Smooth Transition

A Media couple discovers a new way of living—close to home.

Owner Francine Balay savors the view from the balcony of her unit at Terrazza, which boasts such maintenance-free amenities as a pool, clubhouse and fitness room.Francine and Michael Balay’s new luxury home in Newtown Square came with all the amenities you’d expect, including a pool, a tennis court and a gym with a steam room. Their meticulously landscaped property features gorgeous fountains, numerous patios and a tranquil reflecting pool.

But what really sold the couple was the promise that all the perks would be maintenance free. Their condominium in Terrazza at Newtown Square is turnkey living at its finest. And that’s exactly what these retirement-bound frequent travelers were looking for.

High school sweethearts from Pittsburgh, the Balays moved to Houston early in their marriage, and then to San Francisco. Their desire to be closer to their aging parents and a fondness for the change of seasons brought them back to this region. They considered various towns throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey before settling in Upper Providence Township. They had a large custom home built, living there for 17 years. “Our son and daughter grew up, married, and bought their own homes,” says Francine. “My husband and I were ready to downsize.”

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The Balays enjoyed being close to Media, with all its shops and restaurants. Access to Rose Tree Park was also an advantage for the dog owners. So, after selling their home, they rented a townhouse for a year to allow plenty of time for research, quickly ruling out one popular choice. “We liked the diversity we were seeing with non-age-restricted communities,” says Francine.

Though there were a number of attractive options in the area, none fulfilled all of the Balays’ wishes quite like Terrazza. For one, they loved its Tuscan flavor. “I traveled a lot in Italy,” says Terrazza’s builder, David Della Porta, of Cornerstone Communities. “With an Italian restaurant right next door [Newtown Grill], I wanted to model the community after an old Tuscan village with enough local flavor that it would fit in. I also wanted the interiors to have all the conveniences and amenities that buyers were used to in their previous home.”

Each of the models—from the one-bedroom units to the penthouses—offer enough space to make owners feel like “they aren’t stepping down but simply transitioning into a different lifestyle,” says Della Porta.

Once they retire, the Balays want to spend most of their time at their beach house in Delaware—when they’re not traveling the world, that is. But they still wanted their condo to feel like home. “We could truly design it the way it works for how we live,” Francine says. “We could go in any direction with it in terms of the interior design, and we could customize certain things to give it the look that we wanted.”

The Balays’ Ethan model has the open floor plan they were accustomed to in California. “It gives us the most open layout for entertaining,” says Francine. “We love the idea of not having a lot of walls or having rooms broken into smaller areas.”

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Blond oak flooring nicely offsets the red walls in the customized kitchen, with its granite countertops, Wolf gas cooktop and wine fridge.The model also has one of the largest kitchens. “Everyone in my family loves to cook,” says Francine. “So I wanted plenty of room for when my children came to visit and when we entertained.”

Blond oak flooring makes the dramatic red walls a focal point. “I didn’t want to go neutral or be subtle,” Francine says. “I wanted to go fairly bold. My daughter and I had a lot of fun picking paint. I look at paint the same way I look at color for your hair—if it doesn’t work, you can change it. So go for it.”

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Elsewhere in the kitchen, the Balays worked with a designer to add custom touches like a Wolf gas cooktop and a wine refrigerator. They chose dark espresso cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. And instead of the standard computer niche, they opted for a bar area with overhead glass cabinets and plenty of storage. Across from the bar, a raised counter doubles as an eating area and a buffet station.

The living room of the Balays’ condominium has a fireplace with sleek granite surround, a generously proportioned flat-screen TV, a cozy cream-colored sectional couch, and plenty of natural light.In the living room, the Balays’ love of contemporary interior design is reflected in the décor. Instead of a traditional fireplace mantle, they opted for a sleek granite surround with a flat-screen TV above. Comfortable seating comes in the form of a neutral cream sectional couch with matching loveseat.

Artwork in the space celebrates the couple’s travels, including a wall hanging from China and a picture taken on a cruise to Antarctica. Plenty of windows provide natural light, and French doors open to the balcony, with its views of the pool.

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Another set of glass French doors leads to the home office. For the walls, Balay chose a vibrant green to match the colors of the trees seen through the office’s windows. “The doors allow you to have privacy if you need it, or you can have the doors open and it’s an extension of the main living space,” says Francine.

While Francine focused on paint and furnishings, her husband worked with Surround Sounds of Exton. “He was adamant that we create a sound system, and have everything wired and connected,” Francine says.

In the condo’s master bathroom, further customization includes a sunken tub, a private water closet and a bidet. For continuity, the Balays chose the same espresso cabinetry and granite used in the kitchen. For guests, there’s a second bedroom with an in-suite bath.

Closets by Design created the his-and-hers closets in the master bedroom. There’s even a stereo rack in Michael’s closet for all the electronics. “It’s hidden from view and doesn’t take up valuable space from another area,” says Francine. “We have tons of closet space here, and being able to customize made them even more functional.”

The Balays’ master bedroomAlthough the Balays are more than satisfied with their kitchen, they also love the full gourmet kitchen in Terrazza’s clubhouse. “If I wanted to have a large dinner party, I could opt to use the clubhouse,” Francine says.

The clubhouse also has an elaborate seating area with a fireplace, an expansive bar and a theater. French doors lead to an elegant patio area with a reflecting pool and fountain. The clubhouse’s lower level features a workout space.

The Balays admit that transitioning to condo living has been an adjustment—though their new digs at Terrazza have made it a pleasant one. “Our children were thrilled that we moved here,” says Francine. “They thought it was ideal.”

Since moving to Terrazza this past summer, the Balays have become accustomed to leaving their maintenance-free development and knowing what to expect when they return. “I loved my previous home,” Francine says. “But my husband and I were willing to trade that for a little bit of freedom.”

Community: Terrazza at Newtown Square, 300 Cornerstone Drive, Newtown Square;
(610) 325-1700,
Builder: Cornerstone Communities, 789 E. Lancaster Ave., Suite 250, Villanova;
(610) 520-3427,
Custom closets: Closets by Design, 928 Springdale Drive, Exton;
(610) 644-4143,
Sound system: Surround Sounds, 215 E. Lincoln Hwy., Exton;
(610) 524-6900,

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