Architecture & Design

A Center City Pied-à-Terre Brings It All Back Home

A long-distance collaboration between a designer and a client with Philly roots turns a high-rise condo into a comfortable modern trip down Memory Lane.

The lightness of a Shore house combined with the sophistication of a New York apartment: Christina Henck’s balancing act delighted her clients. | Photos: Sean Kane via Henck Design

Mike Edwards grew up in Langhorne, got married on the beach in San Diego, and now lives in Denver.

But the tech-industry executive and his wife Erica Rockenback wanted a place they could call home here too. “We had a lot of reasons we wanted to be in Philadelphia,” Edwards says. Among them: Edwards sits on Drexel University’s board of trustees, and the firm he heads, the tech startup accelerator/connector Iterate.ai, works with several large clients located on the East Coast. DaVita Kidney Care, where Rockenback is vice president of recruiting, also has a large presence in this area.

The Edwardses love the view of City Hall from their condo. It’s an integral part of the design.

So they purchased a condo on a high floor of the Residences at the Ritz with a view of City Hall and Dilworth Park. That was the easy part. The hard part was turning it into a reflection of their lives.

That’s where Henck Design came in. Working in a contemporary idiom, designer Christina Henck turned the space into an urbane yet comfortable home that ties together the various threads of the couple’s life story.

The glass-topped dining room table ties in with the balcony adjacent.

“It’s my mission to create simple, effortless spaces that tell a story,” Henck says. In this case, Edwards’ and Rockenback’s Philly pad “tells a story of their wedding. They were married on a beach, but [the space is] in a city. It’s marrying the two, pun intended.”

Henck’s modernist sensibilities recommended her to Edwards. “Our home in Colorado is very contemporary, and the last couple of homes I owned are of similar vein.”

Henck created a space that is at once cool and warm.

A photo of the beach at Cardiff, Calif., where Mike Edwards and Erica Rockenback got married hangs above their bed in the master bedroom. You could say Henck designed a house around it.

“The predominant color scheme supports the story,” she says — cool blues and white that recall the oceanside environment. On top of that, Henck added browns and warm-colored lighting that both mimics the California sunshine and highlights the works of art.

An abstract expressionist painting by Kevin Strickland picks up the kitchen’s mahogany woodwork and ties it into the oceanside color scheme.

“When we bought the unit, we hired Christina because we wanted to create something unique,” says Edwards. “The view was also something, and we wanted to showcase that.”

Lighting and artwork in the guest bedroom bring a pop of sunshine into a cool yet comfortable space.

The space gets plenty of use, not just by Edwards and his wife, but by his family. “My sister uses it because she has a lot of friends in the area,” he says.

Lighting and an accent basket add color to the master bathroom’s more neutral palette.

Edwards was most impressed at how Henck was able to keep the project moving and work with them closely by remote control. “Keep in mind that we were trying to do this all from Denver, picking out designs, color schemes, furniture and lighting, and we were both really impressed that she got us so quickly,” he says. “For her to coordinate it from scratch, putting everything together — she’s a great designer and an outstanding project manager.

“We’re thrilled with how it turned out — on schedule and within our budget. We both love it.”