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HABITAT: Home of the Month Is All About the Details

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Ceiling Point
A Gladwyne home is awash in details—up, down and all around.

One way to make sure an interior design project stays on track is to schedule a dinner party. That’s exactly what Amy and Marc Brownstein did when they had the dining room in their Gladwyne home redone this winter. “We couldn’t have a guests over without furniture,” says Amy Brownstein. “So we did everything we could to ensure the room was guest ready by the end of January.”

Leading the charge was Gladwyne-based interior designer Lori Shinal. Her first objective was deciding on a color palette. Brownstein chose chocolate brown and lime green.

“You have to be very bold to pull off lime green and chocolate brown in a room,” says Shinal. “You can’t do that in just anyone’s house. So I give them a lot of credit.”

Amy and Marc (who is the president of the Philadelphia marketing and public relations firm the Brownstein Group) knew that they didn’t want a traditional look—and the colors, along with a few other touches, brought some funk into the formal space. A small dining room in their last house prevented the Brownsteins from hosting dinner parties, so they were excited about the prospect of hosting large groups. The challenge was finding a table to accommodate up to 14 guests. Measuring 118 inches long, a sleek mahogany piece (pictured above) from acclaimed French interior designer Jacques Garcia (one of Shinal’s favorites) was the perfect choice. And instead of chairs at opposite ends of the table, she had two love seats custom made.

“Two people can easily sit in the love seat, or it can be a spacious seat for one,” says Shinal.

Each seat has a large floral pattern in a muted brown, with lime green and chocolate stripes on the cushions. The stripes are also on the backs and cushions of 10 custom-designed, barrel-shaped, tufted dining chairs, their fronts a solid lime green.

With its lime green color, an oriental rug from Albed Rugs in Wayne was a surprise discovery. “To find that lime green in a rug is very hard to accomplish,” says Shinal. “Rugs are like artwork to me.”

Amy isn’t fond of crystal chandeliers, so she decided on a wrought iron Neirman Weeks fixture draped with a delicate strand of crystals. The highlight of the room is the barrel ceiling, which Shinal had faux painted in a silver Venetian plaster. “People always neglect ceilings, and I think it’s such an important part of a room,” she says. “We managed to perfect the ceilings and the floor.”

Romo chocolate brown wallpaper with a silver leaf design complements the ceiling treatment, and the lively patchwork fabric by Lee Jofa on the massive window pulls together all the colors in the room.

Above and Beyond
The Brownsteins were sold on the unusual ceilings used throughout many of the rooms in their home—all of them courtesy of builder Chuck Lattif. “It’s a part of the house that’s not always taken advantage of,” says Lattif. “Unusual ceiling treatments can create a great deal of interest and customize a home.”

One of the signatures of Lattif’s homes is his attention to detail—and the Brownstein’s house is no exception. In the family room (pictured below), Lattif used a design element he saw on a house tour in North Carolina—a maple wood coffered drop-ceiling lit on the ceiling side of the coffer so the light reflects back up. “This is the first one I’ve ever done like this, but I’ve gotten a very favorable response to it,” says Lattif.

A bright pea green leather sofa provides the one pop of color in an otherwise neutral room; a sisal rug and bamboo window shades bring a natural feel to the space. A wall of built-in shelving frames the gas fireplace. The 10-foot ceilings in the adjacent breakfast room were customized with a bead-board pitched roof. “This is such a cozy room,” says Brownstein.

The Brownsteins enjoy many family dinners at the room’s oversized Baker table, which is surrounded by ladder-back chairs with two red wooden benches at the ends. The same checkered curtains and bamboo shades in the family room are repeated in the breakfast room (pictured below).

The Brownsteins were looking for more than a year before they discovered Lattif’s spec home. “We loved the ceilings and all the detail,” says Amy Brownstein.

Gladwyne was also the ideal neighborhood for the family. The children could stay in Lower Merion school district, Marc had a quick commute to Philadelphia, and the back yard could accommodate a pool—an absolute must for Amy.

The couple toured many older homes, but they disliked the small, dark rooms in most of them. Lattif’s 10-foot ceilings and numerous windows allowed for plenty of natural light, and the house had a comfortable feel. “My dining room is formal but not traditionally formal,” says Brownstein. “That’s what I wanted the whole house to be like. I didn’t want it to be a house where you had to take off your shoes.”

That in mind, the Brownsteins didn’t see the benefit of a formal living area, so they turned the space into a billiards room. “In our previous house, we never used the formal living room,” says Brownstein. “So my husband was adamant that we weren’t going to have one in this house.”

A gorgeous mahogany billiards table commands the center of the room, and two antique leather chairs provide seating. Shinal upholstered the walls, padding them and using a camel-colored ultra-suede floor to ceiling. “When we had our first dinner party, people were in the billiards room before and after dinner,” says Brownstein. “It was great to have a room other than the kitchen and the family room that people wanted to be in.”

On the home’s lower level, a gym is filled with the sort of equipment found in some of the best health clubs on the Main Line—and it’s not just for show; Marc and Amy use it daily. Mirrors line the space, and flat-screen televisions occupy two corners. “This room is my husband’s baby,” says Brownstein. “When guests come over, they ask if they can buy a membership to our gym.”

Off the gym is a full bathroom complete with steam shower. A small nook lends itself perfectly to a 250-bottle wine cellar, another perk the adults in the family enjoy. The rest of the lower level is dedicated to the Brownsteins’ three kids. A U-shaped sofa—perfect for overnight sleepovers—sits in front of a large flat-screen television, and there’s plenty of space to play sports indoors. One of the Brownsteins’ most cherished spaces is the soundproof room. “My son is in a rock band,” says Brownstein. “They always have to practice at our house because he’s the drummer. I can’t hear anything now when I’m upstairs.”

And while Brownstein admits she didn’t want a house “where you felt like you had to take your shoes off,” she learned that when you put white carpets in the master bedroom (pictured above), the shoes have to go. “I wanted a very simple look in the master bedroom, with tan and white—and black accents,” says Brownstein.

A streamlined feel was achieved with furniture from Mitchell Gold. The black Marrakesh poster bed is the focal point of the room, with two mirrored Belladonna chests on either side. His and hers closets eliminate the need for bureaus or dressers; the couple’s two bathrooms are linked by an oversized travertine marble shower. “This was a major selling point,” says Brownstein, whose bathroom is neutral, with cream cabinetry and a Jacuzzi tub. Her husband’s features mahogany cabinets and white marble.

It’s been more than a year since the renovations, and Amy Brownstein has no regrets. “I walk in every day and I’m so happy,” she says. “Not many people are that lucky.”

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