Farmhouse living in Mt. Airy
For Sara and Harry Robbins, the outdoors and music are integral to their lives.
On a warm spring night, Sara and Harry Robbins and their friends from the 80 Percent Old Time Spring Band sit on their gracious porch and play Appalachian mountain music.
A melody fills the air, and neighbors, accustomed to these impromptu concerts, wander over to listen. Some bring harmonicas, guitars, fiddles, or mandolins and join in. Some just bring their children.
It's a scene repeated on many a pleasant evening on this quiet street in West Mount Airy. "I've lived a lot of places," said Harry Robbins, "but this is the best neighborhood I have ever lived in."
For Harry and Sara Robbins, music and the outdoors have as much to do with their home life as the antiques that fill their rooms.
They met through the Appalachian Mountain Hiking Club, married in 2002, and when it came time for them to buy a house together, they wanted Mount Airy for its beauty and affordability.
Their connection to the club proved lucky a second time: A member called to say she was selling her house in Mount Airy. It had everything the couple wanted.
The circa-1920 twin was charming, and it had a patio, a backyard, and a garage. Today, it is filled with vintage pieces from Sara's family's farm in southern Illinois, lamps that Harry designed, and musical instruments they have collected.
When the couple moved in, they repaired the roof, replaced windows for energy efficiency, relaid the back patio with antique bricks, and had the house repainted.
Inside, they tore out cheap built-in cabinetry in the bedroom and dining room from several owners ago, covered a shallow closet in the living room to gain more space for a wall unit, and took out an unneeded closet in the master bedroom to give them more living space.
The kitchen got a face-lift, too: Appliances were replaced, new flooring and granite countertops were installed, and glass-front cabinet doors were fitted into an original built-in china cabinet to show off Sara's grandmother's Limoges china.
Carpet and linoleum from the 1950s came up to reveal hardwood floors. Finds from years of antiquing - stoneware to rocking chairs - help fill the rooms.
Sara, a manager of the emergency department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, comes from a family that made everything by hand, crafts to quilts to furniture. Many childhood pieces have come east to live.
"Farmhouses have these huge attics, and we found so much there in her family home," Harry said.
Other pieces were bought from local artists.
In the living room are a Windsor chair and a coffee table made by Bryce Ritter. Above the fireplace are Bucks County redware pottery plates and vases by Bob and Kay Schaef.
A 19th-century Plains rifle that Sara's mother gave her father as a wedding gift has a place of honor. Two children's school desks function as end tables, and her grandmother's hand-painted milk-glass lamps cohabit with a lamp Harry made out of an antique lingerie washer.
An engineer for the government, Harry fashions his lamps from found objects, and he makes and repairs banjos, as well. Sara requested one made of a gourd, which is also on display.
Though she does not share her family's penchant for quilting, Sara makes baskets, which can be seen throughout the house.
The dining room houses family heirlooms, including an antebellum china cabinet and flow-blue dishware from her grandmother. In a jelly cupboard made by her great-grandfather, Peter Sebastian, there are quilts made by family members.
"I am a failed quilter and pie maker," Sara conceded. "I do have memories of listening to the St. Louis Cardinals while I watched my family members quilt and do needlepoint. When my grandmother and godmother passed away, I inherited their quilts."
There are 35 of them, some dating to the 1800s (her great-grandmother's baby quilt, for instance). Many are displayed on beds or hang on the walls.
Sprinkled around the house are samplers made by Sara's mother. In a shadow box on a dining room wall are her grandmother's and great-grandmother's antique beaded purses. The pine table is from the family trove, too.
Upstairs, in the sunny master bedroom, Sara and Harry's cat, Seamus, plops himself atop another family quilt and below a hooked rug depicting two historic homes that Sara's mother made for her when she moved to Philadelphia.
Outdoor rooms expand the living space. On the back patio, the couple often dine at night by the glow of white Christmas lights. They have hosted large parties here, too, attended by many neighbors.
"It is like a small village here," Sara said.
Her husband seconds that thought.
"We love the community here, and the diversity," he said. "It really feels like we are at the center of the universe."
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