Creating a space for ground-floor aging in Bucks County
"We felt we should move our bedroom to the first floor, so we could prepare for a time when we can't go up a flight of stairs to the second floor," the homeowner said.
The plan is to relocate Donald Singer's man cave with its collection of valuable stringed instruments from the basement to the second floor of the large Bucks County home he shares with his wife, Arlene.
The move is part of a sort of architectural gymnastics that started when the couple added a luxurious 1,200-square-foot addition to the first floor of their Newtown home earlier this year.
"We felt we should move our bedroom to the first floor, so we could prepare for a time when we can't go up a flight of stairs," Arlene said.
Since their marriage, the Singers, who are both now 68, have lived in Philadelphia's Roxborough neighborhood, Upper Dublin in Montgomery County, and several other Philadelphia-area communities before moving three years ago into their current house.
When they moved to Newtown, Arlene told her husband that she wanted it to be her "last home, and she never wanted to move again."
Both Arlene and Donald said they wanted to be close to their daughter's family in Upper Dublin, near their former home.
"I always wanted the privacy that the Newtown home gives us," said Donald, who owns a company that manufactures uniforms.
He said he enjoys the quiet of his home's large site, where he can engage in his hobby, playing a vintage Hamilton organ and a lute, mandolin, guitar, and other stringed instruments.
As part of the trade-off to make room for the addition, the instruments will eventually be housed in a combination guest room and man cave planned for the couple's former bedroom on the second floor.
Architect Alfred Dragani of DMAS Architects in Philadelphia designed the addition, which expanded the 3,000-square-foot contemporary house, built in the 1980s.
"The original house presented an abrupt break at the end of the living space, which is the living room and dining room," Dragani said. "What we needed to do was take people from one space to the new area using windows as important parts of the transition."
The U-shaped addition he designed consists of an 800-square-foot master bedroom and a hallway, which will be a gallery to display art.
Dragani said one of his goals was pulling the exterior of the building into the interior and creating a natural look with shou sugi ban flooring, a wood product that originated in Japan and has a charred effect.
The ceiling of the new bedroom is sloped with white timbers creating a bright atmosphere inside the building and efficient runoff outside.
The addition was positioned to face west, the private side of the house, Dragani said, and as a result, there are few window coverings. In the bathroom, clerestory windows are six feet high, allowing light as well as privacy.
The addition curves around the Singer garden and allows a clear view from the many windows Dragani designed to add focus to the beautiful wooded estate.
In all the rooms, the color scheme for walls and furniture is white and gray, producing a very subdued effect.
Donald said he loves the peace of having a large site, and he is maintaining the woods in their natural state to help preserve it.
Plus, that approach minimizes maintenance. "No, I don't feel I have to mow 10 acres of land," he said. "We take care of the area near our home and allow the rest of it to be preserved in its natural woodland state."
Arlene said she doesn't feel lonely living away from the lively communities where she previously lived. "I have lifelong friends who love to come here and share in this life out here."
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