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.
The Artist's Lair
The opulent, aquatic South Philly living room of cephalopod-obsessed artist Adam Wallacavage is an ideal backdrop for his sculpted chandeliers.
The Church Rehab
Clothing boutique Mettlers American Mercantile set up shop in a converted 19th-century church, once the home of the obscure Swedenborgians.
The Minimalist Penthouse
Seen through an elevated window, a smokestack provides an industrial contrast to the Kubrick-esque interior of this Old City penthouse designed by Moto Designshop.
The Bohemian Loft
A Northern Liberties loft (designed by Naomi Stein of Design Manifest) looks like it was transported from Marrakech, with a few stops at flea markets on the way.
Michael Scott Whitson
The Reclaimed Coffee Shop
One Shot Coffee in Northern Liberties, a two-story rowhome transformed by Philly’s SLDesign: because you’d never want to live in a Starbucks.
© 2012 The Barnes Foundation
After years of internecine warfare and legal wrangling and one impassioned documentary, the Barnes Museum now resides on the Parkway. Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects—one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 talents of 2014—the award-winning building offers better light to see the paintings and clean, contemplative spaces away from the galleries.
The Built-In Guest Room
A cozy guest bedroom—tucked in a 1940s home on the bank of the Delaware River in New Hope—maximizes space with adjacent built-in beds, painted white by designer Darryl Carter for a modern, airy feel.
The Mid-Century Modern
A circa-1958 home in Wallingford by prominent mid-century modern architect Irwin Stein is now a showcase for furniture of the same period, curated by homeowner and interior designer Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher.
John M. Lewis
In a Gladwyne manse, a light-filled conservatory—the work of Doylestown-based Chase Building Group—features radiant heating, motorized windows and, naturally, a self-sustaining koi pond.
The Hotel Lobby
Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco: proof that hotel lobbies don’t have to be awful.
The Seafarer's Bar
Packed to the rafters with nautical paraphernalia, the Boat House—a two-level, creaky-floored pub hidden in an old pork yard in Lambertville—is the definition of weathered charm.
The Urban Showroom
Take Restoration Hardware, add bits of an old industrial factory, sprinkle in some thrift-store quirk, and you’ve got Center City home store Cella Luxuria.
The Modern Farmhouse
A sustainable home in West Chester by Wayne-based Moger Mehrhof Architects features an open-tread oak-and-steel staircase, stacked beneath a cupola, that’s sexy and functional: The glass wall opens up to let air pour in and cool the house.
Halkin Architectural Photography
The Glamorous Parlor
Designed by starchitect Rafael Viñoly, Fort Washington’s Arbor Hill is endlessly versatile. To wit: This living room can be converted into a basketball court. Bonus: It’s for sale. Buy the entire property for $25 million, or just its main house and partial acreage for $13.95 million.
The Eco Bath
When Jayme Guokas, owner of Craftwork Design, rehabbed an East Kensington rowhome, he used reclaimed materials such as flooring from a South Philly factory and a former livestock tank as a shower.
The Verdant Brunch Spot
Has a dreamier place ever existed than the greenhouse-like Garden Café at Terrain in Glen Mills?
The Historic Showstopper
It’s M.C. Esher turned elegant in the Jayne House near Rittenhouse Square. Sun streams in from a 400-square-foot leaded-glass skylight, illuminating a scenic mural in this Frank Furness home restored by Eberlein Design Consultants.
The Impeccable Cooking Space
In New Hope, a fresh, bright kitchen is the ultimate culinary retreat. (Psst: The house can be yours for a tidy $3.15 million.)
Halkin Mason Photography
The Way-Better-Than- A-Cubicle Workspace
Coolest. Office. Ever. (It’s AWeber, an email marketing biz in Chalfont. Chalfont!)
The Intimate Clubhouse
The Mask and Wig Club’s Grille Room, with its hundreds of beer mugs and wall illustrations by Maxfield Parrish, is a gathering spot for members of Penn’s all-male musical comedy troupe. Built on tiny Quince Street in 1894, it’s a hidden gem of a clubhouse that you’ve probably never noticed.
The Main Line Estate
Patterned wallpaper covers the barrel-vaulted ceiling in one of many bathrooms in Ardrossan, the Philadelphia Story Georgian mansion built by Horace Trumbauer. Eberlein Design Consultants oversaw the storied Main Line property’s restoration.
The Adapted Warehouse
An abandoned building was converted into a funky workspace with visible history for this Free People office at the Navy Yard. Oh, and pets are welcome.
Floto + Warner
The Unconventional Rotunda
A two-story fireplace suspended in a silo-esque rotunda is the grand industrial focal point of this sleek abode in Buckingham Township.
The Designer's Kitchen
The Rehoboth Beach kitchen of Joanne Hudson, Philly’s queen of kitchen design. We’re drooling, too.
Designer Ashli Mizell turned a bachelor’s Delancey Street basement into a personal spa, complete with sauna.
The More Is More ... Is More
Built by the Pennsylvania State Capitol’s architect, the historical-preservation-award-winning Oaks Cloister stuns with its opulence, size, and idiosyncrasies of design. (Yes, somebody actually lives here.)
The Eclectic Mix
If you could live in Anthropologie, it’d be like living in this Center City loft. Hardly surprising—the owners both work for Urban. (Styling by Lauren Payne)
Please also see “How to Find the Perfect House in Philadelphia.”
First appeared in the March, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.