The holidays are right around the corner and to ensure your closet is ready for the hustle and bustle, we’re sharing the six looks that are sure to embellish your wardrobe. From sequins to warm wool, these styling tricks will have you ready for any festivities coming your way.
Take a risk with texture. The soft plush feel of velvet is the perfect way to up the dark toned holiday colors. We recommend a velvet suit or dress in moss green, burgundy or black.
2- ‘Tis the Season of Sequin
Elevate your favorite blouses or sweaters with a touch of sparkle. These festive beads are the per- fect touch of detail this holiday. Complete this look with your favorite skinny jean or velvet trouser.
3- Faux Fur
Make a statement in this season’s soft outerwear of choice. Pair a fur coat with an elegant slip dress perfect for a party or wear it casually with a T-shirt and denims.
4- Boots, Boots, Boots
Boots are a longstanding staple piece of any winter wardrobe. This seasons boot trends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From thigh- high to chunky combat to elegant bootie, there’s a style for every look.
5- Oversized Sweaters
Keep it comfortable and classy in an oversized sweater perfect for running holiday errands in or snuggling up by a replace. Wear an oversized sweater as a dress with embroidered boots and tights or combine it with a skinny pant and loafers. Don’t shy away from patterns!
6- Warm Wool
Let’s get back to the basics in a classic wool coat. Both middie coats and ponchos are a quick stylish x for cold weather. Keeping colors neutral such as beige, gray or black will allow the coat to t to almost anything in your winter closet. This classic staple piece will withstand time.
There comes a time in our adult lives when we realize that it’s time to let go of the secondhand stuff, the piecemeal collections and the flat-out old and begin forming our own identities. Mine arrived this summer as my seven-year-old nephew gulped milk from an Oktoberfest pint glass. We promptly nicknamed him Sluggo, but the site unsettled me, nonetheless.
We held on to souvenirs from college, like that glass (and many others of its kind), because they’re still totally functional, and we don’t like waste. Clearly, though, more appropriate drinkware was in order. So I made a pact with myself: My purchases would be purposeful, sustainable and as local (sourced and made) as possible.
I found Owen Moon, a budding artisan, and his 10-ounce Ceramic Dart Cup Set ($60) at the Wrightstown Farmers Market. Yep, those Dart cups, the kind we used to drink from, maybe gnaw around the lip a little and then toss into the garbage. Owen casts the Styrofoam cups in his studio at Alfred University (he’s still in school) and glazes them in faint, glossy shades of indigo, cranberry and cream. The Dart logo on the bottom of the cup’s still very much intact. It was the nostalgia that pulled me, but the ingenuity sealed the deal.
The pint glasses are stowed away, safely out of reach of lil’ Sluggo, awaiting my husband’s future cave. We’re serious adults now; we drink from Dart cups. —Kendra Lee Thatcher
Some modest, seasonal tweaks to your interior design will work wonders on your perspective.
By David J. Witchell
Before you start scattering dead leaves around the house, there are other ways to go about introducing those fall colors.
Neutral hues have always formed the base layer around my home. I get bored with colors quickly, and the vanilla canvas allows me to overhaul the accessories from season to season. Honing in on a new part of the spectrum every few months has a way of refreshing all of the fixtures, not to mention my own spirit.
Still, it’s a bittersweet time of year. It’s invigorating to reintroduce fall’s shades, but it’s just as hard stowing away the summer stuff. Turquoise encourages communication and clarity, and indigo is the color of intuition. Blues, in general, tend to facilitate peace and grounded order, which makes them the ideal palette for the year’s most carefree, restorative months.
Fall, for me, looks like warm metals and hits of crimson, cayenne, rust and goldenrod. I may be especially partial to the season because orange is my favorite color. I’ve also come to learn that it represents optimism. Blending in reds helps me feel energetic and fuels my ambition and determination, a particularly productive cocktail of qualities. Yellow just makes me smile. I throw in some green or magenta for balance and harmony. And somewhere in my office, visible from my desk, I make sure there’s a splash of purple to spark my creativity.
Beneath it all are the browns, grays and whites, the ideal companions for my seasonal whims. It’s easy to look straight past them, but without them, there’d be no anchor, no context. Instead of flowing with the landscape on the other side of the windows, the accents would appear to be at war with the spaces around them. It all works and, just as importantly, it all transitions relatively effortlessly because there’s a consistent, objective platform upon which I can express some personality. Less discretion would back me into corners that I’d be stuck in for years at a time.
