After more than a decade in their home, a Malvern couple was ready for a makeover. “I’d been thinking about updating and decorating the house for a long, long time,” the owner recalls. “But when you’re taking care of active kids, interior design isn’t always at the top of the list.”
Though large and pleasant, their tract home had builder-grade fixtures and finishes and lacked personality. But they enjoyed their community and didn’t want to leave it behind, so an update made sense. To transform their home from cookie-cutter to custom, the couple turned to Naomi Stein of Design Manifest, a Philadelphia-based firm. “They were ready to upgrade to something more grown up, with soul, character and sophistication that matched their evolving taste and style,” says Stein, noting they favored traditional with a mix of midcentury modern.
The makeover started in an unlikely location—a ho-hum hall bathroom. The designer infused the space with personality, installing a furniture-style vanity and unexpected details like a round portal mirror suspended from a nautical rope, an antique Turkish rug and a swing-arm brass lamp that reflects the art on the walls. “It’s not like a bathroom—it’s a room you want to hang out in,” she says.
During the course of the makeover, Stein and her team made architectural changes to nearly every room, from structural redesigns to finishes, fixtures, furnishings and décor. Moldings, wallpaper and other custom touches were added to every surface, including the ceilings.
The entry to a seldom-used formal living room was made smaller to give it a more intimate feel, with the goal of repurposing the space into a hip, lounge-like den. To equip the room for informal entertaining, Stein’s team installed a fireplace and a designated area for a TV. A beverage fridge and compact bar are tucked under the counter. “It’s the perfect place to binge on Netflix,” the owner says.
Visually, it’s a sophisticated retreat, with a streamlined sectional leather sofa and a pair of vintage parson’s chairs upholstered in an emerald green performance fabric with the sumptuous feel of velvet. The cocktail table is covered in cowhide and the walls are a pale gray with detailed picture moldings.
In the dining room, Stein paired bespoke furnishings with vintage pieces to create a one-of-a-kind space that entices the owners to spend time there when they aren’t dining. She and Philadelphia furniture maker George Coldren traveled to a lumber yard in central Pennsylvania to choose a magnificent slab of reclaimed walnut. Coldren crafted it into a table, retaining the wood’s irregular live edge and mounting it on a subtly glistening base of polished chrome.
Wood-framed midcentury chairs are upholstered in gray linen. Instead of a traditional single chandelier, a pair of crystal French balloon-style chandeliers sparkle overhead. “When you make your dining room a beautiful place, you’ll want to spend more time there, even if you just come in to look at it,” she says.
A midcentury modern credenza completes the space. To acquire it, the designer and the homeowner took a trip to the Uniques and Antiques auction in Ashton, where they successfully bid on one reminiscent of a pricier version Stein had admired in the window of an upscale boutique in Old City. “I’ve gotten a lot of gems at auction,” she says. “It’s very emotional, a roll of the dice. There are times when you get a fantastic deal, and you splurge if you really fall in love.”
The master bedroom is a serene and indulgent retreat, with a massive four-poster bed that Coldren crafted on site. An upholsterer made the soft, gracefully curved headboard. Stein designed the simple stucco fireplace, built by her father, Andrew, her business partner until his retirement in 2016. An inset in the ceiling is papered with camel-colored grasscloth. “It’s a wonderful way to make a ceiling interesting,” the designer says. “Grasscloth introduces an element of texture that you can’t achieve with paint.”
A palette of fresh blues and greens is woven throughout the room. Floor-to-ceiling draperies in an exuberant blue magnolia print echo the foliage outdoors. Botanical renderings of ferns are framed on the walls. A green-cushioned bench with classic barley-twist legs rests at the foot of the bed. “Blues and greens are timeless colors—happy and elegant,” Stein says. “We wanted spaces the owners would love forever.”
Almost every room can benefit from a jot of black. In the master bedroom, Stein incorporated it via shades on the pierced blanc de chine lamps.
A small sitting room off the master bedroom was transformed into a well-appointed walk-through closet and dressing room that bridges the bedroom and the bathroom. The master bath boasts a long marble-topped counter with dual sinks positioned below a bank of windows with a view of the garden. Oval-shaped mirrors are stationed on the windows “so you can look at yourself and look at your back yard,” the designer says.
The owners also wanted a glamorous powder room with interesting, high-end finishes. There, a military-campaign desk trimmed in brass served as the inspiration for the vanity. The walls are papered in muted, shimmering gold raindrops.
The ceiling is highlighted with grasscloth and a brass-and-glass Sputnik-style chandelier.
In the husband’s office, the owners retained the original built-in cabinetry, updating it with a fresh coat of white paint and a walnut veneer behind glass shelving. A glass-topped desk helps make the room look airy. To maintain the look, Stein designed chases in the legs of the desk, artfully hiding the cords. “Every room has to function,” she says. “The trick is to make it look wonderful at the same time.”