In life, sometimes the changes are minor; other times, they’re major. For Chris and Ali McCloud, relocating from Manhattan to Narberth two years ago fell into the latter category.
After years of big-city living, the young couple knew they’d eventually return to suburban life—Ali is a Malvern native, and Chris is from the New Jersey suburbs. For them, Narberth seemed like the perfect place to start a family. “It’s a good old American town,” says Chris. “It’s an eclectic neighborhood, and we’re in a great school district.”
It’s also a place that offers some of the perks of urban living. The McClouds are within walking distance of the shops in downtown Narberth and the R5.
Even so, the ’20s-era, foursquare bungalow they chose was vastly different from the ultra-modern apartment they left behind. Thankfully, you couldn’t ask for a more stylish couple to bring a fresh aesthetic to the dated interior. Ali owns the hip, eco-friendly clothing boutique Arcadia in Northern Liberties. Chris, meanwhile, has his own interior design firm, Design 6, in Narberth.
After their first walkthrough, the McClouds had some serious changes in mind. Then they met the previous homeowners at closing. “They were so passionate about the house and what they’d done with it,” says Chris.
The McClouds wanted to respect what the previous owners were passing along to them. “We approached the redesign with the thought that if they ever came back to see the house, would they be impressed with what we did,” Chris says.
As a result, some initial ideas had to be tweaked. “The house had good bones,” says Ali. “We just needed to bring our own style to it.”
The home already had high ceilings and plenty of windows on the first floor. Its original layout remains intact, along with the dark-stained chestnut trims and knotty-pine hardwood floors. The major renovations came in the kitchen, three bathrooms and the third-floor attic (now a master suite).
“My personal style is more modern and simplistic,” says Chris. “I tried to hold onto the history of the house. Everything we did I wanted to look like it had been here.”
Chris is a big fan of the Arts and Crafts Movement. “The craftsmen of that period were very modern for their time,” he says. “Modern doesn’t have to mean just straight lines and stainless steel.”
But, for Chris, it definitely means a focus on sustainable, eco-friendly design. “I try to help all my clients make wiser decisions,” says Chris of his work at Design 6. “The easiest things I suggest are to use zero-VOC paints and energy-efficient lightbulbs.”
The home’s living room features a pair of red club chairs with a matching ottoman—all upholstered in organic ultra-suede—and a chocolate-brown, organic cotton sofa. All are from Dwelling in Manayunk. Modeled after an antique Dolly table, the coffee table is made of reclaimed wood.
At both ends of the couch, square tables, their sides wrapped in rattan, actually illuminate with LED lighting. The couple discovered the pieces at Details in Bala Cynwyd.
Over the years, the McClouds have acquired many things at art shows, including the annual PAFA Student Art Exhibition. It’s where they found the collection of 10 sepia-toned portraits of random strangers hanging above their flat-screen television. “You don’t have to spend a lot to buy great art,” says Chris. “Art should be your own personal statement of what you want it to be. The room shouldn’t dictate what the art should be.”
For the kitchen, Chris called in two local craftsmen to work with the reclaimed barn board and chestnut he had in mind. In keeping with the chestnut window trim and moldings already found throughout the house, the same wood was used by David Thal (of Malvern’s The Wood Shop) in constructing the cabinetry.
The base of the kitchen’s two-level island is made of recycled barn board. Topped with a sleek black walnut countertop, the island also has a reclaimed copper farmhouse sink from Material Culture in Philadelphia. For the other countertop surfaces, the McClouds went with concrete—the impressive handiwork of Fishtown’s Adam Rung.
A brick-red Aga range with matching hood brings a bold splash of color to the space. Ditto the green recycled-glass backsplash. Chris cleverly arranged its tiles in a vertical pattern behind the range and horizontally around the perimeter of the room.
The two-level island in the kitchen allowed for an additional bar seating area that backs up to the adjoining dining room. The choice of cream leather bar stools complements the dining area’s minimalist, modern décor.
In the corner of the dining room, the small bar features a wine refrigerator, a concrete countertop and a reclaimed barn-board base. The round dining table (from Dwelling) is made from reclaimed Brazilian Peroba wood and environmentally safe, harvested mahogany finishes. It’s positioned perfectly in front of the room’s bay window.
It’s not often when a powder room is considered the coolest space in the house, but Chris thinks his is the exception. “It’s my favorite because it turned out exactly the way I envisioned it would,” he says.
The rustic, reclaimed barn board used for the kitchen island finds its way to the walls and the vanity, the latter topped with reclaimed walnut. A glass vessel sink sits atop the vanity, preventing any interruption in the beautiful slab of wood. A full-length mirror in a recycled barn-board frame hangs at the entrance of the powder room.
On the second floor, the McClouds combined two bedrooms into one large in-home office for Chris. The other two serve as a guest room and a nursery for the McClouds’ new baby. The couple wasn’t looking for a traditional nursery. Instead, they wanted a room their son could grow into. The red monkey decals on the soft-blue walls impart a subtle safari theme—for now.
Furnishings in the nursery are minimal—a gray-and-white crib from Piccolini in Bryn Mawr; a gray glider and organic ultra-suede ottoman from Genes in Wayne; and a basic changing table. All the pieces are VOC free; the mattress is soy and cotton filled; and all baby clothes and blankets are organic.
The McClouds divided the third floor into a full bathroom, a master bedroom, and a large closet space for Ali. The master is a downright cozy nook—one that still accommodates a queen-size platform bed and an area of built-ins.
Throughout the home, the McClouds customized everything to fit their style, needs and comfort level, without ever sacrificing their commitment to sustainable living.
“We invested in things we wanted—and that made the house livable for our lifestyle,” says Chris.
• Cabinetry: The Wood Shop, Dave Thal, 214 N. Warren Ave., Malvern; (610) 647-4190, thewoodshopmalvern.com
• Concrete Countertops: Adam Rung Woodworks, 3211 Cedar St., Philadelphia; (215) 681-3354, adamrung.com
• Electrical: Katz Electric, Haverford, (610) 649-9283
• Interior Design: Design 6, Chris McCloud, Narberth; (484) 270-8472, design-6.com
• Tile: Selective Tile Works, (484) 832-0455, selectivetileworks.com