How Interior Designer Michelle Gage Totally Remade Her 1927 Villanova Home
The quirky stone colonial is a study in patterns and playful exuberance.
When interior designer Michelle Gage and her husband, Alex, bought their Villanova home four years ago, they knew it was a fixer-upper. In fact, that was the whole point. The rambling 1927 stone colonial had plenty of problems — leaky plumbing, beat-up floors, a dilapidated roof — but it also had character. And loads of promise. “We wanted something that needed a lot of work — that we could renovate over time,” says Gage, the founder of her eponymous interior design company. The couple’s approach meant sticking within the home’s original framework to preserve its character, beefing up the structure, and then infusing it all with Gage’s masterfully madcap style. “In the end, we would call this British eclectic,” she says of the design, which features a bold mix of color and patterns and a generous sprinkling of vintage treasures. “I would die to know how many hours I spent finding all that stuff.”
The result of the years-long renovation is the couple’s “forever home,” which embraces their playful design sense. (Where else would you find a houseful of wallpaper that includes monkeys, birds, fruit and … toilets?) But for all of its whimsical touches, the home still nods to its nearly 100-year-old history. The kitchen isn’t blown out to fit a massive island; the walls haven’t been knocked down to create an open-concept space. It’s true to its roots — and ready for another century of change.
“Shop often, and don’t pass on things you love because you don’t have a home for them. I find the right place for many of the vintage things I buy after I’ve already purchased them.” — Michelle Gage
Formerly a plain box, the dining room got an upgrade with custom woodwork and showstopper items like a pair of Hudson Valley brass starburst chandeliers and Cole & Son pomegranate wallpaper. A simpler table and cane chairs ground the space: “I’m all for making a bold statement, but not every element in the room can be the star. There needs to be balance,” Gage says.
Ethereal bird wallpaper sets a serene tone. In the sitting area, an antique chair — a providential Facebook Marketplace score — was reupholstered in lilac velvet. Gage collects vintage oil portraits, like the “regal queen” hanging on the wall.
Gage gave the home’s original corner sink new life with brass plumbing and swathed the petite space in Graham & Brown’s irreverent Loo Loo Blue wallpaper, a toile pattern of majestic commodes.
Published as “Mix Master” in the October 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.