We are so flattered to see our Queen Village project gracing the cover of the Philadelphia Design Guide! Check out Philadelphia Magazine’s profile of the project here. The complete tour of the home is available on our website, too!
I am happy to report that Philadelphia Magazine is featuring one of my latest projects in this month’s issue. Check out the complete home tour here. I have come to think of this home as the “archetypical” Philadelphia row home, only reimagined and reinvigorated to accommodate the needs and lifestyle of a young center city family.
When I completed this Queen Village project earlier this year I knew it would be relevant and interesting to many urban dwellers who love the character and charm of an older home but have difficulty figuring out how to make living in one feasible.
Philadelphia is a city blessed with a multitude of historic architectural buildings and many of its streets are lined with vertical, long, attached houses commonly referred to here as “row homes.” Many of these houses, some built as far back as the 17 and 18 hundreds, are known for their majestic exteriors, tall ceilings, and ornate moldings. They are also known for being pretty impractical for 21st century living.
Maneuvering strollers and bicycles in and out of their front doors can resemble a Cirque du Soleil act. Kitchens can be cramped and closed off from the other rooms, making daily family life a struggle. Try cooking dinner, monitoring homework, and making sure a younger child, who is out of view, isn’t getting into some kind of trouble in a neighboring room. And forget about storage space. Rare is the row home that has a foyer closet for all of our boots, gloves, coats and hats, let alone enough bedroom closets to fit much more than a half a season worth of clothes.
Last year I was approached by a young couple with twin toddler girls who were committed to staying in the city but needed to make their recently purchased home work for them. I set out to rethink the space entirely, make smart decisions that didn’t break the bank, and devise proactive solutions that would allow them to stay in the house for many years.
It was clear from the beginning that the kitchen and powder room needed an overhaul and that we all wanted to create more of an open living floor plan on the first floor. We also decided to open up the entire back of the house with floor to ceiling windows, add a separate entry room with ample built in storage, rework the floor plan on the second floor to make space for a home office plus a full bath, laundry room, and three (yes three!) bedrooms, and shrink the footprint of the over-sized, poorly laid out master bedroom to accommodate a large dressing room and an expanded master bathroom. We also added wood paneling to the living room, foyer, and staircase to help better define and enhance those spaces.
Once we sorted out these architectural and structural changes, the furnishing of the house came together relatively easily. We had already conceived the spaces with specific furniture and needs in mind. It’s always preferable to do that whenever possible. I find spaces are significantly more successful when they are planned as a whole rather than piecemeal. We also added some fun wallpaper in a few key spots, kept materials like tile and countertops simple and fun, and splurged in a few places like the custom cabinetry, millwork, and window treatments.
Our clients have been enjoying their new home and even welcomed a third child over the summer – thus putting this reimagined row home immediately to the test!
For the final post of our “Work In Progress” series, which provides a look at the design process behind our work on a young family’s new home, I’m happy to share candid shots a few days into the final installations. Finishing touches on the kitchen were being added, built-ins were getting their final tweaks, paint was drying, wallpaper was going up, and some of the key furniture was placed in the rooms.
The kitchen is more modern, but still rooted in traditional references like shaker style cabinet doors, carrara marle countertop, and bridge sink faucet. This kitchen is lighter, brighter, and significantly more family and entertaining friendly than it’s original iteration.
We enlarged a window not only to bring in tons of natural light, but also to give our client a lovely view into their backyard, pool, and pool house – a great vista from which to watch kids playing and friends lounging while prepping meals.
We created a breakfast area with a custom built-in bench for the family to gather for everyday meals. Custom valances top off the look.
Whenever possible we like to incorporate client’s existing furniture into their new spaces – here we used an antique farm table our client inherited and paired it with blue French metal chairs.
The living room combines fun fabrics from Lulu DK and Serena and Lily with a more classic, traditional Chesterfield sofa from Lee Industries. The wing chairs are vintage, but spruced up with new fabric and fresh paint. We also re-worked the vintage cane chairs that sit opposite the sofa. A vintage lucite table, animal skin rug, vintage green side tables, and a large, simple sisal area rug round out the key elements in this room. All it needs now is a little art, a few accessories and window treatments and they’ll be ready for their first cocktail party.
In the dining room, we added a really fun navy and white bamboo wallpaper, a simple window valance and chippendale style white chairs from Jonathan Adler. The table is from our client’s collection. A new chandelier and some other finishings touches will complete the room.
Here’s a closer look at the wallpaper we discussed in our second post about selecting color, furniture, and furnishings. We used custom colored paper from Galbraith and Paul in a newly created mudroom (formerly a long, narrow “closet” off the kitchen).
The powder room’s swanky sconces and splatter paint wallpaper await a mirror to finish off that room.
