HABITAT: Home of the Month

Villa Italia
Tuscan charm finds its way to Wynnewood.

Villa Italia
Tuscan charm finds its way to Wynnewood.

Debra Copit couldn’t imagine anywhere better than the Main Line to raise her young family. Well, maybe one place. “I love Italy,” she says. “That’s the only other place I’d live if I weren’t here.”

But since living in the Tuscan countryside isn’t conducive to her current lifestyle, Copit did the next best thing: She brought a bit of relaxed Italian living to her Wynnewood home.

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Seven years after moving in, Copit and her husband, Steve, enlisted the expertise of Gardner/Fox Associates in Bryn Mawr to reconfigure the home’s first-floor layout. The house had certain things that appealed immediately to Copit, including a turret and a two-story foyer with a balcony landing and wrought iron banister. Of concern were the small, closed-off rooms. “I wanted an open, airy feel to the first floor,” says Copit. “With two boys (ages 6 and 7), it’s nice to be able to see what they’re doing if we’re in different rooms. And we entertain a lot, so rooms that flow into one another are ideal.”

As the central living space, the kitchen was in desperate need of a makeover. “I hated it,” Copit says. “The room was too small, and it had a sloping ceiling that made it feel even smaller.”

One feature was attractive to Copit: the Garland stove. But even that wasn’t really functional. “It sat right in the center of the kitchen,” she said. “That definitely didn’t work.”

For the bigger and better kitchen Copit desired, Gardner/Fox recommended famed designer Dave Stimmel of Stimmel Consulting Group in Ambler. “Dave was so instrumental in every detail that went into this room. It’s now everything I wanted it to be,” says Copit. “I tell him all the time that he’s a creative genius.”

Several-hundred Stimmel clients would agree with Copit’s assessment. In addition to his work on the Main Line, his services have been sought for projects as far away as England. His work has made the pages of more than 50 magazines in the last three years. Kitchen & Bath Business and Qualified Remodeler magazines have acknowledged his innovative designs, and HGTV regularly highlights his work. “My goal is to stay true to the craft, the project and the homeowners,” he says. “That’s how I plan on staying successful.”

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Since starting his own company eight years ago, Stimmel has designed for every budget, from kitchens under $10,000 to projects whose handcrafted wooden ceilings alone cost 10 times that amount. He’s even launched his own line of cabinetry.

“It’s not about the budget,” Stimmel says. “It’s about doing something creative and great.”

The Copits wanted their kitchen to be both showy and functional. “I knew they were going to be spending a lot of family time in there, as well as entertaining, so it had to fit both purposes,” Stimmel says. “Above everything else, a kitchen has to match the owners’ lifestyles.”

To accommodate all the amenities the Copits desired, Stimmel acquired additional space from an adjacent area that used to be a home office. In keeping with current trends, a majority of the appliances are fully integrated into Old World-style custom cabinetry done in a slightly distressed, cream glaze. “[Integration is what] everyone wants right now,” says Stimmel. “It continues to be very popular.”

The oversized refrigerator is hidden behind a furniture-style double-door armoire; a warming drawer and pullout drawers for the microwave and dishwasher keep things convenient for the young family. Copit also opted for one of the latest devices making its way into the kitchen these days: an in-counter Gaggenau steamer. “It’s a great way to keep cooking healthy,” she says.

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A coffee center, complete with a Miele coffee, cappuccino and espresso maker, rivals the steamer as the couple’s favorite appliance. Stimmel’s design allows for plenty of extra display space in the cabinets, including two double-door display shelves for Copit to show off her favorite Italian pottery. “I fell in love with this pottery when I was in Italy,” she says.

So even if she can’t use the pieces on a daily basis, she can still see them—and the bright yellows, blues and greens bring a splash of color to the otherwise neutral room. Other custom-made surprises include a stacked column that holds 10 bottles of wine and pullout columns flanking the stove for olive oils and cooking wines.

Stations are a key design element when it comes to convenience in modern kitchens. “The philosophy of the refrigerator, sink and range arranged in the points of a triangle was developed in the 1950s to sell cabinetry. It’s not apropos for this day and age,” Stimmel says. “You can’t have a triangle in these large rooms.”

The Copits’ new kitchen (pictured above) features two island “stations” with matching knotty alder wood and brown-and-beige granite tops. Directly across from the Viking stove, the main island has a sink and serves as a workspace for prepping meals. Designed to look like a table, the second island is primarily a gathering spot for meals. “People often overreact and want too much storage,” says Stimmel. “It wasn’t necessary for this piece to provide more storage. It’s also convenient because it can be moved.”

THE COPITS were so pleased with Stimmel’s work in the kitchen that they tapped him to update their master bath and bedroom suite (pictured above). The couple had a few whimsical ideas—one based on their penchant for ski lodges. “I just wanted it to be a very cool space,” says Copit. “I didn’t want it to look like anything I’ve seen before.” The original two-level space had a ’70s-style orange Jacuzzi bathtub on the ground level and a spiral staircase leading up to an orange tile bathroom. “Horrible,” Stimmel admits. “It was very inefficient.”

So Stimmel offered no less than five alternatives. “I never just come up with one or two designs,” he says.

The Copits agreed on one. “It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s not about me,” says Stimmel. “They have to be happy because they’re living here. In the end, I was thrilled with how it came out.”

Stimmel moved the master bath to the main level and eliminated the spiral staircase. To add an authentic, rustic look and bring definition to the ceiling, Stimmel used hand-hewed wood beams salvaged from a dismantled 19th-century barn in Maine. “I’ve used it in various projects,” says Stimmel. “You can’t replicate the beauty of 300-year-old wood.”

To divide the master bedroom and bathroom, Stimmel installed a gas fireplace framed with striking Oceanside Palladium blue glass tile. He covered the back wall in the same material, adding an artistic element to the neutral space. A flat-screen television sits on a mantle made from the same 19th-century wood used elsewhere in the space. In the bath area, a black granite vanity with double bowls backs up to the fireplace, and a double-sided mirror can be raised or lowered with an antique block pulley (also rescued from the barn) suspended from the ceiling.

The toilet is off in a separate room, with a shower right next door. Stimmel lined the floors with India slate in natural hues of blue, gray, brown and beige. Radiant heat is used in lieu of rugs. “It’s a luxurious addition,” says Stimmel. “But it’s so well worth it, since the bedroom floor flows into the bathroom area.”


A small bedroom next door was sacrificed so the Copits could have walk-in his-and-hers closet, eliminating the need for dressers or additional closets. A king-size platform bed sits low to the ground, bringing a contemporary, Zen-like feel to the bedroom area (pictured above). A black leather chaise lounge and a framed floor mirror complete the simple décor.

The transformation complete, the Copits are taking some time to enjoy Stimmel’s handiwork. For now. “It’s even better than what I envisioned,” says Debra Copit.

But with possible plans for an outdoor kitchen by the pool, Stimmel may be back soon enough.


Architect: Gardner/Fox Associates 919 Glenbrook Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 525-8305, gardnerfox.com.
Kitchen and bathroom: Stimmel Consulting Group, Dave Stimmel, 1544 Butler Pike, Ambler; (215) 542-0772, stimmeldesign.com.
Painter: Mark Sweetman, Painting Wynnewood, (610) 642-7796, marksweetmanpainting.com.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!