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Modern Design/Historic Setting: Residential Redesign in Chestnut Hill, Pa.

Two retired professors build their dream home by modernizing a 1960s ranch

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Modern Design/Historic Setting: Residential Redesign in Chestnut Hill, Pa.

The open floor plan transformed the 1960s ranch into something much more modern.

Photo courtesy of SOMD

If we’re lucky, retirement is the gateway to an entirely new adventure and for two professors from Pittsburgh, that adventure included designing a dream home that not only put them closer to their children but allowed them the space and setting to indulge in passions they had cultivated for years.

Good Bones

In addition to the proximity to their kids, the professors were looking for three very specific things: a single-story house for ease in mobility, wall space for displaying their antique rug collection, and a greenhouse for growing world-class orchids.

They found the bones for what they wanted in a house on a half-acre of land in the historic Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. The home, however, was divided into many individual rooms, as houses of the era typically were, and its attic, a space the couple deemed unnecessary, literally cut into the expansive opportunities the structure could offer. That said, the house would undergo quite a renovation before it completely suited their needs.

To transform the home into the location of their dreams, the couple turned to Studio of Metropolitan Design, an architectural design firm located in Philadelphia. SOMD morphed the 3,000-sq. ft. 1960s ranch into a marvel of design and innovation, incorporating all the design elements the couple demanded, as well as a wealth of sustainable design decisions that moved the home into the modern age.

Design and Renovation

The architects described the house as it stood at purchase as being a “rabbit warren of small rooms.” That is perhaps the last thing one would say with regard to the redesign.

Moves were made to very specifically fulfill the clients’s demands: the attic was eliminated, leaving in its absence 12-foot walls for hanging the priceless Persian rugs the couple had collected over time, as well as windows above eye level that offer both sunlight and privacy; the original home’s four small bedrooms became two expansive bedroom suites; and the kitchen and living room were transformed into one large room awash in light with the removal of a wall to the garden and the installation of glass doors.

Adding a healthy dose of modern environmental awareness to the structure, the architects installed new windows and enhanced insulation and turned to local and recycled construction materials to conserve both resources and cost. The eco-friendly touches bring an element of modernism to the historic backdrop of Philadelphia.

Cultivating a Passion

In their new 1,000-sq. ft. greenhouse, the couple found their own private laboratory for cultivating orchids that go on to compete internationally. The spacious greenhouse has proved a thriving environment for their orchid passion and, by positioning the structure at right angles to the house, the lush floral collection functions as a part of the home and can be enjoyed from the bedroom, living room and patio.

More on the Design Firm

Studio of Metropolitan Design Architects prides itself on the mantra of clarity, simplicity and efficiency guided by integrity, innovation, knowledge and care for the environment. The belief here is that good design is both an investment in the future and a way to help organizations and individuals meet their objectives.

Beyond its residential clients, the firm tackles projects in the education, health and science, and additional commercial sectors. Among its commercial projects within Philadelphia have been University City Science Center, Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the Airport Mall at Philadelphia International Airport. Educational projects have included a variety of work for Philadelphia area colleges and universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University and Temple University. The firm has also completed projects internationally with its creative reach stretching as far as Genoa, Italy; Beirut, Lebanon; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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