Shophouse Design Brings Modern Flair to this Ambler Home

A hip Philadelphia design duo helps combat city withdrawal in the suburbs.

Twin English roll-arm sofas face off in the formal living room//All photos by Kyle Born Photography.

When Betsy Helm and Kiley Baun first launched Shophouse Design, their fresh, stylish vibe attracted many a young tech entrepreneur buying his or her first place in Center City. Four years and multiple contemporary condos later, the design duo now finds itself answering calls from city dwellers ready to make the leap to the suburbs. 

“We’ve become known for translating that city lifestyle into these suburban homes,” says Helm. “We’re making these Main Line houses feel modern, youthful and fun.”  

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In a recent case, the five-bedroom Colonial purchased by an Ambler couple was less than 10 years old—but it looked much older due to the dated décor. A yellow, maroon and brown color scheme dominated the first-floor living areas. Drab cherrywood cabinetry covered the master bathroom and butler’s pantry. “Our clients wanted the space soothing—nothing too jarring,” says Baun. “They wanted everything to look very light, bright and clean.” 

Shophouse gutted the kitchen and bathrooms, while installing new flooring throughout. “We took it down to the studs and built it back up again to make it feel like a new home,” says Helm. 

They also repurposed spaces to fit the needs of the family. An extra butler’s pantry became a command center for the lady of the house, and an extra closet was done away with to make room for a huge mudroom to accommodate a family of four—about to become five. 

“Our client was expecting her third child, so we were given a timeline of two months to get the house finished,” says Helm. “She wanted to be able to move in by the time her baby girl arrived.”

A redesigned kitchen is outfitted with custom cabinetry.

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Neutral is nice

A new eat-in kitchen was outfitted with custom white cabinetry. The cabinets flanking the stove were designed to appear like hutches, each sporting double glass doors and lighting, the latter giving a nice glow to the room. 

Polished nickel pendants from Restoration Hardware’s Harmon collection hang above the island. A trio of Madeleine counter stools provides seating. Due to the quick turnaround, the designers leaned heavily on retailers that could deliver in a timely fashion. 

The two-story great room may be the main gathering space for the family, but that didn’t deter the owners from going totally neutral. An oversized couch in a linen shade has been spill-proofed and can comfortably seat the entire family. A subtle pop of color comes from the round hammered-nickel coffee table. 

Formal and functional

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The living room is the sole kid-free zone, so the designers went all out in creating a formal parlor space. The design pair made it twice as inviting with bright-white English roll-arm sofas. 

“We saw an image of a parlor with two sofas a long time ago, and we loved the look of it,” says Baun. “We were waiting for the chance to recreate the harsh symmetry in the image, and this room was able to support it.” 

In the dining room, its square shape called for a round table. Upholstered chairs accompany a natural-wood dining table, all from Restoration Hardware. A crystal chandelier helps to balance the wood, while also dressing up the space. 

A crisp white throughout adds to the Zen feel of the master bathroom.

Restful retreats

While the kids’ bedrooms afforded more freedom with color, the owners’ desire for calm drove the design in the master bedroom. Custom white bedding pairs well with a white, upholstered headboard from Serena & Lily. Elsewhere, a Stark area rug with a gray Greek key design offers some pattern. 

In keeping with the tranquil aesthetic, Shophouse installed a Séura vanishing television mirror. “We don’t like to design around a TV,” says Baun. “With the mirrored version, we can pick the perfect frame style, and it blends right in.” 

Completely outfitted in white, the master bath is as soothing as the rest of the home. Highlights include a custom vanity, honed marble flooring, and a Victoria + Albert soaking tub. 

“Every room in the house is exactly the way they envisioned,” says Baun. “This is their forever home.”

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