When Bonnie Bond bought her condo in the Lewis and Clark Building downtown in 2012, she faced an unusual situation. Not only was the two-bedroom unit due for routine updates—the building was built in 1989, and the flooring and cabinetry reflected their age—the condo bore the marks of its previous, and very notable, owner. Artist, UVA professor and renowned Picasso scholar Lydia Gasman had used its walls as her canvas.
Gasman, who died in 2010, enjoyed a towering reputation in the art history world. She’d begun her career as a celebrated painter in her native Romania before becoming an internationally respected expert on Picasso. At UVA, where she taught for two decades, her lectures were routinely filled to overcapacity.
In the condo where she lived and sometimes held court with admiring students and friends, she’d made art part of the architecture—applying assemblage materials, like copper piping that formed mock candelabras, right to the walls. Jagged chunks of mirror glass, affixed to a column, reflected the sky near the big west-facing windows in the living area. And she’d drawn and painted on the drywall, in some places from floor to ceiling.
“The whole place was like her laboratory,” says Lyn Bolen Warren, owner of Les Yeux du Monde gallery, which still represents Gasman’s work. “She was constantly creating.”
There was normal wear and tear on the condo, too, of course. “It was never painted, and there was original carpeting,” says Bill Norton of Rockpile Construction, Bond’s contractor. But Bond, who was relocating from Florida to live near her son (Abode photographer Stephen Barling), knew she couldn’t find a better location in Charlottesville.
She had a vision for the look and feel of her new home, but first there were layout problems to solve. “I wanted this wall down,” she says, indicating a wall that used to separate the kitchen from the living space. “The kitchen was completely closed in,” says Norton.
The team—which also included kitchen designer Karen Turner—reconfigured short hallways to make the bedrooms more private. They also deemed two and a half bathrooms to be too many for the condo, converting one into a laundry room. In a few places, they changed ceiling heights, aiming for unity throughout the not-too-large unit.
As for looks, Bond had in mind a Tuscan sensibility, a reaction to her years in Florida. “I was sick of white,” she says. “I wanted to do earth tones.”
With a consistent look being a priority, she chose one paint color, Sherwin Williams’ Bagel, for the entire place—including walls, trim and even shutters. “It feels very peaceful in here,” Turner says. “There’s nothing distracting.” Walnut flooring completes the warm, earthy palette, and it’s echoed by the walnut stain on the floating shelves that line the living area’s far wall.
For the many windows in the living and dining area, Bond decided on interior plantation shutters. “I’m not fond of draperies because they collect dust,” she says. “I love what the shutters do to the light; it’s nice at night looking down Main Street with the city lights.”
Redesigning the kitchen was a challenge, given existing ceiling heights and sprinklers that could not be moved. “It was a real puzzle,” says Turner. Her goal was for the kitchen not to “jump out at you when you walked in the front door.” In other words, though the kitchen is visible from the entrance, it needed to appear…not exactly kitchen-like.
The key was to hide the sink and appliances from the front door vantage point, instead putting cabinetry, crystalware and the wine collection on view. “It looks friendly,” says Turner. The maple cabinets “feel more like furniture,” she says.
She also protected the view from the living area, not only tucking away the larger appliances but even specifying that a counter meant to hold the blender and toaster be hidden by a 12″ wall. The granite countertops, Shaker-style cabinetry and travertine tile backsplash all contribute to a sense of quietude, with an accent provided by a walnut bartop.
The master suite got a thorough update, including a few custom touches. New built-in cabinetry with a live-edge walnut countertop provides space for books and grandkids’ toys, and near one end, with a view toward Carter Mountain, is a built-in desk.
A hallway to the bathroom doubles as a walk-through closet, with mirrored doors that replaced the old bifold-style ones. The outdated 30″ bathroom vanity gained six inches in height, making it more comfortable to use, and, as in the kitchen, a built-in cabinet “looks like a piece of furniture,” says Turner. A tub was replaced by a glass-walled shower, lined with tumbled-edge porcelain tile that mimics the look of stone.
In its serenity and simplicity, the palette of Bond’s condo—which she’s occupied now for four years—has something in common with Gasman’s original vision for the place. “She started out only intending to have a white couch and the white walls,” says Warren, “and three pillows, à la Mondrian, on the white couch—a yellow, a red and a blue.” But Gasman’s restless creativity got the better of her minimalist ideals. “As time went on, she embellished each and every surface,” Warren says.
In one hallway, she pasted up numerous enlargements of her beloved mother’s photograph, then sketched her own version of the portrait right on the drywall. When Bill Norton and his team undertook the renovation for Bond, they carefully removed that section of the wall, and Bond had it framed. It now hangs very close to its original spot.
1,500 square feet
Structural system: Steel-reinforced concrete high-rise
Exterior material: Brick and stucco
Interior finishes: Drywall, walnut floors, tiled bathrooms, custom cabinetry
Window system: Marvin
Mechanical systems: Heat pump (water source)