Looking out her dining room window at a scarlet-leafed Japanese maple, Marie Higgins says, "This is my favorite view." She loves watching finches and woodpeckers flutter around the bird feeders hanging from the tree.
In 1999, Marie and husband Ed bought the 2,100-square-foot bi-level house in Willow Grove. "We thought it would be a starter home," Ed says.
Over the years, though, the home adapted well to their changing lifestyle. And while neighbors with McMansions have small yards, he says, "we have a half-acre."
The couple tend a vegetable garden, and plant flowers and shrubs attractive to birds. In late autumn, the last of the tomatoes ripened in the sunroom. Out front, green pumpkins from the garden lined the driveway wall.
The house has a two-car garage and central air-conditioning - two items on their must list when they were house-hunting. When they moved in with a toddler and a newborn, they also discovered a bonus: hardwood floors beneath wall-to-wall carpets.
A hot tub in the sunroom was the focus of many children's birthday parties. But the tub eventually stopped functioning. After "chopping it out" two years ago, Ed says, they now have space for ample seating and dining at a handsome latticed metal table while admiring the flora and fauna outside.
The Higginses' son, Patrick, 21, and daughter, Rebecca, 18, hang out with friends in the lower-level family room, furnished with a big-screen TV, couches, and a bright red chair.
A guest bedroom on the lower level has been converted into a studio with a massage table and chair for Marie, a licensed massage therapist whose business, Cardinal Touch, continues the bird-loving theme with a logo featuring the red-feathered avian.
Marie and Ed, who are both 50, are on their second careers.
She worked for many years in human-resources management. "When my children became teens, I decided I needed to be home," Marie says.
Ed, a physician, previously had a pediatrics practice in Abington. For the last five years, he has taught chemistry and biology at Bryn Athyn College.
He has summers off, and his wife has flexible hours. Changing professions created time for the couple to pursue hobbies: art for her, photography for him.
In the living room, orange walls set off Ed's photos of sunsets in Key Largo, Fla. "The walls need repainting," he says, "but everyone loves the color."
Pale blue-green shades on the walls in the dining room, family room, hall, and sunroom complement Ed's photos of bare tree branches against white clouds or blue skies. He often goes off with his camera to nearby Pennypack Preserve to shoot trees, his favorite subjects.
Marie also is fond of creating outdoor scenes. Leaning on the fireplace in the living room is a mosaic she crafted of a silvery-blossom tree under a shimmering sun. The obvious place for the art would be in front of the large living room window, but not yet.
"That's where we put the Christmas tree," she says.
Her current project is a mosaic of a fox surrounded by foliage. Foxes in her yard stalk her beloved birds.
"I believe in the circle of nature," she says.
Other family members have contributed art in the house. Marie's grandmother painted two Indian chiefs on the wall in Patrick's red-and-white bedroom. A student at Rowan University, he plays the saxophone in bands on weekends. Left behind at home were a guitar, a mandolin and bongos.
Rebecca, a high school senior, has inherited her mother's talent. Her black, white and yellow cubist painting adorns a dining room wall.
The bi-level, built in 1960, was in good condition when the Higginses bought it, and they have made upgrades over the years
When the lower level flooded after a storm, damaged carpet was replaced, and heavily trafficked areas and the powder room were tiled.
Maple cabinets from the 1990s were retained when Marie and Ed redid the kitchen in 2008 with new appliances, earth-tone granite countertops, and a glass-tile backsplash.
Next summer, they plan to install a fountain with water cascading into a pond in the backyard.
The pond will attract more birds - and foxes.