And those neutral colors have some personality of their own. Brown embodies warmth and bit of gravity. Gray represents compromise. Little wonder, then, that I’ve used it so liberally. And white connects us to innocence and a sense of fruition.
Interior design is not unlike how we go about dressing ourselves. If I was to go around draped in jewelry, a loud-patterned sweater, putting-green colored khakis and a pair of Christmas-red boots, what would that say about me? I know mixing patterns and colors is having a moment, but with that kind of wild abandon, it all turns into white noise. I love my home. And when I switch out a few well-placed variables, it reminds me why I love it, because those pieces manage to cast it in new light. And that’s all it needs most of the time. To constantly repaint walls and interchange furniture and art would only be masking that appeal.
The art of discovery at a flea market is more about an open mind and sentimentality than it is resale values.
By Susan Forker
Much of the allure of the flea market for me is the potential. I draw a lot of inspiration digging through the forgotten bits and bobs piled in dusty heaps and buried in bulging boxes. I never know what I’ll find, but I’ve come to trust that I’ll find something—materials and props for my jewelry, fuel for my imagination. Here’s a sampling of some of what’s made its way home with me recently.
A study in artificiality
I’ve made no secret of my adoration of vernacular or found photography. Lately, I’ve been drawn to old images of pairs of people. It’s something about the dynamic—the strained admiration between sisters, the hidden tension among lovers. The story simmering behind the façade’s been preserved as much as the hollow expressions. I culled this batch together from various fleas and shops. I love their awkwardness and symmetry. I may frame them together and display them as a collection.
Tokens of a not-so-distant past
Who didn’t collect these as a kid? The handle-and-crank flattening machines were once ubiquitous at every carnival and tourist attraction. You can still find them here and there, but they’re not the same, and the pennies are too shiny. But the patina and texture of these are perfect. Being a New Yorker at heart, the iconography doesn’t hurt, either.
The mannequin becomes the art
I can’t exactly qualify this dress form as a random find. I bought it off a maker friend who’s moving. I’d been looking for a mannequin like this for some time. It’s a 1963 Wolf dress form, the cage and rolling casters still intact. I’m planning to use it as a prop and product display, but she looks right at home near the French doors in my studio. So much so that I’m finding I treasure it more as an objet d’art than a utilitarian piece.
Take a seat (or two)
I was set up across the aisle at a recent show from a vintage dealer who was selling this chair set. It caught my eye immediately. I thought they were movie theater seats. Turns out, they were from a grange hall. And in need of some repair, which made them surprisingly affordable—and all the more charming. That they folded up and fit in my overcrowded car confirmed that we were meant to be together.
Susan Forker is the owner and designer of the Doylestown-based joeyfivecents, a line of one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessories.
The present has a hard time holding our attention anymore. We live in a click-and-swipe culture. If you don’t like what you see, move on to the next page. There’s a price to pay for that, of course: never truly appreciating what we have. But the challenge to stay on top—and, for the most ambitious among us, ahead—of it all tends to run right over those concerns. Because we’re in the business of stoking that very fire, we asked around to find out what we’ll be pining for next. Here’s what we heard back.
