with these uniquely shaped tiles, not only for the appearance but also because this part ended up taking a lot of time. We pushed for the blue grout to fill in between the tiles because it looks great, but we didn’t realize at the time that it would end up staining part of the white tiles. Take the lesson from us, porous tiles will stain next to certain colored grouts. We ended up spending over 18 hours just scrubbing and cleaning the tile, but was well worth it to provide such a clean aesthetic!


We felt the glass wall was a really smart idea because it allowed for an abundance of natural light and kept the room connected visually while allowing for an acoustical separation. This connected to the television room, which includes the sofa we built-in. A nice feature is the TV setup, which is attached to a thin pole, rather than a cabinet, to allow people to still feel a part of what’s going on in the living room space.


Rather than pushing the ceiling as high as we could, we wanted to be thoughtful in minimizing changes in ceiling elevation. When thinking about the design holistically, we realized we wanted the glass wall and the cabinetry to be the same height, to keep your eyes level. This changes how the room communicates, and it allows your eyes to be drawn to more important features without being dragged all over. This soffit is one of those features you might not notice immediately but goes a long way to give a nice feeling upon entering the room.


We love how this project turned out, and working with such great people is always a fun experience. Let us know what you think!

Projectdrew reilleyRenovations