As self-proclaimed design nerds, Chris and Catherine jumped on the chance to remodel a neglected, 100-year-old row home in Philadelphia as soon as they saw it listed on the market.
Although the renovation would require the husband-and-wife duo to move from California where they had been living for 12 years, they were both up for the challenge. "We were eager to join in on the revival of Philly’s Center City, where Chris is originally from," says Catherine.
"We wanted to reimagine the space in a way unlike anything Philadelphia has seen before," Catherine continues. Combining their professional experience and extensive interest in design and architecture, the couple "blew out everything except for the front facade," completely reinventing the property.
"Our renovation was an exercise in balancing minimalist detailing and modern floor planning with the intrinsic character of a 100-year-old row house," notes Chris, an award-winning architect.
"Of note was our commitment to keeping the exterior facade and thus preserving the continuity of our small block. We wanted to showcase a path forward for modern renovations that still preserves the tradition and aesthetic of the historic neighborhood."
"In Philadelphia, the row homes have a sense of cohesiveness," adds Catherine. "Each street has its own personality, and you can see it in the different type of brickwork and cornice detail. Our block is uniform in that way, so we definitely wanted to make sure we kept all that charm and original character that is packed in the front facade."
"We have lived all over and been lucky enough to travel extensively, so our inspiration for this house was diverse and based on striking the balance that many of our favorite neighborhoods succeed in—modern aesthetics bubbling up within the traditional architecture and culture of a place," explains Chris.
"The last place we lived in was a tiny 1930s bungalow in Santa Monica," says Catherine. "It had great light and always had the scent of jasmine flowing through the windows from the garden. We wanted to evoke this lightness in Philadelphia, but in an East Coast way; we didn't want to imitate L.A. or anywhere else."
"We contracted local, mom-and-pop-type trades for all of the main components of the house; our doors, floors, and cabinetry are all made by local woodworking shops that source from local lumber," she continues. "We also planted our garden with plants all native to this climate."
Like many renovations, the couple faced unforeseen obstacles throughout the process, one being the home’s layout. "The efficiency of the floor plan was the primary driver in overcoming a relatively small lot in order to produce a home for our family to grow and expand within," says Chris.
"We were both coming from high-end architecture/real estate backgrounds in L.A., so it was difficult not to want to include similar high-end products that you’d normally see in a house in the Hollywood Hills or Brentwood Park," adds Catherine. "We boiled it down and selected our favorite lighting and furniture pieces, room by room, to fit perfectly in each space."
One space in the renovated home that has particularly captured their hearts is the kitchen. "Our favorite moments in this house inevitably reside in the kitchen—making coffee, talking, and basking in the morning light pouring in from the rear garden," says Chris.
"I also love the hidden shoe closet by the entry—we’re a no-shoes household—and being on the third-story addition as the sun sets," says Catherine. "We put on music and watch the sun shift through the wood slat wall—it’s like our own little retreat here in this bustling city."
After executing the overhaul and thoughtfully tending to the 1,894-square-foot property for several years, the couple has listed it on the market for $885,000.
747 S Cleveland St, Philadelphia, PA 19146 is currently listed for $825,000 by Patrick Campbell of Compass Pennsylvania, LLC.
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