“Ceramics are becoming more accessible. Lauren Mabry, her pieces, for being fine artwork, are not ridiculously expensive. And they’re beautiful. She really thinks of her ceramics as paintings. Roberto Lugo tells the story of his life through his ceramics. They’re functional pieces—teapots, jars—but they’re fine artwork. Edgewood Made is very simplistic, functional, but also high design.” Rachel Zimmerman
“Small spaces that live large. People are obsessed with this concept lately. Everyone wants to streamline, from empty nesters to student loan-burdened millennials, in no small part because efficiency no longer means cramped. More thoughtful designs, like floor-to-ceiling windows and vaulted ceilings painted white, can make a space feel much larger than it is.” Lisa Furey
“We’re seeing a desire to create a sense of place through sustainable landscapes. We’re always considering the existing framework of a site, public or private, so that we can incorporate the natural elements as organically as possible. And we’re collaborating with local fabricators and artisans. It’s just as important to us that the fiber of the community be represented in our designs.” David Fierabend
“We’re selling oil paintings that are painted on reclaimed metal. They range in size from four feet by five feet to six by eight. The more oversized, the faster they go. Same for another collection of simple phrases, like “I Love Us,” painted on five foot-tall canvases. The more white space, the more versatile they are.” Tracey and Rod Berkowitz
“There’s now so much access to the digital world that people are becoming desensitized and the focus is shifting to creating what’s not readily available on the Internet. I’ve been featuring a lot of bespoke furniture in my designs. It’s specific to someone and it’s an instant heirloom.” Michele Plachter
“My weakness is vintage ephemera and really unique collectibles. In such a digitally driven world, I love incorporating maps, globes, antique books, prints, photographs and postcards into my home. They’re so tangible. And they speak of another time completely. I love to imagine the stories behind them. Having these things in my home brings a warmth that you just don’t get from an imported knickknack. My new favorite resource for such things is the N3rd Collective, in Old City, which is comprised of Hoof & Antler, freshvintage and Scout Salvage & Vintage Rescue, all longtime Clover vendors.” Janet Long
“More artists are experimenting with side collections, taking the skills that they have and creating a business. You’re still buying something that’s fine art as long as it’s treated in a way and editioned in a way that it’s still considered fine art, but it may not be at the same price point.” Rachel Zimmerman
“Pinot noir has been popular for a while now—since Sideways, at least—but lately I’ve struggled to keep it in stock. The New York Times featured Oregon pinot back in early January, which seemed to trigger a renewed interest in all regions.” Adam Junkins
“Materials are changing a lot. Lyn Godley, for example, is using fiber optics. They’re photographs that are printed and then hand-colored, and then they’re embedded with fiber optics. So the light is really subtle, and it adds dimensionality to the piece.” Rachel Zimmerman
“The craft beer crowd has been pushing for higher alcohol content-brews for the last few years, but the trend seems to be reversing. Interest is gaining by the week in the more easy-drinking ‘session beers.’ They’re lower in alcohol but every bit as flavorful, if not more so, than the stronger beers.” Adam Junkins
“We’re drawn, right now, to industrial pieces from England, France and Belgium as much for the quality as their look. In particular, we can’t keep ‘crank tables’ in the store. (They’re tables with industrial bases and manually-adjustable table heights.) For good reason; they’re great looking and crazy-versatile. We’ve also been bringing in a lot more unusual upholstered pieces as of late—midcentury with a bit of a twist. We have an amazing wing/egg chair in the store that’s half leather, half quilted linen. And, oversized, dramatic lighting—imagine a huge glass chandelier over a crank table.” Tracey and Rod Berkowitz
“Lately, we’ve been doing all kinds of fermentation and preserving. We’ve been routinely making crème fraîche, kimchi and yogurt for sometime now. But we began playing with those concepts in different ways that fall well outside the norm, like fruit kimchi, which could offer an entirely different way to approach the condiment, potentially as a dessert. We’re also tinkering with using fermentation and yeasts as flavoring components. Curing has become a standard for many things here. Lardo, bacon, venison, egg yolks and various cabbages and fruits are curing at any given time. We’ve always loved making cured egg yolks, which have an amazing, cheese-like consistency. But now we’re looking into how we can safely and usefully ferment them over a longer period of time.” Andrew Kochan
“The ceiling has officially come off the craft cocktail movement. There are so many resources available anymore, between books and sites, that almost anything is possible. Barrel-aged coffee-pecan bitters, you think, would really elevate your go-to whiskey cocktail. Chances are, someone else had the same thought, or one close enough to it. Hop online, and within a few clicks you’ll find a barrel and a recipe.” Adam Junkins
“There’s a blending of the science and art worlds. A lot of jewelry now is 3D-casted, and I think that’s benefitted both the artist and the collector. It allows someone like Doug Bucci to do more pieces at a time because there’s not as much handwork involved, which, in turn, lowers the price.” Rachel Zimmerman
“Moroccan pillows and throws with lots of interesting patterns and textures can create a beautiful juxtaposition with simple accessories.” Tracey and Rod Berkowitz
Rachel Zimmerman is the founder and director of InLiquid Art & Design, a nonprofit hub for close to 300 visual artists in and around Philly. Come June, it’ll host the wildly popular Art for the Cash Poor sale, where budding collectors can stock up on pieces priced under 200 bucks.
David Fierabend is the owner and lead landscape architect with the Hopewell, New Jersey-based Groundswell Design Group, which has been busy (a severe understatement) greening up all corners of the city, between the Spruce Street Harbor Park, beer gardens in Center City and the forthcoming Pearl Street art initiative.
