The dense urban environment of Center City Philadelphia doesn’t often provide in-town residences with generous exterior space. This 19th century townhome is unusual in that it does not front onto the street it addresses; one enters the property through a walled side garden accessed from Lombard Street. During schematic design the client was presented with the rare opportunity to purchase an adjacent, overgrown, vacant lot perpendicular to her home. The resulting uniquely shaped site forms an L, providing for front and rear entrances on two separate streets. The client initially wanted just a kitchen renovation. Through an extended schematic design phase, it was discovered that an ambitious larger-scale remodel of the entire property was needed to realize the potential for making the ground floor and gardens more generous and spatially interconnected.
In the end the ground floor and exterior spaces were entirely reconfigured. The basement was finished and expanded with a guest suite, laundry room, and storage. The dining room was enlarged; the main circulation path through the house was widened; a new powder room, anteroom, and closets were provided; and a large eat-in kitchen capable of accommodating full on-site catering services was added to the southeast corner of the newly formed L-shaped site. The kitchen addition’s bluestone floors continue out to the exterior paving to enhance the relationship between inside and out. A path of the same stone extends to a new garden shed that fronts onto 23rd Street. The shed acts as a threshold and gateway into the private realm of the new garden.
A clear stained cedar fence and carefully placed allee of trees supply additional privacy from neighboring buildings. The original entry sequence from Lombard Street was preserved, while the grading, paving, and plantings were redesigned and formalized into three distinct tiers that create outdoor rooms for entertaining. Large areas of new windows and glass doors bring abundant daylight deep into the home and visually connect the interior of the house to the expanded and remodeled gardens.