A 1920s Colonial in Merion Gets a Modern Update

Interior designer Katie Groves of Studio 882 gives a sophisticated and practical makeover to this home.

The sunroom provides a great retreat for the home’s resident jazz musician

Katie Groves’ interior-design business has taken on projects of every type, from traditional Chester County farmhouses to neoclassical-style condos in Center City. In the case of a recent Merion project, she had the opportunity to make her mark on a classic 1920s Colonial for a family with two school-age children. 

“They wanted to keep the spirit of the Colonial home, but update it with their personality,” says Groves. “I needed to make sure the family’s love and enthusiasm shined through in every room.”

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With two young kids herself, Groves has an appreciation for homes that look great but also function well. The owners reached out to her shortly after purchasing the 8,000-square-foot, 22-room house, quickly realizing quickly that a professional was needed for such a massive undertaking. The clients were moving from a renovated horse stable in Elkins Park—quite the contrast to their new Main Line abode. They welcomed the change, but they needed adjustments to make the family feel at home. “I didn’t want a generic house that didn’t reflect the people who lived there,” the owner says.  

Although no major construction was required, the house hadn’t been updated in more than a decade. So there was still plenty to do. While the home’s half-dozen bathrooms had to be redone, the kitchen was already in great shape, needing only a new backsplash and better lighting.

blue accents in the foyer continue throughout the home, providing a focal point in the breakfast room.  

 Empowering Décor

Furnishing a home of this scale might seem daunting to some—but not to Groves, who has an arsenal of high-end furniture manufacturers at her disposal. She and her husband, Chad, own Studio 882, recently moving the furniture showroom from Chadds Ford to a sprawling space in Glen Mills, where Groves also offers her design services. “Katie knows what direction to take me and to not overwhelm me with too many choices,” says the owner. “I call it ‘empowering decorating.’” 

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For Groves, it was all about making an immediate impression in the grand center-hall foyer. “It’s a large space,” she says. “But we wanted to make sure not to overpower it.” 

Groves made a considerable impact with a round table and a set of Lillian August stools upholstered in sky-blue velvet. A demure Jessica Charles Lexi bench with a deep-navy fabric sits just below the two-story staircase. Various shades of blue—a favorite color of the owner—are featured throughout the home. 

Directly off the center hall, the formal living room illustrates how Groves incorporated existing furniture with new purchases. The spacious area accommodates three separate seating arrangements. In front of the fireplace, a brand-new tufted Lillian August sofa is positioned alongside a damask piece from the owners’ previous home. A glass coffee table—another Lillian August addition completes the vignette. “The table is great for entertaining because it can be separated into three parts and moved around,” says Groves.  

Elsewhere in the space, two stools in a sky-blue fabric were reupholstered and repurposed for the new home. Groves took advantage of her relationship with Chaddock to bring the perfect wood-framed armchair out of retirement. 

The living room is deftly furnished with new and old pieces; the powder room 

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Music and Laughter

With a jazz musician in residence, the sunroom was a great place for the piano and guitars. “The owners wanted it to serve a few different functions,” says Groves. 

Existing bookshelves in one corner of the room inspired more shelving on the wall and around the fireplace, so the couple could be surrounded by an extensive book collection. Groves brought in a pair of tufted-leather Sleepy Hollow chairs by Chaddock, accompanied by matching ottomans. “These chairs are so comfortable because they contour to your body,” says Groves. 

A game table completes the inviting setup in this popular place for family gatherings. “We were thrilled to have the space carry out so many of these functions,” Groves says. 

The breakfast room is another magnet for family members. Pocket doors separate the unusually spacious room from the kitchen, allowing Groves to go with a more formal look while still keeping practicality at the forefront of the design. A round Hickory White table is surrounded by dining chairs upholstered in a bold navy fabric from CR Laine, the stain-resistant fabric eliminating most of the worry that comes with everyday use. Floral window treatments bring a pop of pattern and color to the space. 

Patterns reappear in a downstairs powder room, where the homeowner requested a black-and-white theme. The vanity has a black base accented with glass pulls and topped with white marble. White wainscoting around the walls gives way to Cole & Son wallpaper in a black, white and gold floral design.

“You can always have fun with pattern in a powder room,” says Groves, who likes the selection so much that she’s using it in her new home. “We touched pretty much every room in this house. I love how the whole thing turned out because it’s so comfortable. It’s elegant without being stuffy.” 

Interior design: Katie Groves, Studio 882, 101 Applied Bank Blvd., Glen Mills, (610) 314-8820. 

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