A Bryn Mawr home revels in Hollywood glamour inside and out.
When you’re renovating a house, it’s critical to have a clear vision of the design you want to achieve. Some people are lucky enough to have a solid picture in their mind—one they can articulate to the builder and designer. Others rely on shelter magazines, tearing out countless photos to illustrate what they’re attracted to. Linda George, on the other hand, took her inspiration from old movies.
For the renovation of her 1950s Cape home in Bryn Mawr, she turned to classics from the 1940s and ’50s—films like Laura with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews and Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. And, of course, there was also the perennial Main Line favorite The Philadelphia Story. As much as she enjoys the characters and the story lines, for her the true stars of those films are the lavish homes.
“The houses in those movies are just beautiful,” says George. “I wanted old movie living.” For George, this translated into elegantly designed rooms that were also user friendly. “I didn’t want showrooms,” she says. “I didn’t want a living room where it looked like you couldn’t sit down and relax. I wanted a warm, beautiful home with rooms I intended to use all the time.” If the renovation of George’s house were the subject of a movie, Hank Page, interior designer and co-owner of Albert’s Interiors in Newtown Square, would be the film’s cinematographer. This was not George and Page’s first feature together. For years George was a client of Page’s mother when she worked at Albert’s; after she retired, her son inherited George as a client. Page designed a family room that doubled as a home office in George’s previous home; he also worked on her New Jersey shore house. “We work fabulously together,” says George. “I wouldn’t have taken on this renovation without Hank.”
The Bryn Mawr home was in serious neglect when George and her husband, Kirk, purchased it back in 2003. The entire thing had to be gutted. But for George, it was worth the effort. “The moment we pulled up, I knew this was the house I was meant to be in,” she says, bringing in another movie reference. “It was like pulling up to [the home in] The Shining. The house spoke to me.”
The circular formal driveway also reminded George of old Hollywood. “I loved watching those movies where they pulled up to the entrance,” says George. “I really enjoy using the front entrance of my house.”
Growing up in Philadelphia, George always congregated with family and friends in front of her house. “I’m not a backyard type of girl,” she says. “I wanted to be able to use the front of my house and greet and talk.”
To complement the meticulous landscaping out front, a four-tiered fountain sits in the center of the circular driveway.
Superior Set Design
For George, the interior of the home was as appealing as the exterior. It had the bones of an Old World house filled with character and charm.
“What we really tried to do with this house was not turn it into one of these new McMansions,” says Page. “We were trying to keep its old Main Line feeling. So even when we redid things we tried to keep some history.”
Attention to even the smallest details was crucial. “I think one of the challenges we had in the house was that we didn’t want to riddle the ceiling with high hats,” says Page. “We wanted to keep that classic traditional feeling.”
Page solved the problem by doing what they did in the days of those old movies: he used beautiful sconces and portable lighting throughout.
George’s love of old movies is almost as great as her love of fabric—and the more used, the better. “I wanted a lot of different fabrics in each of the rooms,” she says. “That was important to me.”
The way the rooms flow easily into one another allowed George to incorporate a design aspect straight from her favorite films: hanging drapes in the doorways. One divides George’s living room from the dining room. The side facing the living room matches the material in the window treatments, and the reverse matches the dining room treatments. “I not only love the appearance, but I love that the drapes are functional. So when I’m entertaining I can block off rooms,” says George.
A light, linen-embroidered drape divides the breakfast room from the kitchen. The architect had suggested knocking down the wall and combining the kitchen and breakfast space to enlarge the area, but that wasn’t George’s style. “I’m not into this new style of everyone living in the kitchen,” she says. “I’m into the Old World style, where there’s flow but also privacy. When I’m cooking, I like to be alone.”
The rooms that opened up to one another posed a particular challenge to Page, in terms of the fabric she wanted to use. “I think so many people end up doing completely neutral homes today,” says Page. “Linda didn’t want that; she wanted patterns.”
The key was to use complementary colors in each room. A beautiful Aegean blue Italian silk brocade was used throughout the living room—on chairs, an ottoman, the swag, side panel window treatments, and the aforementioned doorway drape. A champagne-colored sofa in damask fabric was the perfect neutral backdrop for a number of decorative throw pillows in harmonious Aegean blue hues.
The living room also has classical crown moldings and a custom-designed fireplace with bookshelves on either side. A sampling of George’s Herend, Limoges and Lladros figurines are displayed on the bookshelves, and a single piece of furniture from George’s old house, a baby grand piano, stands in a corner of the room.
George spends a lot of time reading and watching television in the sunroom adjacent to the living room. Its small scale, coupled with the enormous amount of light that shines through the wall of French doors, keeps the environment cozy. The comfortable couch, perfect for lounging, is covered in a patchwork French woven fabric with shades of yellows, greens and reds.
Additional fabrics, colors and patterns are introduced into the room in the form of various throw pillows covered in quilted silks, velvets and more, all customized with chic fringes. Small-checkered balloon window treatments in the same yellows, greens and reds coordinate perfectly with the room’s pale yellow walls. A leather ottoman in a similar butter yellow color is large enough to double as a coffee table.
French doors lead from the sunroom into the formal Italianate dining room. Commanding the room is a one-of-a-kind dining set featuring a table topped with cluster maple wood veneer and 16th-century Italian reproduction chairs painted in an opal finish. At the head of the table on each side, Page softened the set with two upholstered chairs done in Aegean blue fabric. The elegance continues in the custom-finished, gold-leafed iron-and-crystal chandelier and gold Venetian mirror. Blue-hued striped wallpaper dotted with gold cherubs makes an impact on the walls.
The cream-colored kitchen offers a reprieve from the fabrics, textures and colors in the other rooms. “We did the one-color kitchen because it’s a tighter space, so the uniform color keeps it larger in feeling,” says Page.
It was difficult for George to accept at first. “I admit I wasn’t initially sold on a solid color kitchen,” says George. “But it’s so pretty. I love it now.”
Page’s vision of a elegant, sophisticated European-style kitchen was definitely achieved. Travertine marble in a honed finish is used on the floors in both the kitchen and breakfast room, lending a sense of continuity to the two spaces. It also helps make the kitchen appear larger than it really is. “We wanted the floor to be the canvas for everything else in the room,” says Page.
The cabinetry is cream-toned and hides all appliances. A fireplace mantle was used as an apron above the sink are.
One thing George wouldn’t compromise on was the farmhouse sink. “Everyone kept telling me the kitchen was too small for an oversized sink,” she says. “It looks great though.” A custom-designed table topped with cream background granite provides an island, a crystal chandelier accented with amber-colored jewels hanging over it. A sponged plaster technique gives the walls a distressed, aged look.
Though George has lived in her finished home for several months now, she’s still in awe over how everything turned out. “I spend time in every room because I love them all,” says George. “Working with an interior designer like Hank, who understands and listens to what you want, is priceless.”
George plans on staying in her Old World Main Line movie home for quite some time—that is, unless she and her husband buy that dream home in Tuscany one day. And she wouldn’t even think about a house in Tuscany without Page doing the interior design.
Architect: Hank Page, Albert’s Interiors
3510 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square
Builder: Gardner Fox
919 Glenbrook Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Kitchen design: David Stimmel, Stimmel Design Group
1544 Butler Pike, Ambler