Here’s the master bedroom coming together. We paired D. Porthault linens with a headboard from Pottery Barn, vintage creme colored nightstands, and bench that already was part of our client’s collection. We also had a custom skirted dressing table made for this same room.
The master closet includes custom built-ins to maximize the space. You’ll see that we echoed the blue and white pattern seen throughout the house with wallpaper by Thibaut.
In the guest room we papered the walls and ceiling with a beautiful chinoiserie print by Osborne & Little. This could be my favorite space yet. The paper really highlights all of this room’s slopped ceilings and architectural details.
The nursery includes a similarly patterned wallpaper from Thibaut in a beautiful pink and white color. We topped off the look with pink paint on the other walls and custom window treatments in a white fabric with pink trim.
After months of meticulous planning, this home is really coming together! I hope you enjoyed getting a sneak peek of the process we go through when designing and renovating a home.
We’re in Lonny! I am so honored and thrilled that Lonny is featuring one of my recent projects. I call it “The Royal Tenenbaums Meet Snappy Main Line Victorian” because I wanted this project to feel a little quirky, but still elegant and chic. See for yourself here.
This project is a great example of making the most out of what you are given. I’ve collaborated with the homeowners on several projects, but when they asked me to design their new house – an historic Victorian, quite frankly I was skeptical. This seemed like a major departure from their personal style and, admittedly, a step outside of my comfort zone. But I soon came to enjoy this project and recognize it as an opportunity to reinvent and reimagine the Victorian aesthetic.
I think historic Victorian homes by nature have a nuanced, somewhat idiosyncratic quality. Trying to bring too much structure and order would have proved an uphill battle. Recognizing and working with the architectural details and story of a home is so important to getting good results. Some things you just cannot fight, so why try?
In this case, I fully embraced all of those asymmetrical and oddly shaped rooms. I played up their uniqueness and treated them as assets. As a result I think this home feels reverential to its traditional, period interior architecture. That being said, I didn’t get bogged down in adhering to a style and dictate from the distant past. Every piece I chose has relevance and does not feel out of place in the 21st century. And, most importantly, the choices felt right for this client and their lifestyle.
Matouk’s The Thread blog featured Mona’s thoughts on using the traditional Jacobean floral style, which initially flourished in 17th century England, in a more modern way.
Mona shared that she loves using traditional patterns, like the Jacobean floral featured in this master bedroom, because they feel more fresh. “The liveliness and beauty of the color relationships make the design feel classic and chic rather than dowdy.”
Check out the complete “A Fresh Take on Jacobean Florals” at The Thread here.
Check out Mona’s tips and the complete article on Matouk’s The Thread blog.
I’m pleased to share the second post of our “Work In Progress” series, which provides a candid look at the design process behind our work on a young family’s new home. Our first post focused on the structural changes and millwork details mid-renovation. For part two of our series, I’m sharing details on the selection of color, furniture, and furnishings.
Planning and furnishing a room is like solving a puzzle. Each decision impacts the other decisions and everything is interconnected. As a designer, I need to constantly consider the minutia as well as the big picture. They are equally important – care and attention to both results in successful design. Typically, there’s a bit of a dance involved in creating a room scheme. I go back and forth in my own head, with my staff, and then with our client until we settle on the right combination. Here are some looks at rooms schemes for this project up close.
We previously discussed the new kitchen, which featured lots of bright white. White is an ideal backdrop of a kitchen or bathroom because it creates a neutral, timeless canvas upon which to build. As with this project, I typically try to keep the big investment and permanent decisions more classic and then add personality and individuality in details that are more easily changed as tastes shift and wear-and-tear take their toll. This kitchen / mudroom featured white cabinets and white 3×6 subway tile with pops of color and interest in the fabrics, wallpaper (from Galbraith & Paul), lighting, and other details.
The adjacent dining room continues the color theme, but in a slightly more sophisticated way. To warm-up the space, we added a custom campaign style buffet painted in Benjamin Moore’s Clover Green (see the shop drawing below). We adorned the server with vintage serving pieces and accessories sourced from Etsy. We covered the walls in a classic trellis wallpaper and added a simple, but dramatic valance in white and blue solid fabrics at the far end of the room. Jonathan Adler chairs and the client’s own dining table completed the look.
In the living room, I wanted to create a space that felt more grown-up and formal, but still fun and inviting. A vintage lucite coffee table, cowhide rug, and pillows with fabrics from Lulu DK helped set the tone. Vintage wing chairs re-worked and reupholstered in a Serena & Lily fabric provided a sophisticated look, as did a custom light blue Chesterfield sofa from Lee Industries. Two more vintage chairs were reupholstered in a classic dark navy and we added a vintage credenza to up the fun factor. The whole room was grounded by a large sisal area rug custom fit to the space.
