Moody Hues and Rich Textures Bring Personality Back to This Historic NoLibs Home

The couple had one request for their rowhouse renovation: no white walls.

rowhouse renovation

New kitchen in a turn-of-the-century Northern Liberties rowhouse renovation/ Photography by Zack DeZon

When Amanda Weeks and Julian Freed-Brown decided it was finally time to make a long-awaited move from Brooklyn to Philadelphia to start a family, they turned to friend and New York-based interior designer Emma Montgomery with one specific design request for their turn-of-the-century Northern Liberties rowhouse: absolutely no white walls. Montgomery, whose aesthetic favors historic architecture and contemporary design, was happy to oblige.

We knew we wanted to build some rich and colorful palettes to help bring the home back to life.” — Emma Montgomery

“The previous owners had painted nearly every single room white, but it didn’t match the vibrancy and character of the home,” she says. Original plans for the full renovation of the 2,290-square-foot property shifted due to two design challenges: reconstructing the dining-room ceiling because of existing water damage, and scrapping the idea of a woodburning fireplace after the discovery of an old bricked-in coal flue. Now settled in their home for more than a year, the couple is winding down another major design project: Weeks’s new sustainable home-goods store, Ours, is set to open in NoLibs later this year.

The kitchen

rowhouse renovation

Rowhouse renovation: Kitchen

The cabinetry was designed by Montgomery and paired with Fireclay tile. Antique lighting and Sun Valley Bronze brass hardware, plus new appliances from Gerhard’s­ in Ardmore, brighten the space. Philly furniture maker­ Noam Wise crafted the cherry island and floating shelves.

The bar

rowhouse renovation

Rowhouse renovation: Bar

Montgomery wanted to evoke the feel of Maison Premiere, one of the couple’s favorite Brooklyn restaurants. Philly contractor Tony McReynolds created a built-in bar with a mirrored back and brass shelving and a bar cabinet inspired by an antique English cabinet. The tin ceiling, painted with Benjamin Moore’s Stuart Gold, was a design solution to mask imperfections.

The living room

Rowhouse renovation: Living room

The space’s library-like feel gets touches of drama from Hearth Cabinet’s all-black ventless fireplace that features­ original detailing, Clé tile in Battled Armor, and a refinished antique mantel sourced from Provence. Built-in bookshelves flank an antique painting.

The bathroom

Rowhouse renovation: Bathroom

An existing schoolhouse sink informed much of the primary­ bathroom’s design.


Published as “Habitat: The Right Move” in the November 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.