HABITAT: Home of the Month

Custom Comfort
In Newtown Square, one family’s take on elegant country living.

Custom Comfort
In Newtown Square, one family’s take on elegant country living.

Once most people move to the Main Line, they don’t want to leave. So when local homeowners are ready to trade up, they usually do so within close proximity to their current home—sometimes even in the same neighborhood.

Take Annette and Charlie Brennan. They’d lived in the same Bryn Mawr home for years before moving just a couple streets away. But when they were ready to move again, this time they decided to change zip codes.

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“Charlie wanted to be more in the country without being too secluded,” says Annette Brennan. A neighborhood feel was important to them, and the couple also wanted the opportunity to call some of the shots when it came to design. “We loved our last home, but we didn’t custom build it,” says Brennan. “So there were certain aspects we wished we could’ve changed.”

The Brennans’ home search ended at the Springhouse development in Newtown Square. While the area certainly wasn’t the country, the stretches of open land off of West Chester Pike (open for now, at least) gave the couple just the amount of breathing room they wanted. “At first, you feel far away, but then you start getting your whole nucleus down and it’s not that far,” says Brennan.

Changing towns wasn’t the only thing the Brennans did to escape their comfort zone. The architecture of their new shingle-style home was unlike anything they were used to. “We always lived in a traditional center-hallway homes and we wanted to do something different,” says Charlie.

Built by Mike Mirarchi of M. J. Mirarchi Builders in Wayne, the residence is similar in style to homes in Northeast coastline communities like Nantucket and the Hamptons. Its design dictated an interior that was fresh and inviting—an elegant beach house aesthetic. The Brennans hired Wayne interior designer Beth Lund of Artisans Design Associates to create that look. Having worked with Mirarchi before and being familiar with the Springhouse development, Lund was the perfect fit.

“French country was the interior design of Annette’s previous home,” says Lund. “That design incorporates lots of black, yellow and red. So going from that to more blues, creams and browns was a major change for her.”

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Although Lund doesn’t adhere to one particular design style, she believes in using elegant restraint—something that has served her clients well. “Less is more in most circumstances,” says Lund. “I always try to let the architectural features in a room shine.”


In the formal living room (pictured above), that architectural feature was the expanse of windows that provide a gorgeous view of the pool and pool house. Silk buffalo-check print drapes, with gold, tan and subtle blue hues were chosen for the windows. The print is repeated in the throw pillows on the cream-colored sofa.

The walnut floors featured throughout the first floor inspired chocolate accents, including a walnut mantle, pillows and a cocoa velvet ottoman that subs for a coffee table. The abundance of sunlight that floods the room was a factor in choosing the colors used on the walls. For Lund, the best way to get the color she was looking for was to blend it herself and have it made. The soft bird’s-egg blue was just what Brennan envisioned.

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“I love the color,” she says. “I just didn’t want it to be too bright on the walls—and it’s perfect.”

Nothing to Hide
The family room and adjoining kitchen share the same stunning view of the outdoor living areas. In the former, a coffered ceiling defines the space, while a wall of cabinets was custom-designed for a flat-screen TV over the fireplace. “We didn’t need to hide the television,” says Brennan. “We wanted both the TV and the fireplace to be the focal points in the family room.”

Brown dominates the furniture’s color scheme, with a chocolate Barbara Berry checked fabric on the custom-made sofa and love seat. Two armchairs are upholstered in plush brown suede, and a cream wool rug brings a natural element to the room. In keeping with the elegant beach house theme, glass vases filled with coral and shells fit right in on the butlers’ pantry.

For years, red was the color of choice in dining rooms—but now chocolate leads the way as the most appetizing. This worked well for the Brennans, who went with Lund’s choice of chocolate damask wallpaper to add a rich depth to the walls.

Because they like to entertain, the Brennans requested an extra-long dining room (pictured above). Fully extended, their dining table stretches more than 10 feet and can accommodate an equal number of guests. The additional cream-colored upholstered, skirted chairs can be rotated in with the set’s originals to expand the family’s seating options.

Two antique brass and crystal chandeliers hang elegantly above the table. “One chandelier would have been overpowering,” says Lund.

Using two chandeliers has more than one advantage. With two at either end, the table is always well lit. And the centerpiece is always a dramatic focal point since there’s nothing dangling from the ceiling above it.

In the master bedroom suite (pictured above), a barrel-vaulted ceiling soars to more than 13 feet. Elsewhere, one wall is dedicated to arched transom windows over French doors, which lead to a balcony overlooking the backyard area. An arched valance and wheat-colored, linen floral drapes by Ralph Lauren inspired the room’s neutral palette. A fireplace was the one true indulgence the couple opted for in the space. “Charlie always wanted a fireplace in the bedroom,” admits Brennan.

Two separate master baths allow privacy for husband and wife. “At first, I wasn’t sure that I’d like having the two bathrooms,” says Brennan. “But now I love it.”

But perhaps the one feature the Brennans admire most is the stair tower, which has extra-wide steps leading to the upstairs and lower level. Windows at each landing allow additional sunlight to shine through.

“The big open stairway makes the lower level feel like it’s an extension of the house,” says Brennan. “It doesn’t even feel like you’re going to another level.”

Now more than ever, the lower level is a major focus for many homeowners.

“It’s unbelievable what people want done,” says Mirarchi. “It’s not an overlooked area anymore. People are really raising the bar.”

The Brennans wanted an area for entertaining their three children as well as guests.

“Our kids are down here all the time,” says Brennan. The finished space includes a workout room, a game room with a ping-pong table (“We’re a big ping-pong family,” says Brennan), a full bath and a large kitchen area. Instead of a home theater, the Brennans decided on a large-screen television with surround sound and comfortable seating.

“We love it down here,” says Brennan. “It’s a totally different environment for us to entertain.”

In the warm weather months, entertaining moves to the pool area. Also done in a shingle style, the pool house has a bathroom, outdoor shower, kitchen, and grilling and sitting areas. All of which makes it a fittingly comfortable extension of the spaces indoors.

“We wanted a home that was livable and at the same time presented well,” says Brennan. “That’s exactly what we got.”

And getting there wasn’t nearly as daunting as some people had led the couple to believe.

“It’s all about finding the right builder,” says Brennan. “Mike Mirarchi promised us we’d be in our house by Christmas 2005. And we were—with a houseful of guests.”

E-mail comments to senior editor Tara Behan at tbehan@mainlinetoday.com.


M.J. Mirarchi Builders, Michael J. Mirarchi, 250 W. Lancaster Ave., Suite 108, Wayne, (610) 254-0540
Cabinetry: Halkett Woodworking, Trey Halkett, 50 Schoolhouse Road, Souderton; (215) 721-9331,
Interior Design: Artisans Design Associates, Beth Lund, 347 E. Conestoga Road, Wayne, (610) 964-0155
Landscaping: Gordon Eadie Classical Landscape and Design, 435 Valley Park Road, Phoenixville, (610) 933-4410


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