South Wayne Splendor
A couple revives a century-old home with modern-day magic.
Photos by John Lewis
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At first, the 107-year-old Colonial Revival home looked like any traditional South Wayne residence. An impressive foyer greeted the visitors, with a formal living room to the right and an equally formal dining room after that.
Hidden in the back, however, was a sunroom stretching the width of the house. And smack-dab in the middle of the sunroom: a hot tub more suitable for a party house, which may have been the point. The place had been a rental property for Villanova University students.
“The first thing I thought was that the sunroom has to be ripped out,” says Alex Rice, an architect with Gardner/Fox Associates, an award-winning contractor and construction management company in Bryn Mawr. “It was awful. It was an unfinished, enormous waste of space.”
A couple with two young sons, the new owners had hired Rice to redesign the home to be less “frat house” and more family friendly. The owners picked a firm with plenty of experience on the Main Line. Rice and his associates have worked on at least a half-dozen homes in the South Wayne area, including the house right next door and another property a few doors down.
“People buy here because the houses are charming and have a beautiful street-front façade,” says Rice. “Many, though, are in need of updates.”
The owners wanted to work within the existing footprint of the home, which meant Rice had to get creative. After they transformed the existing garage into a carriage house for one of their mothers, a new attached garage was the only addition. “The footprint of the house is large,” says Rice. “We wanted to maintain the integrity of the formal rooms in the front.”
That in mind, the large formal living room remained intact. It’s believed that a section of the space—with its three large mirrors—may have been a ballroom at some point. “We never even discussed altering it,” says Rice.
The owners asked New Jersey interior designer Laurie Wolfson to assist them in color choices and furniture. “I’d worked with the couple on their previous house in Princeton, N.J.” says Wolfson. “I know their tastes pretty well, and I was excited that they brought me in on this project.”
The living room’s generous size inspired Wolfson to create a main seating area (with the mirrors), a more intimate arrangement in front of the fireplace, and a spot for the piano and an antique Victrola by the bay window. The owners prefer a clean-lined, almost contemporary look when it comes to furnishings, so Wolfson made every effort to seamlessly honor this preference within the home’s more traditional framework.
In the main section, a camel-colored velvet sofa and two end chairs in a soft, silvery blue make up the seating arrangement, while two Regency-style love seats face each other in front of the fireplace. Above each seating area hangs a modest crystal chandelier, reinforcing—in a subtle way—the room’s formal roots. “The layout of the furniture works, whether it’s just the family or a house full of guests,” says Wolfson.
Adjacent to the living room, a smaller three-season sunroom retains its original black-and-white marble tile floor. Wolfson stayed true to that checkerboard theme with a black wicker sofa, white cushions and matching chairs. In keeping with the room’s crisp and clean aesthetic, the fireplace and the wall surrounding it were painted white.
In the dining room, three new French doors with transoms lead to the outside living area, flooding the once-dark space with sunlight during the day. A Schonbek crystal chandelier hangs above a traditional dining table that came from the owners’ previous home.