Drew Becher is walking around his sun-dappled two-acre Chestnut Hill property. He’s wearing a crisp blue shirt with epaulets, a colorful striped belt, khakis, and laceless white Converse All-Stars. Two small fountains—one on either side of two adjacent back patios—gurgle in a babbling-brook sort of way, masking the hum of traffic on nearby Germantown Avenue and making the scene feel more English countryside than middle-of-the-city.
“I love boxwoods,” Becher says, pointing to an impeccably groomed hedge in the backyard. Then he notices the maple. “Oh, Japanese maple, with a dash of red. One of my favorite plants.” A few steps later: “Lavender, that’s my favorite. I love the way it smells, the way it looks.” But then he sees the hydrangea: “White hydrangea. That’s my total favorite.”
When you’re Drew Becher, president of the renowned Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and a self-proclaimed “nursery shopaholic,” it’s difficult to choose just one favorite plant—especially when there are so many to choose from. The same can be said of the houses he’s lived in. There was the converted funeral home, the suburban cottage, the glass-walled Chicago penthouse, the Victorian rowhome in D.C., and now the stately 1926 English Tudor where he lives with his partner, Eric Lochner, CEO of a Wayne-based human capital management firm.
At first, the sprawling half-timbered stucco-and-fieldstone home was a country house for the globe-trotting couple; almost immediately after they made settlement, Lochner was transferred to London, and Becher was summoned to New York by Bette Midler to head the New York Restoration Project. Now, after four years, a thorough interior renovation of the house and a total landscape overhaul of the property, the couple has at last planted firm roots. Meanwhile, Becher has been busy transforming Philadelphia into a world-class horticulture destination, starting with the Flower Show, which flourished in splendid tropical fashion last month. But he’s already on to the next project.
“I told Eric over dinner that I really want to inject purple into our plantings this year,” he says thoughtfully. Like all matters of design, introducing a new color into the landscape isn’t a decision he takes lightly. He laughs. “It’s a big day at the Becher-Lochner household.”
Becher walks along a bluestone path that winds between two terraces in the backyard. The walkway is neatly bordered by a boxwood hedge, which adds structure to the garden: “It’s like the frame around a picture,” he says. Becher’s plantings include ornamental grasses, blue and silver hostas, various herbs, black-eyed Susan, oakleaf hydrangeas, Japanese maples, elephant ears, and red ‘Jacob Cline’ bee balm for color accents. An ‘Annabelle’ white hydrangea serves as a backdrop for the dining terrace. below: The stately Tudor is perched on a hill overlooking the Morris Arboretum. When Becher and Lochner bought the house, it was blanketed in English ivy, and the grounds were completely overgrown.
The airy sunroom gets a jolt of energy from a zebra-patterned rug, which is paired with clean-lined wicker rope furniture from Williams-Sonoma Home and a sleek drum pendant light. The 1920s wrought iron side tables are from the sunroom in Becher’s childhood home in Ohio. Walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White, and tall casement windows open to let in fresh air. Becher winters his plants in this room, and the couple sits here to take in sunsets and thunderstorms. “The Wissahickon Valley is right to the northwest, so you can see storms rolling in,” Becher says. “It’s amazing.”
Formerly just a narrow strip beneath the arbor, the back terrace was extended 20 feet for ample outdoor living space. “We are big outdoor folks, and we knew that we wanted to have a living terrace and a dining terrace,” Becher says. “The house spoke to where those things would go.” They kept the original intricately carved arbor, now entwined with purple wisteria. A comfortable seating area features chairs from the Hill Company in Chestnut Hill, polished concrete side tables from Reinboth in Lambertville, and weathered hurricane lanterns from Terrain in Glen Mills. Ferns add visual interest to bare corners, and banana plants lend an exotic touch. “Highlighting some spaces with tropicals is a cool thing. I put moss around the bottom of them,” he says.
A “cheap pine table” Becher found sits against the fieldstone wall on the back terrace. Becher painted it and topped it with a slab of bluestone; it now bears Lochner’s collection of succulents from PHS’s Meadowbrook Farm. “They have one of the best succulent collections in the whole area,” says Becher. “And that’s not just me being the PHS person.”
After peeling back layer upon layer of floral wallpaper that sheathed everything from walls to ceilings—“It was like an archaeological dig,” Becher says—the couple painted the living and dining rooms in Benjamin Moore’s crisp Sterling Gray. An eclectic mix of furnishings includes a white Knoll stool and a black velvet Louis XIV chair, a London flea market score. The vintage Lucite-and-glass coffee table was originally in a 1980s nightclub; Becher found it at a D.C.-area antique shop. The “birdcage chairs” by Kenneth Cobonpue are made of wicker-wrapped steel, shellacked to a glossy black finish. The low-slung sofa is another custom piece by Berkus. Lochner found the antique cabinet while traveling in Shanghai.
In the walk-through kitchen, marble subway tiles stretch up to the ceiling. Custom built-in cabinetry conceals all appliances—including two dishwashers and a wine refrigerator—and black granite countertops add depth to the otherwise all-white space.