The Mod Squad

The owners of a midcentury modern house on the Main Line open up for a summer cocktail party that is part pop art, part pool party

On a leafy stretch of the Main Line, surrounded by rambling stone and brick Colonials both historic and new, it comes as a surprise to turn down the tree-shaded driveway of Alan Jacobson and Dallyn Pavey Jacobson’s property and happen upon a vintage-1950s, California modern house. But the low-slung,


On a leafy stretch of the Main Line, surrounded by rambling stone and brick Colonials both historic and new, it comes as a surprise to turn down the tree-shaded driveway of Alan Jacobson and Dallyn Pavey Jacobson’s property and happen upon a vintage-1950s, California modern house. But the low-slung, glass-sheathed icon of midcentury style — which would look completely at home in the Hollywood Hills — is the perfect party house for stately Villanova.

Its unconventional looks were exactly why the Jacobsons made an offer on the house as soon as they saw it in 2002. The couple loves to entertain, and small dinner parties in winter are barely enough to hold them over until warm weather, when they can make the most of their yard by hosting big indoor-outdoor parties.

With a lap pool and a bamboo and fern garden, the house is perfect for summer shindigs, and this balmy night is no exception. The Jacobsons — as usual — have many things to celebrate, including Alan’s upcoming trip to Rwanda on a charity mission, Dallyn’s birthday and the arrival of Alan’s sister-in-law’s family from London.

The Jacobsons are clearly easy-going hosts — even more so on this late-summer night because the party planning is in the hands of Manayunk caterer Feastivities Events and Philadelphia floral design company Beautiful Blooms.

Getting Ready
The wisteria-arbored pool deck has been a whirlwind of fabulousness all day as decorations go up. Orange gerbera daisies float in the 5-by-40-foot lap pool, which is reflected in a mirror at the pool’s far end. Above the pool hang gleaming red and orange lanterns. Orange votives flicker along the patio wall in the early dusk, and white lights dot the wisteria canopy above. Donna O’Brien, owner of Beautiful Blooms, sets the scene with a riot of pale green hydrangeas, orange orchids, orange roses and burgundy dahlias, looking lush but modern in a square copper vase.

Guests can pick up drinks and mill in and out of the house, which is furnished with a midcentury aesthetic that fits the architecture. “Alan and I both appreciate the architecture and design of that era,” says Dallyn. “It’s clean and simple, yet complicated and beautiful. We do keep the style of the house in mind when we purchase pieces.”

Many of the pieces weren’t purchased at all, but passed down from Dallyn’s family, who shared her passion for modern design. “Our Saarinen Womb chair, Tulip table and chairs, and surfboard table were purchased in 1959 by my parents,” she says. “My mother kept them throughout the years and gave the pieces to Alan and I when we moved into the house. They are a natural fit in our home.”

The low, playful Elliptical Table, designed by Charles and Ray Eames and nicknamed the “surfboard table,” looks equally capable of riding a wave and holding a cocktail in the reading lounge. On a nearby wall are the framed lyrics to “Our House,” hand-penned by musician Graham Nash as a wedding gift to the couple. Dallyn, a public relations consultant and owner of Philadelphia’s Dish Public Relations, knew Nash from her former career in the music industry.

A shoji screen shields the formal dining room from the two-story, glass-walled living room. Dramatic double-height white drapes can be drawn for privacy, or opened to face the bamboo garden. On the coffee table — as modern a piece as everything else in the couple’s carefully culled collection — rests a stunning, sculptural “cityscape” of Feastivities’ hors d’oeuvres. Glass towers, some more than three feet high and set atop flats of vibrant live wheatgrass, hold olives, crudités, nuts and other salty snacks.

Food for Thought
The principals of Feastivities Events, Meryl and Andy Snow, prepared shrimp cocktails in a spicy gazpacho sauce served in short-stemmed martini glasses. The Snows prepped food that is portable, easy to eat while standing and chatting, and as hip and colorful as its surroundings. There is a retro bleu cheese torte with crackers — very ’60s — exotic olives galore, tuna nori and salmon “lollipops.”

When guests finish these treats, they can walk through the glass doors to the Jacobsons’ vintage patio table, which has also been co-opted by the Snows. Thin slices of ripe oranges are arranged on the table and topped with a sheet of thick glass, upon which are set martini glasses filled with tropical fruit, berries and cream, and topped off with a tuile cookie — tempting guests to balance the dessert with the eye-popping vodka-and-cranberry Lava Lamp Martinis being served near the pool.

And here comes the Jacobsons’ first guest — Mike Ippoliti, a sales representative for Knoll in Philadelphia. Dallyn turns up the vintage ’60s turntable in the living room, which is always spinning classics, from Burt Bacharach and The Hooters to crooners like Sinatra.
Before long, a British-accented swarm of handsome blond people in sleek little dresses and designer sandals swan into the back yard’s pathway through the fern garden. All tall and tanned, they immediately head for the gin and vodka, embracing Alan and Dallyn, oohing at the shrimp “martinis,” and making a very English clamor. Oddly enough, the group looks far more California-cool than British-proper — perfect for this chic mod soiree.