Lisa Furey is the owner and designer of Barefoot Interiors, in Bala Cynwyd. She was featured last year by HGTV as part of its “Fresh Faces of Design” portfolio in recognition of a 690-square foot, farmhouse-style cottage she designed in South Carolina’s Low Country.
Michele Plachter is the owner and designer of Michele Plachter Design, in Center City. She specializes in modernizing residential interiors. Her influence reaches from Washington Square to Villanova, Mount Airy to Newtown Square.
Adam Junkins is our resident mixologist. He’s also a partner and the sommelier at Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square.
Andrew Kochan is a co-owner and -executive chef of University City’s Marigold Kitchen, which consistently proves itself to be one of the most forward-thinking (and secretive) kitchens around. It currently holds down the 14-spot in Philadelphia magazine’s compilation of the 50 best restaurants in the city.
Janet Long is the founder and director of The Clover Market, which has become the launching pad for every indie home goods and accessories label across the region. She’s so beloved that even after the designers establish themselves, they continue to show at Clover.
Tracey and Rod Berkowitz are the owners (and scavengers) of the always-inventive vintage home goods store zinc home + garden, in Lambertville, NJ. They have an uncanny knack for reimagining decades-old industrial fixtures as the touchstones of a modern home.
Photo: Composition of enclosed cylinders,” 2015, by Lauren Mabry. Photo courtesy of Lauren Mabry
5 new-ish books you need to make sure to pack this summer.
Now that you’ve got some downtime in front of you—unplugged, ideally—consider catching up on your reading. There won’t be a test at the end of the summer, but you will be better off for it. It was a strong year for literature, especially fiction. Its most popular author returned after five long years, as did his fastest-rising challenger. The uncanny originality of their imagination is on full display. But, exotic as their stories may be, it’s the subtle intimacy of their writing that’ll envelop you and make you forget where you are. Which is the point of vacation, is it not? —Scott Edwards
Sprawling as it is meticulously detailed, Purity is, above all else, a coming-of-age story. Twentysomething Pip Tyler’s burdened with a dead-end job, $130,000 in student loans and a paranoid mother who’s clearly hiding something. When her patience finally begins to strain, Pip heads to South America to work for a sort of WikiLeaks organization in the hopes of learning what her mother won’t tell her. Intricately layered as his last novel, Purity never really comes together in the deeply satisfying ways that Freedom does. But the characters, each so conflicted and vulnerable, are what’ll compel you to keep reading. Their maturations are where the best parts of the story lie anyway.
Johnson’s collection of six short stories won the 2015 National Book Award for fiction. Like Franzen, Johnson’s narratives are character-driven. Also like Franzen, the nuance of their depictions forges instant, authentic compassion. In “Interesting Facts,” Johnson crafts an unflinchingly honest portrait of a cancer patient, made all the more remarkable by the fact that she’s a woman, with breast cancer, and a wife and a mother of three young children. She sizes up every woman she comes across by the size and shape of her breasts. And she tries to isolate herself as she can, all while she fears drifting out of reach of her family, thinking of them growing up and moving on.
Ronson’s made a career out of disarming the most feared among us, the extremists, the pyschopaths, the American military. Here, he turns the mirror on himself and us. He tracks down several infamous figures who misstepped on social media and were swiftly shamed into oblivion. It felt like the democratization of justice, but once Ronson starts revealing their shattered lives, it looks more like an angry mob. From there, he tries to get to the root of our need to shame. It may be manifesting now in the most modern of acts, but its history runs deep. Not surprisingly, the ability to do it immediately and anonymously, seems to only be making us, including Ronson himself, he realizes, less tolerable.
It’s been a long time since I considered breaking it off with a novel, but I considered it often with this one. The characters—all of them; not just the main ones—regress from unaffected to pretentious. But a funny thing happens when they scrape bottom midway through. The wallflower begins her slow, steady ascent. The voice shifts to hers, and the tone follows suit. Everyone is revealed, including her. But the more unflattering the light, the more inspiring she becomes. She’s a survivor, and with each new revelation that comes forth about her life, about their life, we realize the dramatic ways that perspective can distort reality.
