For This West Chester Couple, Downsizing Meant an Expanded Master Suite

By moving from a 6,000-square-foot house to a 19th century Federal Style twin, this couple was able to get the bedroom of their dreams.


In the new master suite, crystal chandeliers intermingle with exposed beams. Photographs by John Welsh.

In search of a simpler life, one husband and wife moved from a 6,000-square-foot suburban home with a driveway a quarter-mile long to a twin house half the size. Their new West Chester digs puts them just steps from shops and restaurants. “We wanted to enjoy life more, instead of just coming home and closing the door,” the owner says.

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Though their new circa-1882 Federal Style house was central, its second story needed modernization. “It was a very choppy space—a bedroom, sitting room, a very small bathroom and a reach-in closet,” recalls the owner.

Before they bought the house, the couple worked with Pine Street Carpenters, also in West Chester, to identify a historic home they could restore to their specifications. They happened to be touring another home when the house they really wanted became available. “We put in a bid within the hour, and it was accepted,” says the owner.

They hired Pine Street to design and renovate the house from top to bottom. The firm’s designers, Dana Bender and Matt Dolan, collaborated with the owners to create a master suite that was in harmony with the black-and-white palette and vintage-meets-industrial vibe they created in the rest of the house.

Dream Suite

The previous owners had a sitting area that they never used. Combining that space with the adjoining bedroom created the large suite they were looking for. Still, it wasn’t quite enough space for the tranquil retreat they envisioned. “There were a lot of things we were willing to give up to downsize, but a soaking tub and a
walk-in closet were not on that list,” says the owner.

Removing an under-utilized back staircase created an adequate footprint. Taking out the ceiling visually expanded the suite. “The vaulted ceiling gives them some drama,” Bender says. “We also left some of the floor joists from the attic above to provide that rustic, industrial feel they were looking for.”

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An upholstered headboard, touchable linens and wall-to-wall carpeting give the bedroom a soft, tactile sensibility. “Carpet allows for a cozier, warmer feeling and also absorbs sound,” says the owner.

“There’s a serenity in a space that’s white like a spa, but has the rugged bones of the house exposed,” adds her husband.

Past Meets Present

Large chandeliers—Regency-style in the bedroom and bath, and a brass candle-and-crystal chandelier in the closet—sparkle in all three spaces in the master suite. “[The owner] has a great sense of style, and the crystals and chandeliers balance the rustic, industrial feel of the renovation,” Bender says.

That nontraditional approach extended to the kitchen and bathroom demolitions. When they pulled up baseboards, the renovators discovered postcards mailed in 1925 from an 8-year-old boy named Buddy to his aunt and uncle, Mary and Charles Oat. One postcard thanks them for the gift of a half-dollar. All depict beachgoers in Ocean City, N.J., attired in full-length bathing costumes. They’re now framed and displayed in the master bedroom. The couple embraced other pieces of the past by exposing the bricks in the walk-in closet.

But a modern approach to storage was necessary, so they went with built-in drawers, hanging rods and shelving. Swinging valet rods allow them to assemble outfits the night before.

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Hollywood Twist

In the bathroom, soapstone counters and subway tiles give the room a sense of age. Knotty alder cabinetry in a matte finish looks as if it could have been made when the house was built—especially when paired with furniture-style feet. It’s actually new, outfitted with such niceties as a hot drawer equipped with electrical outlets for hair dryers and curling irons. “They didn’t want anything that had a manufactured look to it,” Bender says. “This has modern storage, yet looks like it could be an antique that has been repurposed.”

Elsewhere, the couple opted for a combination of open and closed storage for towels, toiletries and décor. The vanity was crafted with an extra-tall counter top for its 6-foot-4 owner. “It’s an extra that’s totally worth it,” he notes.

A glass shower and a sleek acrylic soaking tub give the bath an updated aesthetic. Matte black hexagon tiles ground the flooring, with the added benefit of being stain-proof.

The poster from cult classic Mommie Dearest, which previously hung in their home theater, found a new home in the bathroom. “It’s a great black-and-white piece of art that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house,” the owner says.

A graphic artist, the owner made a sign to display in the closet reflecting the movie’s best-known line: “No wire hangers.”

It’s not just a line. She actually does eschew them in favor of wooden hangers. “It’s a never-ending battle when the dry-cleaning comes in,” she jokes. 

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