Amy and Adam Cuker's Elkins Park home seamlessly melds modern-day convenience and sustainability with its stately circa 1929 origins.
Enthralled with the home's bold architecture and yard, the neighborhood's diversity, and the Cheltenham Township school system, the couple bought the roughly 3,500-square-foot stone house in 2010. But the house needed updating to fit the family's lifestyle. First on the list: a bathroom on the first floor.
"Our West Philadelphia rowhouse did not have a first-floor bathroom, and I potty-trained child number one without it," recalled Amy, 42, who owns a sustainable design company called Down2Earth. "I didn't feel like potty-training another child without one."
So they turned a small coat closet into a kid-sized powder room with a low sink, light switch, and towel bar, allowing the children to be self-sufficient.
One problem solved but another created: They were now without a coat closet, "putting our shoes in the pantry," Amy said.
That led to phase two: a large, organized mudroom and a complete kitchen renovation, with upgraded appliances, sleek cabinetry, and a maintenance-free quartz countertop. The home's original kitchen was small and closed off. By removing walls and a butler's pantry, they created an open space, with an expandable dining table made of reclaimed spalted maple. ("You actually go and meet your slab," Amy said.)
"I love using natural materials," added Adam, 42, a hematologist. "We went to this guy's workshop [Stable Tables], and they had all sorts of slabs from fallen timber, and we got to pick out the grain and contrast we liked."
The space is also used for food prep, eating, entertaining, and homework for sons Shalom, 12, and Lev, 9. "If I'm making dinner and they have questions, we're all in the same space," Amy said.
The couple also replaced windows and added insulation throughout the house, installed air-conditioning and radiant floor heating on the first floor, and added two exterior doors in the mudroom to be able to more conveniently access the driveway from the back of the house.
To ensure a green design — something very important to the Cukers — they worked with local workers, included Energy Star appliances, and used low or no-VOC paint, LED lighting, and high-durability materials.
The mudroom's beautiful vaulted wooden ceiling was designed by Phase II Design in Jenkintown to match the existing floor. "For all of the new materials in the house, I made sure I chose things that carried through from the existing parts of the house so it all looked contextual," Amy said.
She considered the mudroom a blank canvas, which forced her to be organized from the start. Taking stock of the things to be stored there, she measured an exact space for the dog kennel for Muttilda, a rescue from Puerto Rico, and for the kids' cubbies. She labeled basket-filled bins for accessories such as sunblock, take-out menus, umbrellas, hats, and mittens.
"Every detail of that mudroom is customized to our family," she said. "Down to the fact that I measured the height of my boots to determine how tall their cubby needed to be."
One of her favorite rooms is the sunroom, filled with comfy furniture surrounding a wood-burning fireplace. Unfortunately, it doesn't get a lot of use. "It's only comfortable in October and April, because in winter it's an ice box and in the summer we just bake in there," she said.
The couple's favorite accessories include stained glass inspired by Barcelona's La Sagrada Família church, which she commissioned from local artist Andy Meoli, and a hutch that was part of Adam's grandparents' dining-room set. "We used to spend holidays there and have nice meals with family, so it's meaningful to me," he said.
The home's interior includes lots of wood and mostly white walls, with deep-purple exterior doors. "I think a strong color used strategically goes a long way," Amy said. Colorful walls also adorn the four upstairs bedrooms.
The couple met at the Cornell University kosher dining hall in 1996: "Every Jewish mother's dream, I brought home the Hillel president," said Amy, laughing.
"I was attracted to her right away," said Adam, who admitted he thought he was dating up. "We had great conversations, and a love of folk music was something that we bonded over."
Their shared religion and values made them a perfect match, she said, and they married in 2001.
The Cukers enjoy entertaining, especially hosting Shabbat dinners, and also open the home to camps or other groups important to them. "We have the space, and I'm always happy to open up the house for something like that," Amy said.