Lisa Furey and her husband wanted to keep it simple. They were looking for a pied-à-terre—something that had the same pedestrian-friendly urban vibe found in Europe. They found it in a condominium with ready access to Bryn Mawr’s shops, restaurants and public transportation.
Built in 2002, the condo lacked architectural features. But Furey, an interior designer specializing in high-end projects, immediately saw potential in the property and its location. The corner unit had lots of big windows and abundant natural light. “You come into the front door, and there’s a wall of glass that overlooks trees in a park,” Furey says. “It’s very calming. People literally exhale when they [see it].”
A former divorce lawyer, Furey tapped into her extensive experience interviewing clients about how they currently live and how they want to live. “I’m a problem solver,” she says.
Furey took a hard look at her household and life goals. At the time, she and her husband were empty nesters living in a lovely 4,400-square-foot home. Paired with a spacious second property in South Carolina, it was too much for them. But with strong personal and professional ties to the Main Line, they still needed a home—albeit it a smaller one—in the area.
Just shy of 2,000 square feet, the Bryn Mawr condo was an ideal size, with a spacious living room, eat-in kitchen,dining area, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a foyer and a laundry room. “When I was looking at what I could whittle away, the first things were bedrooms and guest space,” says Furey. “For us, two bedrooms is just right.”
To create her vision of a European-inspired flat, Furey spiced up an otherwise vanilla space, paring down the condo to its core and layering in architectural details like pale plank floors and wainscoting in the bathrooms, plus an intricately carved marble fireplace mantel in the living room.
“The renovation was almost a complete gut job,” Furey recalls. “We started over with lighting, painting, wallpaper, tile, bathrooms, everything.”
The only element she retained was the classic white raised-panel cabinetry in the kitchen. She upgraded the room with stainless steel appliances, milky marble countertops and a subway tile backsplash. Retaining the cabinets helped the designer stick to an ambitious construction timeline of three weeks, a feat she accomplished through “organization
and whip cracking,” she says.
The move also presented an opportunity to cut back on clutter. The couple sold some furnishings, consigned others, donated to charities and passed along pieces to their adult children. “You have to think about every single piece you keep, even artwork you don’t have the walls for anymore,” Furey says. “It’s surprising how little you need.”
The vast majority of the furniture and accessories in their new home were purchased specifically for the condo. “They’re collected rooms, spaces with soul—not pages out of a catalog,” she says. “You need to put your own personality into a room.”
White walls provide the ideal backdrop for the spare and elegant furnishings Furey chose. “A lot of homes in France have white walls, and I wanted to create that feeling,” she says, noting that they are anything but vanilla.
Furey ultimately landed on Benjamin Moore White, with a different sheen for each space: washable flat in the living room, with semigloss trim; eggshell in the kitchen, “in case anything splashes”; and flat white in the bedroom.
In keeping with the theme, the living room is sophisticated and serene, with a tailored white sofa and a pair of leather butterfly chairs. A Lucite cocktail table allows light to pass through, enhancing an aura of airiness. Overhead, a French antique brass chandelier drips amethyst and rock crystals.
A wall of French doors opens onto a balcony. “We love sitting out there with drinks and enjoying the beautiful view,” says Furey.
The dining table is long and simple, with soft grey upholstered wing chairs at either end, with Lucite chairs on the sides. A small tulip-style table for two sits by the window for casual dining.
The bathrooms are luxuriously finished with water-resistant vinyl grasscloth wallpaper and a black slate floor set in a herringbone pattern. Brass sconces with seeded glass shades flank the vintage mirror above a marble-top sink.
The small second bedroom serves as a multipurpose space. There’s a desk built into the closet, and a sofa bed can be used for overnight visitors.
Thanks to Furey’s vision and execution, she and her husband can now enjoy the relaxed lifestyle they imagined. “It’s so easy, very freeing,” she says. “There’s not one thing we miss.”