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Upon inheriting a collection of antique furniture from her late mother, Mary Hayes found herself in need of more space, both for her new possessions and for herself. She found exactly that in a bright and sunny Salem condo, which turned out to be a perfect fit in more ways than one.  

Mary Hayes moved because she needed space for inherited family furniture. While she was looking for a home for her antiques, she realized that she wanted more space for herself, too, and her 750-square-foot condo wasn’t up to the task.

“When my mother died, I knew that I would inherit a lot of antique furniture, some of it very good,” Hayes says. “I loved where I lived, but if I had to move, I wanted what I think of as a real home, with a dining room and a guest bedroom . . . I also wanted a real living room and a deck. I did not want to be at street level. And, I wanted to stay in the same Salem neighborhood.”

Hayes, who retired from the Massachusetts Office of Tourism, where she promoted the Commonwealth for group tours and headed up large events and conventions, has embraced her adopted city. Originally from New Jersey, Hayes has for two years chaired “Christmas in Salem,” the annual historic house tour organized by Historic Salem, Inc., and she is also involved in Hamilton Hall, another well-known Salem institution.

Hayes not only found a home with all the elements on her wish list, but she also rejoices in the fact that the property was developed and furnished by women, including the architect-developer and interior decorator.

“It has the level of detail and refinement that a woman would incorporate, like kitchen shelves that roll out and lights in all the closets. There is different beautiful lighting in all the rooms.”

She bought a 2,200-square-foot condominium in what was previously a single-family house reconfigured into two spacious units by Sara del Rio of Hamilton’s Castle del Rio, Architects. Hayes’s condominium occupies the top two floors, where she lives in a large, open space that comprises a kitchen, living and dining rooms, a home office and a spare bedroom, a TV room, three bathrooms, and even a deck. Best of all, it is located in the same central Salem neighborhood she has come to love.


“The house had good bones to begin with,” says del Rio. “It had beautiful, large windows. We modernized it and made it more open and spacious when we took down the walls between the kitchen, living, and dining rooms.”

Once Hayes bought her dream home, she turned to Sally Wilson of Salem’s Wilson Kelsey Design, who was recommended to her by a friend to help incorporate her family furniture into her spacious new digs.

“I grew up in a beautiful house full of art and antiques, but the rooms were warm and accessible; no parts of the house were ‘don’t touch.’ That’s what I wanted,” Hayes explains. “My mother had a great sense of style, so before this, whenever I needed help, I turned to her. [Working with a decorator] was a new process for me.”

“She knew that she needed organization,” Wilson says of Hayes. “Mary has appreciation for antiques and history, and a fine sensibility with textiles. She loves being with her family furniture. We took what she had and showed her how to treasure the pieces while incorporating them into a functional decor.” Wilson sums up the style of Hayes’s home: “We placed her furniture, filled a few holes, and created a Country Traditional interior. But we made it fresh.”

Wilson points to the family room, where two upholstered armchairs gather around the fireplace installed by del Rio. “The yellow upholstery fabric is geometric and modern; it takes away all potential stuffiness. The striped rug, too,” Wilson continues, “has a contemporary sensibility.” A quirky coffee table consisting of a wood top on an old iron base rounds out the furniture group before the fireplace.

The living room is a more formal space, with luxurious floor-length panels at the windows and a wing chair upholstered with white mohair velvet covered with red crewelwork flowers. “The fabric, like the chair, has an Early American feel,” says Wilson.

The dining room features a handsome china cabinet, bought for the space and customized by Wilson. “Against the back, we installed yellow silk moire, with gimp all around the edges.” The resulting display of Hayes’s best china and silver is nothing short of stunning.

Also among Hayes’s inherited antiques were a brace of wood decoy ducks. “They were my father’s,” she says. “My brother has half of his collection, and I have the other half. I would have just lined them up atop a shelf,” she laughs. Instead, Wilson designed a chic, yet naturalistic display on the stair hall wall. “We designed very simple brackets, one for each decoy. The ducks, paired with a duck-motif lithograph, float there. Mary calls it her aviary!” she says, laughing.

Both Hayes and Wilson commend del Rio on her color choices. “The place was freshly painted, and I loved all the colors,” Hayes says. “It was so nice to not have to paint; all I had to do was move in.” She talks about the salmon-colored walls in the small TV room.

“That is a color I might not have chosen; I would have thought it too bright. But it was a big part of what initially appealed to me about the condo; I kept returning to the realtor’s window, where it was pictured. One walk-through and I said, ‘That’s it!’ That color is among my favorite things in the apartment.”

Hayes is settling in just fine in her new home. “I feel incredibly fortunate,” she continues. “I went from 750 square feet to this; my home is bigger than some of my friends’ houses. But I have never once felt lost in the space. I could never have done this on my own—I am so grateful to Sara and Sally.”

Would Mom approve of her daughter’s new setup? “I still can’t believe that I live in a great home, and I think how proud my parents would be if they saw this,” Hayes says.