Amazing Spaces: Philadelphia’s Most Spectacular Interiors

Rafael Novoa and Robert Lieberman of Rafael Novoa Interior Design converted their Upper Makefield barn into a soaring space that’s part rustic, part glam.

The Converted Barn
Rafael Novoa and Robert Lieberman of Rafael Novoa Interior Design converted their Upper Makefield barn into a soaring space that’s part rustic, part glam. (Photo by Jeffrey Totaro; Styling by Lauren Payne)

THE BEST DESIGN—whether seen in the curve of a bike rack or the arch of a barrel-vaulted ceiling—is immediately recognizable. It makes you feel something. These days, everyone cares about aesthetics (see: Apple’s world domination; elegant spatulas), and the trend is especially striking in populist Philadelphia, now an internationally known design hub. To see our city’s design evolution, you only have to look around: Sophisticated design is now omnipresent, from corner coffee shops and corporate offices to seriously covetable homes. In the pages that follow, we feature some of the area’s best interiors, spanning spaces that surprise (slides in an office building?), bewilder (is that really a porthole in a living room?), stun (that bathroom ceiling!) and, above all, inspire.
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Philadelphia Eagles Owner Christina Lurie Once Squeezed Through The Dog Door

Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie's Ex Wife Christina Lurie

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Christina, a.k.a. Christina Weiss Lurie. I’m definitely keeping the Lurie. It’s who I am.

I am a … film producer, Eagles limited partner and dog lover.

I live in … Philadelphia. Well, the Main Line, but I consider it part of the city. I’ve been here for over two decades.

My divorce was … very amicable.

If I weren’t doing this … I would be sailing around the world.

The prettiest spot in Philadelphia is … the Barnes. And Lincoln Financial Field, of course.

One accessory I can’t do without would be … my shoes.

My last trip overseas … was to Cartagena, a family vacation. Actually, most recent was Haiti. I support a lower middle school in the slums of Port-au-Prince. It has about 300 students.

If you want to take me out to dinner … there are just so many great choices. I like all the Vetri restaurants, all the Garces restaurants, all the Starr restaurants. And Vernick Food & Drink. Then there are all the great places in South Philadelphia. So many great places to eat.
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Vince Salandria: The JFK Conspiracy Theorist

WHODUNIT?  JFK Conspiracy Theorist Vince Salandria photographed on January 29, 2014

Vince Salandria photographed on January 29, 2014.
Photo by Gene Smirnov

THREE YEARS AGO, Vince Salandria got a phone call from Arlen Specter, a man he didn’t know. Salandria had been in the Senator’s company only once before, but that was almost a half-century earlier, at a public event. When he called, Specter wasn’t running for anything—he had recently been voted out of office. All he had was a simple request of Salandria, who was 83 years old, a retired Philadelphia school-system lawyer: Would you have lunch with me? They eventually met at the Oyster House, on Sansom Street in Philadelphia. The lunch would turn out to be one of strangest meetings of Salandria’s life.
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Birdie Africa: The Lost Boy

Birdie Africa survived the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia

Birdie in the now-famous Michael Mally photo during the MOVE siege, May 13, 1985.
Photo by Michael Mally/Philadelphia Inquirer

HE WENT TO THE FIRE

The city was burning, and he went to the fire and got as close as he could. Something strange had just happened, something that would haunt the city for decades. A police helicopter had appeared in the sky above a West Philly rowhouse. The house was occupied by a black revolutionary group called MOVE. Seven adults and six children lived inside. The copter dropped a satchel onto the roof. The satchel contained four pounds of explosive. The explosion shook the neighborhood; people could feel it blocks away. Michael Mally gazed through his Nikon and took photos, as the flames leapt from home to home to home and the smoke rose in dark columns.

Mally was a staff photographer for the Inquirer. He knew, of course, the basic outline of MOVE—its back-to-nature philosophy, its history of confrontations with neighbors and police. The people inside the house all went by the last name of Africa, a practice begun by their founder and leader, a man born Vincent Leaphart who now called himself John Africa. Africa believed that modern technology had sapped black people of the ability to fight a racist system. In archival footage from Let the Fire Burn, Jason Osder’s astonishing 2013 documentary about the MOVE bombing, one MOVE member says, “We see John Africa the same way that people saw Jesus Christ.”
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Are Millennials Doomed to Repeat History?

Learning Lessons from the past.

Illustration by Jesse Lenz

LAST NOVEMBER, less than a week after the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, my son and husband and I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The place was absolutely deserted. On a Sunday afternoon, we counted fewer than a dozen other visitors. Footsteps ringing on the floors, we made the circuit of empty, echoing displays of memorabilia, and finally sat in a nigh-deserted theater to watch a film honoring the All-American Game. At its conclusion, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” played, much too loudly, while the single usher on hand sang lustily along. The three of us were profoundly embarrassed for him.
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Can Wild Boar Save the Suburban Mall?

