Haven: Filling 1835 home with light, recycled furniture
Living in an 1835 Society Hill townhouse might spur some people to decorate to suit that period. Not Yvonne Novak and Aaron Weindling, who say they don't want to fill their 180-year-old home on South Seventh Street with Chippendale furniture and wingback chairs.
Living in an 1835 Society Hill townhouse might spur some people to decorate to suit that period.
Not Yvonne Novak and Aaron Weindling, who say they don't want to fill their 180-year-old home on South Seventh Street with Chippendale furniture and wingback chairs.
"It is our home and not a museum. Antique sofas are hard to find, expensive, and not very comfortable," Novak says. "We have chosen to adopt a combination of previously owned and new things that fit our space and our lifestyle."
The lifestyle chosen by Novak and her husband revolves around preserving the environment.
On stepping inside the four-story redbrick dwelling, outfitted with authentic green shutters that close over tiny-pane windows, a visitor sees a room filled with timeless, comfortable furniture and lots of sunlight.
The interior is reached by walking behind Floyd, the couple's large, energetic mixed-breed dog, into a small foyer and then through an inner door embellished with a pastel stained-glass window (recycled) that leads to the living room.
A direct beam of light from the back of the house darts through an arch between kitchen and dining room and meets the front window.
Novak and Weindling moved to Philadelphia from Connecticut for their jobs. Both are employed in the insurance industry. Novak works at home much of the time, and her husband is an actuary who travels for business.
"We fell in love with Society Hill and wanted to live in the city, and we found this house that needed work," she says.
At 3,000 square feet, it had many problems, she says, including a lack of light.
For this couple, work meant assuring that remodeling enhanced sustainability.
"I went to Dartmouth College, and I had a college job managing a recycling project for the department of building and grounds, and that led to working on an environmental publication," Novak says.
The result is her belief that "it is our responsibility to make sure we preserve the planet as much as we can."
That philosophy lay behind the furnishing of the couple's living and dining rooms. Their sofa was purchased as a bargain and recovered in blue. Other pieces were recovered, reupholstered, or handed down from family members. Take their well-polished mahogany dining table, which belonged to Novak's grandmother.
Disposing of furniture is bad for the environment, the couple believe.
Among their vintage purchases is a large black-and-white print in the dining room labeled: "1821 Parade of Victuallers from the southeast corner of Fourth and Chestnut Street. Organized by butcher William White to sell the city's high quality meat stock."
Pictured are cows, sheep, and other animals being led to market. A small boy holds a sign that reads, "Fed by William White." Depicted, too, is the seal of the butchers with the motto: "We Feed the Hungry."
"Aaron saw this, and I bought it for him on our first anniversary, since paper is the appropriate gift."
Renovations were handled by a sustainability expert, Kenny Grono, principal at environmental contractor Buckminster Green, who did the work in three stages.
Grono replaced the flooring on the first story with wide-plank oak. He used pine flooring with pinhole depressions on the second and third levels, making it look even more authentic and old.
"I use nothing but recycled wood salvaged from projects," he said.
Light in the living room was enhanced by the removal of a built-in closet, which, Grono said, was the first thing visitors saw when they entered.
To further encourage the flow of light, he enlarged the arch that separated the kitchen from the dining room and expanded the opening between the dining and living rooms.
Now, light from the back of the house reaches the front.
"We love it," Novak says. "After all that work, it is finally right, and it is ours."