One of my favorite ways to add color and character is with wallpaper. I’m a major fan of wallpaper, albeit with the caveat that it has the most impact in certain spaces and a limited number of times in any one project. That being said, we lined our client’s new “mini-mudroom” with this fantastic lattice wallpaper from Philadelphia’s own Galbraith & Paul (see below, top image). We lined the powder room – one of our favorite places to add paper – with Hinson & Co.’s Spatter in green (see below, bottom image).
And in the guest room, one of my favorite places to design because you can usually have a little more fun, we added another amazing wallpaper. A classic chinoiserie from Osborne & Little, this paper is both chic and whimsical. It was the starting point for the entire scheme that also included a rich blue velvet fabric on the bed.
The master bedroom and dressing room also got the blue and white treatment. The bedroom features amazing fabrics from Quadrille, a simple tufted white headboard from Pottery Barn, and linens from D. Portault and Leontine Linens. It’s a truly elegant and special space. To top it all off, the adjacent his and her dressing room is lined with fun blue and white lattice wallpaper that creates a pow of interest in an otherwise basic and utilitarian space.
Stay tuned for our final post with candid shots of the installation!
I’m delighted to launch a three-part series called “Work in Progress” that provides a sneak peek at a project mid-renovation. We design enthusiasts are often only privy to the end product of a renovation, but we all love seeing what things looked like not only before a project started, but also mid-way through. I wanted to share some candid images of a recent home renovation – from floor plans to construction and selection of furniture and furnishings.
Our client, a young family, bought their first home on Philadelphia’s tony “Main Line.” The house is a classic, mid-century, center-hall-colonial, with great bones and oodles of potential. It was previously owned by empty-nesters who had raised a family there. Our charge: update and ready it for 21st century living. We designed and implemented a top to bottom renovation of the house, including a complete gutting of the kitchen, the addition of a small but essential mudroom, and a large bank of built-ins in the family room.
We’ll start in the entry, which had an outdated door and minimal artificial (i.e. not “natural”/outdoor) lighting. We wanted to create a more dramatic and cheerful entrance.
We added faux wainscoting (which is much simpler and less costly than full wood paneling), painted the walls in super high gloss navy blue, and added more lighting to make this otherwise dark space feel bright, welcoming, and chic.
The kitchen posed a significant challenge. Of course, kitchens are always complex because they have to both look amazing and function optimally – particularly due to how most people live today. Function and form don’t always peacefully coexist, so I’m always working to ensure that both are considered carefully before we settle on a decision. I think we handled this delicate balance very well in this space and made the most of every opportunity we could find. Not a square inch was wasted, yet the kitchen doesn’t feel crowded or overworked.
Here are a couple of shots of the existing space – dated and dark with traditional wood cabinetry.
We decided to start anew with a gut renovation to open and brighten the space up and make it feel more connected to the other living spaces in the house. We knocked down a wall that separated the kitchen from what had been a library/den space. That really got the ball rolling and immediately changed the entire character of the kitchen.
Here’s a view of the main kitchen area during renovation. The cabinets are custom (handmade right here in PA), the countertops are honed marble carrara (note the amazing slab of honed marble on the large island), and the appliances are top of the line – Miele, Sub-Zero, and Wolf.
Wherever possible, we took cabinetry to the ceiling and added a simple crown moulding to help elevate the room and make it feel even more spacious. We also added recessed lighting which always makes a huge difference in how a room feels and in a kitchen is essential for functionality.
To keep things classic and simple, we used 3×6 white subway tile for the backsplash. It’s a classic look, available at almost every price point.
While the size of the kitchen did not allow for a traditional walk-in pantry, we added a large custom pantry cabinet with plenty of room to store all of our client’s dry goods and other cooking essentials.
In the main living areas of the house, our primary challenge was the space between the family and living rooms. The family room had to function as the family’s main hang-out space and their daughter’s playroom. I wanted the living room to feel a bit more separate and formal and for the adjacent family room to feel cozy with it’s own character. The previous homeowners installed heavy drapes between these two rooms, but the rooms were still very open to one another.
We decided to make the opening between the two rooms smaller and add pocket doors so the owner’s could close off the spaces entirely for entertaining or containment of curious “wee” ones. We also created a deep, paneled “mini-hallway” between the two rooms to give the transition a sense of grandeur and architectural interest and integrity. I think the new doorway looks as if it’s always been there – it’s still much larger than the average doorway, but not so much so that the two rooms bleed entirely into one another.
In the family room we added custom wall to wall custom built-ins which allow for maximum storage and functionality. They also are versatile enough to carry the family through many years. While the cabinets currently house baby toys, they will easily transition to a space for board games and school books. It’s important to design-forward and think about what the next 5,10,15 years plus of a family’s life will be like in a space. Ideally, the rooms I design will hold up so only tweaks are required rather than complete overhauls as children grow and lives change.
Stay tuned for our next post! We’ll share details on the process behind selecting the furniture and furnishings.