HABITAT: Home of the Month Is a Haverford House Update

Room for Improvement
They needed a new kitchen—but they got so much more.

Room for Improvement
They needed a new kitchen—but they got so much more.

Eighteen years ago, two young newlyweds purchased their first home on the Main Line. Built in the 1970s, the house certainly had potential, but it needed work. “It wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” one of its owners says today.

The intention was to someday remodel the Haverford house to fit the couple’s lifestyle. That someday came two kids and 15 years later. What started out as plans for a new kitchen evolved into a complete home renovation.

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It’s amazing what a simple distaste of blue Formica can lead to. The homeowners called in Wayne architect Ann Ledger to design the kitchen. But a quick tour of the house inspired plans for almost every space in the house.

“Minor configurations in a house can result in a better flow,” says Ledger. “Sometimes all it takes is putting in a doorway between rooms or relocating a door for more circulation.”

The idea of packing up and moving to a new home was not a consideration. “I would never leave this property,” the owner says.

And for good reason. The three-acre lot sits on a quiet street near Merion Golf Club. The property also has interesting political origins: It was part of an estate owned by Pennsylvania Gov. George Howard Earle, in office from 1935 to 1939. When his estate was sold, it was subdivided into three parcels. “Our parcel was originally where his tennis court sat,” says the owner.

A small, stone building on the property—now used as a gym—is said to have been Earle’s home office. Hanging in the building are two pictures of Earle’s hunting dogs, kept there in honor of the former owner.

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Back in the main house, not a trace of blue Formica was left behind in the new kitchen (pictured above). The couple went for a neutral, clean look, with cream-colored, distressed wood cabinetry surrounding the walls. A 12-foot island (with a built-in wine refrigerator) in a complementary shade of natural maple fits easily into the spacious room. Light green granite tops the island and counters, with a similar shade repeated on the walls. The island’s two levels allow plenty of room for food preparation and informal dining.

“It’s the same here as every house,” says the owner. “Everyone always ends up in the kitchen.”

High-end ceramic tile in varying shades of cream and light brown lines the floor. (Ceramic has become a popular choice for kitchens and other high-traffic spaces.) A triple-casement window with an elliptical transom sits over the sink, providing plenty of sunlight and affording gorgeous view of the property.

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The kitchen appears more spacious than it really is, since it flows directly into a breakfast area (pictured above) with a whimsical oval table and six lovingly crafted chairs, all by Sticks. Extra whimsy is brought to the space with a black wrought-iron chandelier and hanging frosted, colored lights. A double-sided, see-through floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace acts as a divider between the breakfast room and the family room. On the other side of the breakfast room, French doors lead to a cozy sunroom that was once a dilapidated greenhouse.

“We transformed a space that the homeowners never used because it was too cold in the winter—with no heat—and was too hot in the summer—with the sun,” says Ledger. “We turned it into a space they can use to relax or just enjoy looking at while they’re sitting in the breakfast area.”

Interior Transformation
The family room (pictured above) was the one space in the house that didn’t undergo renovation since it had its own makeover only a few years prior.

“It’s unique that the family room is at the front of the house off the foyer,” says Mike McCorkle, owner of Micon Construction, who did all the building in the house. “Usually it’s a room that’s an afterthought attached to the rear of the house.”

Touches were added like a mahogany mantle on the fireplace. A leather sofa and matching loveseat bring a club-room feel to the space. A half wall that created a balcony on the second floor overlooking the family room was replaced with a decorative wrought-iron railing.

A mahogany paneled wall with double doors lead to the dining room (top). The deep red on the walls was inspired by a color found in a painting the couple bought in Paris. “Most of our artwork we picked up over the years in our travels,” says the owner.

The red is accented with white crown molding and trim, while beautiful rift-sawn, white oak parquet floors bordered with Brazilian rosewood complement the sophisticated space. Furnishings include an Art Deco dining table with sea blue upholstered chairs and a buffet with smoked mirror above it. The room’s formality is emphasized with a beautiful crystal chandelier.

The renovations weren’t limited to the first floor. When Ledger toured the house, she couldn’t understand why a back stairway led directly into the master bedroom. “I asked the couple if it bothered them that their children had to walk through the master bedroom to get to their rooms if they used this stairway,” says Ledger.

Getting the answer she expected, Ledger recommended moving the stairs to the front of the house for direct access to the hallway, bypassing the master bedroom. The master suite consisted of an oversized bedroom area and an enormous bathroom. “It was a dysfunctional space,” says Ledger. “You had to walk through the bathroom to get to the closet.”

The suite was divided into sections—a room for the bed, with a vaulted, coffered ceiling and wall-mounted plasma television; a quiet area with a cream-colored suede lounging couch; and a master bathroom reduced to half its original size to accommodate a his-and-her closet.

The inspiration for the master bath’s renovation came from a bathroom the owners saw at the Ocean Club in the Bahamas. On either side of the white claw-foot bathtub, freestanding curved walls are covered with glass mosaic tiles that fall just short of reaching the soaring ceiling. One wall shields the toilet while the other acts as a shower wall. Acid-etched frame-less shower doors lead into both areas.

“Because the walls were freestanding, it presented a challenge to hold them in place, as well as attach plumbing and shower doors to them,” says McCorkle.

Visually, it was well worth the effort.

The home’s exterior also underwent changes to make it more family friendly. First on the wish list was a three-car garage connected to the house via a breezeway. A circular driveway also was added in front of the house, and the stone pillars at its entrance were constructed of Wissahickon stone quarried to match the existing outbuildings. A sitting wall bordering the house also makes use of the natural material.

Behind the house, a wood deck was replaced with an 800-square-foot flagstone patio the family uses for outdoor entertaining? A large portion of the grounds is dedicated to an in-ground pool just short of Olympic size, which was inherited from the previous owners. The stone guesthouse and cabana next to the pool also are original to the property.

All said and done, more than 1,000 square feet were added to a house in desperate need of a makeover. The family has been living with and savoring the changes for about a year now—long enough to come to the conclusion that it was all worth waiting for.

“The renovations have changed the way we live,” says the owner. “Definitely for the better.”


Architect: Ann Ledger, 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 687-3094.
Builder: Mike McCorkle, Micon Construction, Inc., West Chester, (610) 344-0293, miconconstructioninc.com.
Kitchen: Jan Petersen, Petersen Kitchens, Inc., 592 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 526-0645, petersenkitchens.com.

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