Smith’s best-known for her 2000 debut novel, White Teeth. But I got to NW, her most recent book, first, and fell in love with her there. The true measure of an author for me is the dialogue. Does it maintain the narrative’s rhythm? Is it realistic? Some of the most revered books are ruined for me because of their stilted exchanges. No one before or since I came across Smith writes dialogue as well as she does. And in NW, it not only facilitates the story, which unfolds in the London neighborhood it’s named after, it drives it. Personalities and, eventually, motivations come together in short bursts of slang. You know, like life. With her next novel, Swing Time, due to publish in November, NW’s the perfect gateway to get hooked on one of the most human storytellers of our time.
He can be hard to warm up to. And his Lambertville, NJ, shop isn’t that fashionable. But you don’t have to be a furniture geek to appreciate his genius. By Scott Edwards · Photography by Josh DeHonney
The morning after Benjamin Albucker showed me around his Lambertville, New Jersey, shop, he sends me the following text:
scott during my rant I should have been clearer on my taste/merchandise. I primarily sell this: Organic Design EARLY Modern American Design, i.e. Early Herman Miller and Knoll California Modern Some radical Italian design 20th Century French Design Hardly seen industrial: much of which comes from a close friend Leanne Lipston (INDDESIGN)
Albucker, obviously, is as particular about his perception as he is with his tastes. After eight months, he still hasn’t named his shop. And without a name, there can be no Web site, of course. “Well, that’s just because I’m nuts,” he says. “I can’t come up with a name. I want a name. I want a Web site. But I need a name before I can do a Web site. I’m not doing that to be hip. It’s screwing me a little bit. Not being on the Internet, I’m doing a lot less business.”
What to make of a shop that’s such a pure reflection of its owner, and that guy, he readily admits, can be difficult to embrace.
“I don’t think it’s something you want to write about,” Albucker says, “but I think I alienate people because, not just the prices being expensive, but it’s so specific, from my point of view, that certain people, not so many of them around here, understand it.”
His demeanor, during the afternoon I spent with him at his North Union Street shop, is straightforward, unsentimental, almost challenging at times. I felt like he was observing and gauging me as much as I was him. It can come across as youthful arrogance—Albucker’s not yet 30—but I think it’s more the default stance of someone who’s accustomed to proving himself in a world where knowledge and savvy are all you have. Even stripped of that context, this is a space filled with Albucker’s most prized possessions. Reject them and you reject him.
Albucker claims to me that the only reading he does is in relation to furniture and designers. He’s being self-deprecating. He may present a little rough around the edges—on this day, he’s wearing a thick beard, a charcoal Baja pullover and a baseball hat that’s been on his head every day for the last couple of years—but an email exchange over the weeks leading up to the interview impressed me with his intelligence, maturity and articulation.
“I’ve amassed a good amount of knowledge over the last eight or nine years, since I started buying stuff for my father’s store,” Albucker says. His father is Stewart Ross, who owns Bucks County Dry Goods. His shop is a couple blocks across town, and there are others in Princeton, NJ, and Old City. It’s through his father that Albucker learned how to forage flea markets and developed his taste in art. And it was while working for him that he honed the concept for his own shop. “I might do two or three sales in a week. I might do no sales,” Albucker says. “Like, if I sold this desk, it would pay my rent. I want to see if I can do this and make a living and build a brand with only what I like. I guess I’m stubborn that way.”
We’re standing over Milo Baughman’s iconic scoop chair, crafted in salmon-colored naugahyde. There were several iterations made across a few decades in the middle part of the 20th century, but Albucker will only buy and sell the original design, with an iron leg, in this one color.
“People bring me stuff all the time, and nine out of 10 times, I don’t like it,” he says. “It’s not like I like midcentury modern. I just like certain pieces. It gets a little too fancy after a certain point. Like the Eames Fiberglass shells. I really only like them in gray and two or three other colors. I don’t like bright colors, usually. I like interesting objects. And I like humor.”
You wrote me, I say, “A little humor is important to me when done in a beautiful way.” The comment was made in reference to an antique porcelain bedpan and urinal that he had on display in the shop. In the bedpan, he arranged some fake apples. And he stuck some flowers in the urinal.
“I sold them to some architect for a lot of money. I guess he agreed with the humor in it,” he says. “And it looked good. I don’t just like funny, gross shit. I’m not sure whether I’ll buy any more of those, but I did it once and proved that I could sell it as something pretty.”
