A Cambridge Condo has Inspired Ideas for Small-Space Living
November 27, 2022
An architect devises a thoughtful plan for his own Cambridge condo that leaves nothing to chance.
Text by Alyssa Bird Photography by Michael J. Lee
Call it the twenty-seven-year itch. After more than a quarter of a century living in the Cambridge home he had designed for himself, architect Jacob Albert started craving something new—and with less maintenance. The wheels started turning, and a 1924 candy-factory-turned-condo-complex only a few blocks from his home caught his eye.
The Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects founding partner and 2015 New England Design Hall of Fame inductee was immediately taken with the southern light pouring into a 1,250-square-foot two-bedroom unit with ten-foot ceilings. He also appreciated the fact that the space, which was converted to residential use in 2007, was essentially a blank canvas. “The basic organization was good, but the front door opened into the kitchen, which I didn’t like,” recalls Albert, who conceived an entry hall to funnel guests into the living area instead.
The kitchen, meanwhile, received a complete revamp. “The original kitchen was bland and had very little storage,” says the architect. “I kept its footprint, which measures just eight by nine feet, but I now have three times the amount of storage and counter space.”
To help with these changes, among others, Albert tapped Burlington, Massachusetts−based builder JW Construction. “This wasn’t a full gut renovation, but it did require some major planning to get everything to fit,” says JW Construction’s John Hand, who notes that adding infrastructure to the kitchen and installing new wiring in existing walls and ceilings with minimal damage was a challenge.
Paneled wainscoting and shelving in the living room, primary bedroom, and guest bedroom/study arguably created the most dramatic transformation. “I know exactly how much space my stuff occupies down to the number of inches, so I knew I needed shelving that would accommodate 250 linear feet of books,” says Albert. “The ceilings are tall, and this wainscoting makes them feel even taller.”
Each room has a different palette: gray in the living room, green in the primary bedroom, and ochre in the guest bedroom/study. “The colors are based on memories I have of traveling in Sweden. Even the new matte white-oak flooring reminds me of the country,” says Albert. He decorated the condo with vintage and antique finds, rugs from his travels, artwork by friends, and even a couple of his own furniture designs.
Most important, though, is a collection of pottery from his parents, who once owned a dinnerware factory outside Atlanta. “This place is a good reflection of Jacob himself,” says Hand. “It’s thoughtful, efficient, and sophisticated.”