Old Meets New in this 1920s Gladwyne Home
Thanks to the help of a Manayunk-based designer, this creative couple was able to seamlessly blend a large addition with the home’s original structure.
The centerpiece of the family area is a massive U-shaped sectional sofa. Photographs by Rebecca McAlpin.
In the 1920s, when the original section of this Gladwyne home was built, American wealth, natural resources and craftsmanship were at their zenith. Some 60 years later, the house was augmented with a two-story 1,500-square-foot wing. The result was a generation gap of sorts, with incompatible design sensibilities.
The current owners tried to create harmony between the spaces by redecorating the wing with dark colors, formal swag draperies and large-scale furniture. Still, the newer wing didn’t feel as inviting as they’d imagined. It also lacked the classic details of the original space.
What they really wanted was a gathering space as timeless and inviting as their summer home in Nantucket, Mass. “We were ready to lighten and brighten our living space,” the owner recalls. “We wanted a fuss-free space that adults and young adults could fully enjoy.”
To bring Nantucket to the Main Line, the owners turned to Mona Ross Berman, who’d worked with them on their summer home. She designed a plan that would infuse the addition with a New England-inspired palette of pale blues and white with such architectural elements as oversized wainscoting and custom millwork.
“We have beautiful, historic homes on the Main Line, and people are coming around to the idea that they can honor that architecture and history and still have a home that’s light and refreshing,” Berman says. “Our goal is to have people come into the house 100 years from now and not be able to tell where the old house ends and the addition begins.”
The transformation extends beyond paint and furnishings. Berman worked to widen the portal between the family room and a sitting room, which she enhanced with moldings. A passageway between the kitchen and a sunroom now serves as a highly functional walk-in pantry. Nearby, a makeshift home office squeezed into the passageway now basks in the sunroom.
“Cosmetic changes were not going to get us where we wanted to go,” says Berman. “Why not make the space you have as wonderful as you can?”
“We really spend most of our time in this family space, eating, reading, catching up, watching TV and entertaining,” says the owner. “We needed a redesign that would make our home more comfortable and livable.”
The centerpiece of their idyllic hangout space is a huge, comfy U-shaped sectional sofa. Two large rectangular ottomans are placed side by side to serve as a casual coffee table. “We really wanted a big sofa where everyone could have a corner or place to put their feet up,” says the owner.
Berman worked with Richard Herzog Upholstery in Paoli to create bespoke pieces that maximize comfort and fit the space. “When I have upholstery made, I always go to the local trades so people can go and sit in it and make sure it’s comfortable for them,” Berman says.
While the colors are reminiscent of Nantucket, the fabrics are not. “We chose velvets and wools to provide texture—very different than what you’d see at the beach,” Berman notes.
Patterned jewel-tone draperies were stripped away from a large bank of windows, allowing natural light into the room. A large chandelier of spindles and candles is suspended from a barrel-vaulted ceiling.
A powder room off the family room—“teeny, tiny but essential”—retains its original jot of a sink. An antique brass faucet and matching exposed pipes maintain the vintage vibe. A natural stone floor is paved in a herringbone pattern.
The owners seldom used a sitting room that bridges the kitchen and family room. Painting the brick fireplace white unifies the spaces. A wood mantel mirrors the stained trusses in a white vaulted, tongue-in-groove ceiling. Replacing a small, uncomfortable settee with a quartet of club chairs makes the space considerably more appealing.
“All four members of the family have claimed their own chair,” Berman says. “You can sit there and have a conversation with someone who’s cooking in the kitchen.”
The sunroom is now a home office for the owner, a gifted artist who also uses the space to set up her easel and paint. Occasionally, her husband borrows the room to enjoy a nap on the settee in a sunny window.
Existing built-in shelving holds books, art and collectibles. A tile floor was torn out and replaced with an oak floor with radiant heating to match the hardwoods in the rest of the home. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the house, with views of lovely trees, and it was very underutilized,” says Berman. “Now it’s a place people enjoy every day.”