Albucker restores most of the things he sells himself. But only to an extent. Again straying from the majority rule, he prefers his midcentury modern with some patina. He devoted two years to restoring a dilapidated barn on his family’s property, across the river in Solebury, and converting it into his home. He has yet to move in. The project was put on hold when he moved into a co-op next to the Golden Nugget Antique & Flea Market, just south of town. Four months later, this store became available. For about a month, he was there renovating it until four in the morning, even installing the reclaimed, wide-plank floors himself.
We’re finishing up. A couple’s walked in and they need his attention. But first he turns and says, “This, I wanted to show you so you know.” It’s an Eames shell chair, which will always remind me of elementary school. Albucker flips it over and draws my attention to the rope that’s embedded in the Fiberglass along the edge. “They only did that for the first year.” Which means that the shells without the rope sells for a couple hundred bucks while the ones with it can fetch up to $1,500. Treasure hunting’s not my thing. I have a hard enough time picking up on the obvious, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this knowledge. Nor does it really matter. More importantly, I feel like I’ve passed some kind of test.
[divider]The Sum of His Parts[/divider]
A portrait of Albucker, as depicted by a few of his most coveted things.
Bottle opener by the Werkstätte Carl Auböck (circa 1960s) | $325 Run by four generations of Carl Aubocks, the Vienna-based Aubock Workshop turns out some of the world’s most beautiful, handcrafted, small objects, mainly in horn, brass, leather, cane and wood. And they usually serve the most esoteric of uses.
Collection of 11 German monkey hand puppets | $2,200 Each is made from mohair and erected on a purpose-built stand. It’s the world’s only “chorus” of German monkey puppets.
Klockner roll-front, fire-safe cabinet (circa 1940s-1950s) | $3,500 Built in Buenos Aires, features 39 drawers, many tilting, and it’s crazy-heavy.
Wastepaper basket by Grethe Bang & Finn Juhl | $700 Simply a great design by the Danish master.
Sonambient tonal sculpture by Val Bertoia$5,000 A kinetic, musical and elegant sculpture by the son of the late sculptor and chair designer, Harry Bertoia.
Zenith Rope-edge Shell Chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller (circa 1950 to 1953) | $3,200 An obscenely low shell chair in my favorite shade of Fiberglass. This is one of the rarest and earliest Eames shell chair configurations in existence. It could easily be argued that it belongs in a permanent collection somewhere.
Belt-driven aluminum bicycle (manufacturer unknown) | $2,200 I bought this from Leanne Lipston of INDDESIGN, the best picker/dealer of industrial artifacts and exquisite metal in the world. The form and material of this small bicycle make me smile. If I don’t sell it by July, it’ll be hanging above my bed.
Aluminum Coat Tree by Warren McArthur | $900 Collectors of McArthur’s furniture are few and far between. You have to be a bit of a metal-head to collect his stuff in great quantities. But I think it contrasts beautifully with almost any piece of good furniture. His use of aluminum tubing and ingenious hardware resulted in some of the most elegant, modern designs.
Bouloum Chaise by Olivier Mourgue for Airborne | $1,800 Everyone needs a little radical-1970s-French design in his or her home. As wild as the Bouloum Chaise looks, the ergonomics are inherent. It’s the most comfortable lounge chair you’ll ever sit in. This thing is wrong in all the right ways.
Modernist log holder by Smith/Temper/Sunberg of San Francisco (circa 1950s) $750 This useful thing does a lot for me. It’s early California modern design, which is hard to come by in the east. It’s constructed of perforated metal, a material I’m addicted to. And it retains a warm patina that only enhances its great looks.
My hat | Not for sale A fixture on my head for two years running.
For Isabella Sparrow’s Hillary O’Carroll, cozy comes from many different walks. Photography by Matthew J. Rhein
You have to really love nature to see the beauty in it right now. Hillary O’Carroll does and can. But, then, she seems to find allure in all kinds of unlikely places: stuffy estate sales, backcountry flea markets, under dusty sheets in attics and barns. If you don’t know her Chestnut Hill home goods shop, Isabella Sparrow, you’re probably still familiar with the name by way of Clover Market. Isabella Sparrow has become the standard-bearer of farmhouse chic around here. But its wares don’t simply fit the fashion, they fill a function, too. Rural life, after all, is utilitarian. Here, O’Carroll shares a few pieces she’ll be settling in with for the frigid days ahead, some repurposed, some as they were always intended. —Scott Edwards
All the pieces featured here are available at: Isabella Sparrow
8511 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill isabellasparrow.com
Salvaged bottles | $2 to $40 Load up a windowsill and filter the pastel wintertime skies through them for a kaleidoscopic light show. Or line them up along a mantle with a bare branch sticking out of each.
