GREEN STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA
Many Philadelphia row house dwellers fall in love with their century-old residences for the beautiful architectural details, yet ask themselves if it’s possible to live like a modern family in these narrow, stately homes. In 2012, down2earth Interior Design completed a total home renovation project that embraced the irreproducible architectural beauty of an 1860s rowhouse while accommodating the contemporary lifestyle and tastes of their clients. The design strategy for this home on Green Street in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia included preservation of original details, responsible material choices, double duty spaces that meet the family’s functional needs, and an aesthetic balance of old and new.
The homeowners aimed to preserve as much of the original interior detail as possible. To that end, craftsman were employed to cut new plaster to match old where new rooms were carved out of the original space, old wood floor planks from bathrooms and stairs were relocated to infill other areas of the house, the original clawfoot tub was refinished, and original brick was left exposed in the study. An original sink and vanity, once located in a bedroom, was relocated to the guest bathroom, and a custom alcove built so it could be reused there. Outfitted with new fixtures and salvaged knobs, the vanity functions like a new one with the character of the old.
The style of the furniture is generally simple and clean-lined – contemporary in a way that doesn’t compete with the grandeur of the home or the family’s collection of exquisite art. The choice of materials for the interior also balances a clean-lined aesthetic with a sense of environmental responsibility. In the kitchen and master bath, sleek concrete counters sit atop custom cabinets built by a Lancaster craftsman. The kitchen island and shelving unit is made by a local woodworker out of wood panels that were reclaimed from a bank’s interior. Floors in the kitchen and family room are made of cork, a green and ergonomically forgiving material.
For this project to truly be a success for this family, the functional challenges of row house living needed to be addressed. As in most row houses, the living room doubles as entrance hall. The solution was an armoire that fits the formal mood of the living room space, and most guests wouldn’t guess it is also the family’s coat closet.
And, like many row houses, the original floorplan had small, carved up spaces. By opening up the kitchen to the family room, the design creates a stronger connection between the two most-used living spaces and allows this family to peacefully coexist in their gem of a home.
Bathroom, kitchen, and hallway photos by Kyle Born
Living room, dining room, family room, and master bedroom photos by Paul Loftland