Virginia and David Salonen moved to East Kensington from Brooklyn for many reasons. Yes, they wanted their children to have access to the outdoors, and, yes, they needed more space, but, most important, they wanted more house than they could ever afford in New York City.
"At first I thought I would miss New York, but now Virginia and I don't miss it," David said. "In addition, many of our neighbors are transplanted New Yorkers."
Early in their relationship in Connecticut, the couple set a goal of living in New York, he said. They eventually moved to Brooklyn, where they lived in a tiny apartment for several years. But David's feelings about New York changed after he and Virginia had two children, Knoll, 2 and Ruby, now 3 months.
"Finally, we decided to move to Philadelphia," Virginia said. "Almost everyone we know had to leave New York because it is so expensive."
Any New York nostalgia for Virginia is mitigated by weekly trips there for her job as a representative for fragrance companies and a liaison with such stores as Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor. She works at home the rest of the week.
David designs modern wooden furniture in a shop he rented for his firm, EDMM, around the corner from his home. He has one design in the works that looks like a sleek horizontal chair from modernist Marcel Breuer.
The Salonen home and its twin next door in East Kensington, designed by Interface Studio Architects LLC, constitute a two-story building with corrugated metal on one end and an exterior material made of a burnt cedar cladding derived from an ancient Japanese technique for preserving wood from weather, insects, and fire.
Chad Ludeman, president of Postgreen Homes, which developed the Salonen home and others in the area, said the house was designed with a finished basement, which includes a third bedroom the Salonens use for an office/guest room and storage space. The 1,800-square-foot home is LEED certified, and utility costs run about $100 a month.
The Salonens' large great room provides unfettered space. The couple does not own a conventional television and, rather, streams shows through an Apple projector on the wall. To block light when they are streaming their shows, the couple has heavy shades on the living room windows.
"This way, we don't have to have space in our living room dedicated to a television and all its equipment," he said.
Adding a dramatic touch of color on the living room wall is a large diagram of a red and a blue balloon overlapping in the middle, which illustrates the relationship between two people, Virginia said.
The kitchen is situated so that someone using the stove can look out front window, an unusual arrangement that Virginia likes.
The clean, no-clutter approach continues on the open stairway leading to the second floor, where the curtain-less children's room emphasizes a brightly colored carpet topped with toy animals, mainly a stuffed hippopotamus.
A large roof deck is ready to offer extra space when the couple has time to furnish it.
Off the main floor, the couple hopes to expand a garden behind the house. Now the area is home to Knoll's toys and a sandbox.
David said he and Virginia are pleased with their move from New York.
"There are so many New Yorkers here, we have heard that Philadelphia will become the sixth borough of Manhattan," he joked.