Habitat: French Country Meets Philly Contemporary in Point Breeze
Name(s): Antoinette Marie Johnson (CEO/Founder at At Media), Tyler Westnedge (Director at At Media)
Neighborhood: Point Breeze
How long have you lived in your house?
Antoinette: “We purchased our home in 2009, from a builder who was frustrated at the market and about to list the home for rent. We used that to our advantage and bought it at much lower than market value.”
Have you made many major changes to it?
“That savings allowed us to customize the home a bit, like the exposed brick wall, an addition on the back of our house for the ‘florida room’ and access to our DIY roofdeck. People also easily underestimate the investment that furniture requires, and often how much it’s worth it to make your home work for your needs. So I’m grateful that we were able to use some of our savings for furnishing the home too.”
Where are you from?
“Tyler’s family have lived in Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia…he is from all over. But in high school he moved to Downingtown, PA. This happens to be the same town that I am from, but funny enough we didn’t meet there. We actually met at Temple University during my senior year, and have been together since.”
Why did you choose to call this neighborhood home?
“We both share a love for revitalization, and wanted to see areas of the city transform and improve. I feel strongly that we have the responsibility to redevelop areas that have been abandoned, rather than move to the suburbs. So naturally we both really wanted to invest in a transforming neighborhood to be apart of revitalizing this city.
“Point Breeze is one of the best areas given its proximity to Center City and the potential of the neighborhood. Since living here we’ve started a greening group, the Point Breeze Pioneers, and have transformed community gardens and planted hundreds of trees. The neighborhood is fantastic, and our block is one of the best!”
How would you describe your home’s style?
“We are designers at heart, and fortunately get to design for a living. But when it came to our home, we found that we clashed on every single idea for the first few years. You learn quickly that furnishing a whole room from Ikea is a bad idea. We started having breakthroughs in our style when we discovered an incredible Amish couple in the Philly suburbs that make handmade mirrors and source all of our reclaimed wood shelves, doors and more.
“Once we started filling our home with these treasures, we needed to balance out that reclaimed look with more classic, contemporary details. I like to think we have a French country meets Philly contemporary, but I still feel like it’s hardly finished.”
Tell us about some of the favorite items in your home and where you got them.
“The vanity in my bedroom was a desk that I found in Manayunk eight years ago. I saw a family throwing away a dressers and this desk, and then lugged them up a steep hill to take home with me. Tyler removed one side of the desk and replaced it with wooden legs, then painted it turquoise and stressed it. He surprised me with the crystal knobs and even scented liner paper for the drawers. He’s super talented at making reclaimed furniture. He made all of our desks at our office from barn doors we got at the Amish couple’s shop.”
“Tyler also made the coat rack and desk in his ‘man cave’ (aka our office). He purchased the 1940s top-hat hooks from the Brooklyn Flea Market. We’re both a little obsessed with items that don’t serve the same purpose they used to. He made his desk himself from wood, and stressed it a bit, finishing with a dark stain. He’s starting to collect mid-century modern chairs, so mixing that style in has given a contemporary flare.”
“The photo hanging in our dining area is Tyler’s father. He discovered it and thought it is a perfect reminder of where he’s going. His father is a great inspiration for Tyler’s love of reclaiming. His parents go garbage and flea market shopping every weekend, and are just finishing their beach house with almost completely redone furniture.”
“My love for gardening is often a burden on Tyler and our budget. After investing in a few neighborhood gardens, we realized that our own home could use a green thumb. It’s a daunting task figuring out how to make a concrete slab a garden. So I begged Tyler to build me boxes to plant in, and a box to cover up our air conditioner. One of the more impactful choices we made was to stain the fence blue and paint the floor light grey. These small touches brought a new feeling to the space that I now love.
“Finding the layout of an area or room is so important, as you can see in our living room and backyard. I always sit in the room and think of it as a completely empty space, then start configuring how many seats I can fit in. This is exactly how the backyard came together. We added antique French road signs and a sectional outdoor sofa to pull together what we’re calling our Hamptons hideaway.”
“The roofdeck has been an afterthought, and I love it that way. We are purposely waiting to ‘finish’ it, because it feels so effortless and that helps us relax in the space. On my 30th birthday Tyler took me to the Hamptons, and we found a mid-century modern furniture store that had these amazing Russell Woodard patio chairs that have round wheels and details that made me giddy! We bought them on the spot, and they’ve influenced the rest of the white and whicker decor. I’m slowly collecting succulents and tall grasses to make it an oasis.”
“We think that there is a lack of inspiration for couples trying to make rooms in smaller spaces work. You can look at Ikea and West Elm catalogues all day, but real life homes provide some of the best examples around. Plus Tyler just loves to show off his DIY work. Thanks for the opportunity to see our home in a different light!”
Conrad Benner, a Fishtown native, is a social media community manager, strategy writer and photographer whose Streets Dept blog has won numerous accolades for showcasing Philadelphia street art. Habitat is Property’s interior design series. Have a great space for us to feature? Let us know by sending an email to Conrad or to Property Editor Liz Spikol at [email protected]!