Features: The Ultimate Philadelphia Dream House: I Love It, It’s Perfect, Now Change It

Can an antique-loving girl, a modernist man, two occasionally mud-encrusted boys and one cat happily co-exist? Of course they can. But can they co-decorate?

In 2002, I bought my dream house. This was after having lived in a Rittenhouse Square condo and a Bucks County cottage, and realizing that for me, the dream was somewhere in between — actually, right where I had grown up, in the Philly suburbs. The house I found was in Merion, one mile from where I had gone to high school, and was a four-minute walk (in heels) to the Narberth train station. Built in 1926, it had a front porch, a fireplace, and a tiny yard with hydrangeas and lilacs that took 11 minutes to mow. My elderly cat and I loved it, and we tried to make it antiquey-mod, with my beloved grandparents’ furniture and some groovy lamps from Ikea. My decorating budget was basically some white paint and a week off from work, but I had a notebook full of laminated pages saved from Elle Decor and Metropolitan Home of spare, neutral-hued, antiques-strewn-around-just-so rooms that I hoped to eventually emulate. Of course, I got a bit lonely there at times, but I had pretty much decided I would live in the house forever.

Then I fell completely in love.

In the midst of getting married, I packed up the cat and an armload of clothes and drove over to Blue Bell to live with John and my two new stepsons, ages six and eight, in their rented townhouse. I left my house behind, completely intact, like a museum of singleness.

I hadn’t been exactly sure where Blue Bell was two years ago, but it was now my favorite place in the world. I was so happy there that I could have lived in the rented townhouse forever. It was cozy, bright, comfortable, if a little confining when all five of us were there. But the neighbors’ kids ran in and out at all hours and took to staying for dinner every night, so that we started setting the table for six or eight people as a matter of course. It was fun. Of course, every time we opened the storage closet outside, bikes exploded out from it. And our bedroom closet was now so packed that I stopped looking in and took to just reaching in and grabbing something at random. This may have been why John was suddenly very motivated to move.

We agreed we wanted to find a house that would look great with a mix of modern and antique furniture, since I love antiques and John loves modern. I was hoping for an old house with wood floors and fireplaces, and John said that sounded great to him (while perhaps imagining an ultra-modern house of glass and marble). And we told each other we would take our time, relax about finding a house, just let it find us. …