Glass cloche | $32 Fill it with bulbs and dried botanicals or hydrangea heads and mushroom caps to bring a piece of the outside in while it’s still too cold to stand actually being outside.
Vintage factory cart $649 Just a pop of extraordinary color, like the patina from this old factory cart, is enough to brighten a room’s stagnant palette.
Repurposed storage | $16 to $150 Old caddies and suitcases, antique grain boxes, it all comes in handy as we begin to gradually sort and organize ahead of the spring clean.
Dishware and accessories | $4 to $99 It’s a great time to simplify your dishware. I like to stick with white porcelain, whether it’s antique ironstone or new china, because it creates consistency, even when the collection’s piecemeal.
Outside and in, the Main Line’s newest apartment building retains much of its nearly-100-year-old-character. But that doesn’t mean it’s without cutting-edge amenities.
By James Boyle
A selection of apartments are outfitted with air purification systems and circadian mood lighting. Think of it like living at a spa.
Under the scrutinizing eye of a community that takes its history and its curb appeal very seriously, a Bala Cynwyd developer spent two years and more than $35 million converting the former Eastern Baptist Seminary in Wynnewood into The Palmer, a high-end apartment building. And that only counts the actual construction period.
“It took three years to get the approvals from Lower Merion,” says Kevin Michals, a principal with Cross Properties, said developer. “People are always very cautious about new developments. The fact that we renovated an already existing building, rather than build a complete new development, made it a little easier.”
The 120,000-square foot, four-story building, designed by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer and built in 1919 as a resort, has been listed on federal, state and local historical registers. The designation allows Cross to collect tax credits from the government, but it also severely limits the extent of any physical changes.
So the main lobby’s marble floor stayed. As did the rotunda’s wood floors and French doors. The arches, crown molding and balconies throughout are also original. “We have 60 different fireplaces in the homes, but they are more decorative than functional,” Michals says.
But The Palmer, the Main Line’s first new apartment building in more than 50 years, is not without its modern creature comforts. Cross partnered with Delos, a firm that specializes in developing sustainable- and wellness-minded spaces, to create several such apartments. They’re tricked out with high-end air purification systems (complete with aromatherapy), blackout shades, circadian mood lighting and vitamin C-infusing showerheads. “Water contains small amounts of chlorine,” Michals says. “The vitamin C counteracts the chlorine effects.”
There’s also a saltwater pool and a gourmet kitchen that’s available to residents for large gatherings, both of which are intended to invoke the halcyon vibe from the property’s original iteration, Green Hill Farms Hotel, retreat for Philly’s upper crust.
Photo credit: Courtesy The Palmer / Elizabeth Baxter
In the home that Karen Vandeven and Steve Williams built from scratch, every feature was considered and reconsidered until it became a bespoke fit for their deftly curated lifestyle.
By Scott Edwards • Photography by William Heuberger
The living room houses most of Williams’ antique bike collection, along with a few more signs.
Karen Vandeven and Steve Williams’ three-bedroom home sits on a subdivided 120-acre farm in a densely wooded corner of Tinicum, about a 20-minute drive north of New Hope.
“We like it out here,” Williams says. “Although, when we first drove up here, we thought we were a little bit out [there]. We thought we were in Canada, we drove up so far.”
“Our friends, too. They would never come and visit,”Vandeven says.“And now, things have come so close. Doylestown is at our backdoor.”
They bought their five-acre plot in 1998. Back then, a band of vultures hanging out around the corner didn’t even flinch at the sight of them, probably because they knew they had the numbers. Even now, this nook looks relatively unfazed by time. The property’s original stone farmhouse sits just up the hill, within sight of the couple’s home. The corrugated metal cladding that wraps around the second floor of their home is meant to mimic the exterior of the farm’s two-story chicken coop and, in turn, convey a sense of belonging.
But Vandeven and Williams’ home shares little else in common with the remnants of the farm, or, really, any of their neighbors’ homes. As Williams tells it, an older woman in a Mercedes pulled into the driveway mid-construction, compelled to inform the contractor, Richard B. Reshetar (who’s based in the next town over, Point Pleasant), that the area wasn’t zoned for a factory. It’s a home, Reshetar told her. The woman, dumbfounded, said, “Who would want to live in something like that?”
