Hope Cohen’s culinary career began in her teens, when she opened her own catering business. Since then, the chef has been a consultant for some of the area’s top restaurants. From 2003 to 2009, she hosted the Comcast Network’s The Chef’s Kitchen, and she’s now writing her first cookbook, Hope Cooks Fast, Fresh and Simple.
So it’s somewhat ironic that the least favorite room in her new Bryn Mawr home is the kitchen. Though the previous owner recently installed new cabinetry and granite countertops, the space is small and narrow, with limited work areas—and there’s no island, which is standard in most modern kitchens.
The kitchen was able to accommodate her professional Wolf stove and stainless steel refrigerator, so Cohen is making do with what she has—for now. “Some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to have operated out of the smallest kitchens,” says Cohen. “It doesn’t keep them—or me—from turning out great food.”
While Cohen isn’t currently engaged in a major kitchen renovation, she still dreams of her ideal space. The plan is to extend the kitchen into the adjoining eat-in area and family room, to make it one enormous gourmet show-stopper.
“I want a huge island in the center where I could teach cooking classes—and a pantry,” she says. “I’ve already had an architect over, and we’ve figured out the whole layout.”
But until she’s ready to take on such a major project, Cohen is enjoying the rest of the home she’s been gradually settling into since February 2009. Ten years prior, she’d been living with her son and daughter in a carriage house on the historic Harriton House property in Bryn Mawr. “The house was on 16 acres,” says Cohen. “We loved it there, but we were growing out of it. We needed more room.”
Little did Cohen know that her search for her next home would lead her to a 100-year-old stone Colonial right next door. She wanted to retain all of its charming original details—including the woodwork—while personalizing the rooms with her own “modern classic” twist. Now, the home’s sleek aesthetic—with its soft-gray, white and muted-bronze color palette, plus the furniture’s clean lines—gives it the feel of a hip boutique hotel.
Splashes of color come courtesy of Cohen’s eclectic art collection. “I really like neutrals,” she says. “Using these colors gives the house a calm vibe, which is what I really wanted. I have a very busy career, and I wanted my home to be an oasis.”
With a clear idea of what she wanted, Cohen consulted with an interior designer to help with details like furniture scale, room layouts and fabrics. Adding to the home’s relaxed feel, a life-size, Ming-style Buddha sits in the living room. The piece is at least 150 years old. “My mom had a Buddha in our house,” says Cohen. “I saw it in an antique shop in New York City and had to have it.”
Cohen even had a base made to raise the Buddha off the floor and give the impression that it’s surveying the living room. “Although I don’t use this room often, I walk through here to get to my office,” she says. “So I get to see the Buddha every day.”
Cohen is involved in various charities and often hosts meetings in her home, so she wanted the living room to be comfortable for guests. It has a loungey feel, with its wraparound custom sofa in a muted- bronze fabric and oversized, tufted, gray ultra-suede ottoman. “These are two colors you don’t see together often—but they work,” she says.
Just off the living room, a sun porch doubles as Cohen’s office. Exposed stone on the walls and a working fireplace give the space a cozy feel. A set of French doors provides access to the gardens and in-ground pool.
Cohen entertains often—and it should come as no surprise that dinner parties are her forte. Naturally, she wanted the perfect dining room. The previous owner had left behind a sculptural chandelier and a set of sconces, so Cohen decided to fit them into her plans for the space.
An intricate wrought iron buffet with a Carrera marble top makes an impressive serving station. A hand-carved, antique wooden mirror from Italy hangs above the buffet. Cohen painted over its traditional gold-leaf frame, distressing it to match the modern décor. Custom-made in Mexico, the dining room’s massive farm table is a reproduction of an antique that Cohen once admired. It’s surrounded by plush custom chairs upholstered in an ultra-suede fabric with nail-head trim, along with a striking bench seat done in a striped fabric.
The Cohens and their guests often congregate for casual meals around the corner banquette in the kitchen, its table a thick slab of oak set atop a cast iron base. “Adding the banquette was a great idea,” Cohen concludes. “It seats up to 10 people. I like the organic aspect of natural wood with a beautiful grain.”
A trio of glass pendant lights from Ligne Roset in Manayunk hangs above the table, while two chairs (also from Ligne Roset) offer additional seating. On the wall, a large canvas print of a sliced apple symbolizes the love of food Cohen shares with her family and friends.
An addition to the original structure, the family room opens to the kitchen and banquette area, creating a nice flow for entertaining. Along with the soaring cathedral ceiling, a focal point is a large, hand-carved mirror Cohen found at the Architectural Antiques Exchange in Philadelphia.
A sheer, mesh-like fabric covers the vast picture windows, allowing for plenty of natural light and inviting views of the pool and gardens from the sleek sectional sofa nearby.
“This house needed love,” says Cohen. “It felt right the first time I walked through it.”
It’ll be even more right once she gets that gourmet kitchen figured out.
Painter: Tim Kerrigan, Kerrigan Painting Company, Broomall; (610) 353-6382, kerriganpaintingcompany.com
Interior Design Consultant: Dina Pavel Designs, Merion Station, (610) 664-5300
Finds for the Home:
• Architectural Antiques Exchange, 715 N. Second St., Philadelphia; (215) 922-3669, architecturalantiques.com
• Ligne Roset, 4131 Main St., Manayunk; (215) 487-2800, rosetphilly.com