Gladwyne Couple Puts Its Stamp on Stately Stone House

They opt for an elegant, streamlined design with a minimalist yet inviting feel.

From the outside, the stately stone house in Gladwyne was not a precise match for Melissa and Pierre Brondeau’s contemporary design sensibility. Inside, it was a perfect blank canvas they could make their own. “We like things simplistic,” Melissa says. “Minimalist, but inviting.”

Michael Swerdloff, a fourth-generation builder and the founder of Swerdloff Properties in Lafayette Hill, had made the shell of the 18,000-square-foot home on spec, allowing the buyer to choose the fixtures and finishes. He brought the Brondeau’s vision of an elegant, streamlined home to life, integrating large expanses of glass, sleek woods, natural stone, stainless-steel accents, and many other elements. 

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At the same time, the couple retained the façade, with its arches, gables, turret and massive arched doors. “We call it Old World meets New World,” Swerdloff says.  

The mansion from the front.

the kitchen’s unique boomerang-shaped island

Stunning stairs

A large foyer reflects the modern vibe, with a mosaic pattern of stone and tile set into an oak floor. Instead of a traditional banister and spindles, a sweeping staircase is finished with a sparkling swoosh of tempered glass. “It is stunning, with a radius that’s very difficult to achieve with glass,” Swerdloff says. “The result is absolutely amazing.”

Simplicity meets sophistication

Pierre Brondeau is CEO and chairman of FMC Corporation, and the couple entertains often. They’re also the parents of two adult sons, who visit on weekends.

To create a design that encourages gatherings, the couple opted to modify the floor plan, opening up a spacious kitchen to the adjoining family room. They widened portals between rooms to further enhance the flow. Cabinets in light maple veneer are yacht-like in simplicity and sophistication, setting the tone in a kitchen that can accommodate catered events as smoothly as family meals. “Having a large kitchen was a priority for us,” says Melissa.

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An island in a modified boomerang shape is big enough to prep food for a crowd. Plus, it has a section that can seat eight people for a casual meal. The pedestal beneath the quartz countertop is wrapped with stainless steel. A stainless pedestal also grounds the round table in a breakfast nook defined by banks of windows and a recessed tray ceiling. 

Professional-style Miele appliances include a separate fridge and freezer, wall ovens, two dishwashers, and an induction cooktop set into the island.

One of the first people to cook in the kitchen was chef Georges Perrier, owner and founder of the once-iconic, now- defunct Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia. “He commented on what an awesome kitchen it is,” Swerdloff recalls. “I can’t ask for a bigger compliment than that.”

double glass doors in the butler’s pantry lead to a climate-controlled wine room

Sipping and sports

Climate-controlled wine storage is integrated into a butler’s pantry that connects the kitchen and the dining room. 

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Melissa’s appreciation for wine is rooted in France, where she moved to with her husband in 1986. She began collecting in Paris—a pursuit that blossomed when they returned to the United States and she completed a series of classes at the Wine School of Philadelphia.

A second, larger floor-to-ceiling wine cellar is sited in the lower level, which is also outfitted with a bar, a commercial kegerator for beer, two big-screen TVs, and high-top tables and chairs that exude the vibe of a hip nightclub. An expanse of frameless sliding glass doors connects the space to the outdoors. 

“Pierre wanted a real sports bar, a place where people can get together and enjoy themselves,” Melissa says.

 modern, oversized furnishings fill the spacious family room

Splendor in the bath

The master suite is a private retreat that invites lingering, with such amenities as an integrated coffeemaker and an open-air porch with a view of the grounds.

A spacious bath is designed to accommodate both Brondeaus, with his-and-hers water closets, a freestanding soaking tub, walk-in closets, and a makeup area for Melissa. A circular shower stall with an arched ceiling was designed for two by architect Fred Bissinger. It’s also a marvel of technology, allowing the owners to program settings for various sprays, audio, and digital colored lights. “We call it the ‘shower tower,’” Swerdloff says. “The tile work and the movement in the ceiling are breathtaking.”

A wall of frameless glass doors provides outdoor access in the home’s entertaining space

Space to entertain

In addition to nine bathrooms, the home encompasses eight bedrooms, a gym, a billiards room, a home office, and indoor and outdoor conversation areas. 

Despite its size, the house is energy efficient, thanks to the green building techniques used, plus spray-foam insulation and other materials. Radiant heating is installed under the white-oak flooring. 

The house is located on a plot that’s just shy of three acres, with plenty of room for a tennis court, a basketball court, and verdant plantings of trees and shrubs. A pair of three-car garages flanks the main house, providing space for vehicles and a catering station for outdoor entertaining.

An infinity-style swimming pool shimmers like a sapphire, extending beyond a large terrace, where it’s seemingly suspended above the ground below. “It’s not just a pool,” Swerdloff says. “It’s part of the view.” 

The mansion from the rear


Custom Builder: Swerdloff Properties, 4 Red Maple Drive, Lafayette Hill, (215) 669-5000. 

Architects: F.L. Bissinger, 1502 Old Gulph Road, Villanova, (610) 525-6438; Grimaldi Architecture, 222 Horsham Road, Horsham, (215) 674-1611. 

Plumbing Supplies and Appliances: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, 302 Hansen Access Road, King of Prussia, (610) 337-8856. 

Tile: Algard, 1045 Industrial Highway, Southampton, (215) 364-8453.

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