Williams’ home office.
Williams, a graphic designer, had been sketching their dream home for years. Architect John Hayden caught his first glimpse of his drawings when he wandered into Williams’ former office in The Stocking Works, in Newtown, a retrofitted office complex that Hayden himself designed. When they finally found this land, after a year of looking, Williams called Hayden and asked him to design their house. A narrow ledge about midway down a 50-foot slope meant that the layout would have to be rectangular, not square, as Williams wanted. But that was the only major blow to his modern vision.
View from the top of the three-story “tower.”
The 3,000 square foot-home was built over 11 months and completed in June 2001, nearly every detail custom-designed. (A 1,200 square foot, three-story addition that the couple refers to as “the tower” for its obvious resemblance was constructed in 2008.) So much of the design, both inside and out, was influenced by their first home together, an apartment that wasn’t really an apartment in The Laceworks building, a retrofitted 18th century-mill in Lambertville, New Jersey. It was a wide-open, industrial-type space—1,500 square feet, no walls, a 15 foot-ceiling—that Williams talked the owner into letting him renovate.
“It got really hot up there in the summertime, really cold in the wintertime. The walls were just brick,” he says.
Williams installed a kitchen and a bathroom and painstakingly restored the hardwood floors. He lived there for eight years, the last three with Vandeven.
The loft-like master bedroom.
From the overall aesthetic to the practical features, this home is a reimagining of that time—improved upon with maturity. Where there were tall windows, there’s now a pair of one-story glass walls. The core of the home, its literal center, is a commanding steel stairwell. The floors throughout are a grainy No. 3 maple, the same as the floor that Williams spent six weekends scraping and sanding. The walls are few and the ceilings require a 90-degree head-tilt to appreciate. And those ceilings are wood, just like the one at The Laceworks loft. Both were done that way as a matter of function, foremost. Vandeven and Williams are cultivating an extensive vintage trade sign collection, most of which are rather huge and needed to be hanged from the ceiling. A 16-foot, wooden ferguson’s fast side market sign, the first Williams bought (he was 17, and it cost him $5), spans nearly the entire far wall of the kitchen. And that’s not even the largest one in the room.
The second-floor study in the “tower”
Nor are the signs the extent of their collections. Williams has also amassed a museum-quality stockpile of antique bikes. The living room is lined with several, including an ordinary (giant front wheel, tiny rear wheel), the oldest of which date back to the late 19th century. His favorite, a blue and silver 1937 Monarch Silver King, sits around the corner at the base of the stairwell.
Perfume and lotion bottles from several eras ago, the objects of Vandeven’s obsession, and rare, 100-year-old-plus lithographed tins are neatly organized on what look like glass shelves in the mold of a tool chest. There’s also Williams’ library, which is housed on the second floor of the tower. (Typography is the underlying bond of most of his various compilations.)
Both were scavengers before they met, but they function better as a couple. Williams can be impulsive, but he’s learned to abide by Vandeven’s code of conduct, which is, namely, don’t sprint across a flea market after the Next Great Find. Which he still sometimes does anyway.
In any other home, if the main entrance opens to the kitchen, it’s considered a design flaw. Here, it’s completely intentional. The kitchen is where you begin to understand the full effect of all that spaciousness. It’s not just carving out ample room for the signs. When people have room to breathe, they’re more inclined to get comfortable. This space could feel effortlessly intimate with five people hanging out in it or 50. Dinner parties here, it’s easy to imagine, would feel something like eating at a small BYO with an open kitchen.
The chef Max Hansen prepares dinner in Williams and Vendeven’s kitchen.
Vandeven and Williams are avid cooks, and the kitchen follows their ambitious needs as much as their aesthetic. The chef Max Hansen, who lives and operates his eponymous gourmet grocery in nearby Carversville, is a close friend. According to Williams, he considers their kitchen one of his favorites to cook in. The Viking Professional Series range can’t hurt.
The home’s main entrance and sun deck sit atop the garage.
Williams designed the sculptural aluminum pot rack which hangs over the center of an island that spans almost the full length of the large room. Beneath its counter hides the kitchen’s most impressive feature. A stainless steel dining table extends from one end of the island. At full-length, it seats 16. It’s the brainchild of a couple who spent many hours walking through the rooms of their dream house long before a blueprint ever materialized.