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

THERE’S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT—THIS IS MARC VETRI’S OSTERIA. It’s 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, with a 45-minute wait and good-looking people standing three-deep at the bar. Ever-present beverage director Steve Wildy hustles in his ever-present dark gray suit, uncorking the second $75-plus bottle of red for two beefy guys who loom over a Lombarda pizza, which Food & Wine deemed the restaurant’s “signature” pie. Chef and partner Brad Spence, his whites strangely clean, surveys the dining room, which is tight and loud and thick with the aromas of braised rabbit and dry-aged rib eye and that magical wild boar bolognese. It’s exactly what we expect Osteria to be.

Except for one little hitch—the giant blue neon sign shining in through the front windows: SEARS.

Because here’s the thing: We’re not on North Broad.

We’re in a mall.

And not the swanky King of Prussia mall, or even the newly Nordstrom-ed Cherry Hill Mall.

We’re in the Moorestown Mall.
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Atlantic City’s New Don

Atlantic City New Jersey's Gay Republican Mayor Colin Lenton

No day at the beach: With A.C.’s troubles, Guardian has his work cut out for him
Photo by Colin Lenton

Long after most of the other dignitaries—particularly the white ones—have quietly exited, Mayor Don Guardian remains in a front pew at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on Arctic Avenue in Atlantic City.

The ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is two hours in, and shows no signs of stopping soon. The tenor and message of the ceremony would be familiar to anyone who has spent time in an African-American church in a city with as many problems as Atlantic City. There is talk of the progress made toward equality, and the challenges that remain, but also frequent mentions of street violence, unemployment, poverty and hard times.

Speaker after speaker looks Guardian’s way. Welcome, Mayor, they say to the tall, white, impeccably dressed Republican with a brown homburg in his lap. Their voices are warm, the overtures are clearly genuine—and yet there’s an unmistakable undercurrent of bewilderment, as though they’re not entirely sure how Guardian came to be sitting there.
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The Fonzi-Specter JFK Assassination Tapes

Linked By History: Salandria speaking in 1998; Arlen Specter working with the Warren Commission in 1964.

Salandria speaking in 1998; Arlen Specter working with the Warren Commission in 1964.

Philadelphia lawyer Vince Salandria prepped journalist Gaeton Fonzi for his interviews with Arlen Specter about the Warren Commission’s work; Specter’s evasiveness and inability to explain inconsistencies in the findings are chilling.

The Mary Ferrell Foundation has the audio and transcripts from three of those interviews in 1966, as well as a discussion between Fonzi and Salandria. Click here to listen.

Jim Fregosi Profile: Chewing the Fat

(Originally published in the March 1996 issue of Philadelphia magazine.)

Profile of Phillies manager Jim Fregosi

Illustration by Colin Johnson

The first game is still months away, and the chain-link fence that separates the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring home from the surrounding pawnshops and junkyards and trailer parks is in desperate need of repair. Though the team’s first annual January mini-camp doesn’t open for 24 hours, coaches and players park, brace against the brisk Florida chill, and straggle into the clubhouse. It’s been three months since they’ve seen each other, three months since anyone’s had a reason to set an alarm clock.

The coaches gather in a small, windowless locker room tucked under the rightfield stands of Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium. It has cinder-block walls, a drop ceiling, scant ventilation but just enough space for two rows of lockers and a boardroom-size folding table. As usual, manager Jim Fregosi sits at the head. The table is empty except for his elbows, his Kools and his lighter. Starting tomorrow, he will see what kind of shape his players are in and give them a chance to get to know each other (only ten remain from the team that played in the World Series two years ago). For now, someone throws a videotape into a VCR, and suddenly Fregosi comes face-to-face with the almost perfect season of 1993. On a Samsung TV bolted to a wall, he has a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Five against the Braves-but Mitch Williams is stretching in the bullpen.

“Is he done now?” Glenn Brummer, a minor-league coach, asks about the Wild Thing’s current career.

“He was done then,” says Fregosi.
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How to Brew Your Own Coffee with Nest Cafe

How to Brew Your Own Coffee with Philadelphia's Nest Cafe

Illustration by Melissa McFeeters

Fresh beans!

Most bags of beans feature their “roast date,” which is vital to your brew. “Under the two-week mark is the ‘Goldilocks zone,’” says Ultimo Coffee’s Aaron Ultimo. “After that, it starts to taste dirty and it starts to taste boring.” Never ask for your beans to be pre-ground unless “you plan on literally using all of that coffee within the same day or less,” says Lilly Vamberi of Federal Donuts.

Spend low on a brewer.

For home brewing, pros are fond of affordable pour-over tools, such as a Chemex, Bee House or Hario V60, that rely on gravity for quick brews; Bodhi Coffee’s Tom Henneman is fond of the classic French press. If you’re set on a dripper, One Shot’s Melissa Baruno suggests a Bonavita, which brews with multiple streams of water.

Spend high on a grinder.

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