When Jeff and Anne Tirabassi first visited their future home, the East Falls twin was obscured by overgrown trees, and the restoration to-do list began. Item #1: Remove two half-dead spruces and two maples.
The Tirabassis were living in a three-bedroom rowhouse in South Philadelphia with infant daughter Sadie and needed more space. The twin had six bedrooms, a fireplace, and quirky back stairs. An enclosed porch extended across the front, and there were bay windows on the first and second floors. Extensive water damage, though, "made the house unlivable," Anne says.
But in April 2016, they bought it from the estate of an elderly woman. Eight months later, the Tirabassis moved in to what was still a construction site. A contractor the couple hired had not worked out, so Anne and Jeff took over, hiring subcontractors themselves.
Fortunately, Jeff had good sources. He is a product manager for Fessenden Hall, a distributor of interior building materials in Pennsauken Township. The couple also had prior renovating experience in the South Philadelphia rowhouse Anne had purchased when she was single. There, she had ripped up carpeting, painted, and overseen the installation of a new kitchen. After she and Jeff married in 2012, they redid a bathroom.
In their new home, the couple supervised tree removal, had the exterior re-stuccoed, replaced 44 windows, redid the kitchen and three bathrooms, built a powder room in the extended mud room, and installed a new roof and heating and air conditioning.
Jeff was charmed by the back stairs but realized they took up too much space. The stairs were torn out, walls separating the living spaces were taken down, and the home's entrance was moved a few feet to allow for an open floor plan. New taupe hardwood flooring was laid.
Upstairs, oak flooring was preserved, as well as dark-stained doors dating from the early 1900s when the house was built. A custom-made round window to match an original window in the adjacent twin was installed below the peaked roof. Wherever possible "we wanted to maintain the character of the house," Anne says.
When the Tirabassis purchased the home, all the walls were covered with water-soaked wallpaper. A remnant above a bay window in the dining area, as well as three swatches of brightly colored paper in frames nearby, were all the couple could salvage. The remaining wallpaper features yellow butterflies and birds and sprays of multi-hued flowers and green leaves on a pale pink background.
For the living room paint colors, Jeff and Anne picked up blue-gray tones from the wallpaper. A blue-gray kitchen island is topped by a white quartzite counter top. Cabinets are also white. A white marble backsplash is veined with gray. Original window trim, which was in surprisingly good condition, also is painted white.
A play stove with red knobs, a child-size table and chairs. and a carton of toys fill a kitchen corner, so Sadie, now almost 3, can keep Anne company while she cooks.
Anne purchased the adult-sized farm table and chairs and buffet in the dining area from Restoration Hardware. A pearl gray sofa came from Crate & Barrel. Area rugs and a glass coffee table and credenza are from her previous home.
Brass hardware on the entrance door and the back door leading to the new patio are from Kilian Hardware in Chestnut Hill. An elegant glass and brass light fixture over the original craftsman-style staircase came from Home Depot.
Upstairs, the Tirabassis bumped out a closet in the master bedroom to make room for a walk-in-shower in the master bath. A dressing room provides ample storage. Sadie's silver-gray bedroom on the third floor is scattered with gold stars.
Anne, 43, grew up in a Northeast Philadelphia rowhouse before owning her own in South Philly. She says she misses stoop sitting, but she and Jeff, 46, have adjusted to their new environment. She likes her train commute to Comcast, where she is a product deployment manager.
The Tirabassis have befriended families with young children who live nearby and anticipate a future active in the local public school.