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At home together

Salem couple brings their artistic and historic touch to Brooksby

Created date

May 29th, 2014

On one end of the living room, a grand piano topped with music sheets begs to be played. In another corner, a built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookcase invites readers. And on every surrounding wall, carefully selected paintings complete the elegant atmosphere created by Alice and Carl Wathne. 

The Wathnes moved to Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., last September from a 140-year-old house in Salem. “We wanted to reproduce that feeling here as much as we could,” Alice explains.

As they prepared themselves and their house for the move, the Wathnes worked with Brooksby Personal Moving Consultant Laurie Phillips, who visited the couple in Salem and helped determine what would fit in their two-bedroom, Hawthorne-style apartment home. “She measured down to the quarter-inch,” Carl says, so when it was time for the move, they knew exactly where and how everything would fit. 

Wrapping their arms around home

The couple customized their apartment home by adding hardwood floors, the built-in bookcase, and crown molding to add to the antique look. 

Speaking to their particular taste in aesthetics, Carl says it usually requires “three nail holes to hang each picture.” They rearrange each piece until they all fit together perfectly.

The result: the couple’s collective artistic touch is every bit as present at Brooksby as it was in their 12-room historic Salem house—just on a smaller scale. 

“I love this place; I really do. I can put my arms around it,” Carl says, adding, “I’m forever losing my glasses and Android [smartphone], and I don’t have to go far to find them.”

The couple chose Brooksby’s flexible, 20-meal plan because Carl likes to cook a couple of times a week. Carl enjoys their kitchen, because everything he needs while cooking is in close proximity. 

In the afternoons, light cascades into the Wathne’s living room from the large sliding door that connects to the outside patio, a highlight for the couple’s nine-year-old sheltie Zoe. When the snow melted, a waterfall was in view outside. 

“We think this is as great as you can get,” Alice says. “It’s like a little house.” Shortly after their move to Brooksby, the Wathnes received a gift of daffodil bulbs from a new neighbor. This spring, about six months after their move, the Wathnes eagerly awaited the emergence of the buds they had planted.    

The onerous task of maintaining the Wathnes’ Salem house was a significant factor in the couple’s decision to move. While Alice had admired the trees and garden outside, Carl lamented the work that needed to be done to the house’s exterior. 

“There’s no question in our minds that it was the right thing to do,” Carl says of the move to Brooksby.

Thoughtful decisions

The prospect of downsizing was a challenge for the Wathnes, made easier with help from Phillips, whose downsizing workshops the couple attended. 

In the midst of sorting through and throwing away years and floors full of belongings, Carl said the process felt like “swimming through a pool of molasses.” Reflecting on the journey more than six months after the move, he says, “We finally found a drain.” 

Carl advises others who are contemplating a move to “start now.”

Artistic endeavors

Though they parted with many belongings, the Wathnes’ decision to bring their grand piano was a “no-brainer,” Carl says. A retired piano teacher, Alice still practices each day.

This month, Alice will accompany a chorus, in which Carl sings, for the annual concert in Waltham, Mass. The couple regularly attends classical concerts by professional musicians who perform at Brooksby and events performed by Brooksby’s own musical groups. 

The Wathnes joined a recent Brooksby trip to watch a simulcast of La Boheme at a Revere theater. The couple also participated in a lifelong learning class about Michelangelo, taught by a Brooksby resident. Meanwhile, Alice and Carl planned to get back into painting of their own—a number of the pieces in their apartment are their own work.  

Between other activities, including regular trips back to Salem to visit one of the Wathnes’ two sons and his family and to the couple’s Methodist church in Danvers, Carl exercises at Brooksby’s fitness center and Alice is a member of the community’s book club.  

This month, Alice and Carl will celebrate the 70th anniversary of their first date, likely with a viewing of Casablanca—the film they saw together that first night. Seated side-by-side on the couch in their Brooksby apartment home, it’s clear they are once again—and still—at home together.