More than 30 years ago, Steve and Carol Goldberg wanted to purchase the sample house in a new residential development in Ambler. It wasn’t easy, Steve remembers.
The developers kept showing the Goldbergs plans for houses yet to be built, but the couple held firm on wanting the sample. The two-story, four-bedroom Spanish Colonial revival had custom features such as gold-and-glass light fixtures made in Italy, built-in bookcases in the library, and a cartoonish duck worked into the tile in the bathroom that the Goldbergs’ two daughters would use.
The developers finally agreed to sell the sample. Steve never forgets the settlement date: “8/8/88.“
Steve and Carol chose décor appropriate to the home’s Mediterranean style with its stucco siding, wide entrance, and cedar shake roof, and furnished it with help from family.
Displayed on tables and in china cabinets are 60 Lladró porcelain figurines made in Spain, part of a collection begun with the half-dozen Lladrós that Carol inherited from her mother. Figurines of ballerinas in various poses and happy and sad clowns grace living spaces furnished with family pieces.
The turquoise mohair sofa, chair and ottoman in the living room belonged to Carol’s parents. On the walls are framed lace doilies given to Carol by her mother. A charming print of a gray rabbit that Carol’s mother framed is actually a Saturday Evening Post cover. Carol’s mother also collected green Depression glass, now arranged in a corner cupboard in the butler’s pantry near a vintage pew from a West Philadelphia church.
Contributions from Steve’s family include a dining room chair cushion in needlepoint by his mother. Several other pieces of her needlework are framed and hung on walls. The breakfast room table, chairs and sideboard and the 1960s-era furniture in the den belonged to Steve’s parents.
An old-fashioned roll-top desk in the library was an engagement present from Carol to Steve before their marriage in 1976. The couple met when Carol’s father, who was in the produce business, brought Steve, then in the restaurant business, home for dinner.
"It was love at first sight,” Steve said. Carol was Italian Catholic; Steve was Jewish. A rabbi and priest were present at the wedding nine months later.
When the Goldbergs renovated their kitchen 10 years ago, Carol eschewed trendy chrome and white in favor of blond oak cabinetry. The couple also replaced interior white doors and woodwork on the first floor with blond oak and covered walls with grass cloth in shades of pale gold and cream, providing a neutral background for impressionistic prints, watercolors, and oil paintings.
They laid new oak flooring upstairs and down, updated bathrooms (but kept the tile duck), and installed new windows, exterior doors, and gas logs in the two fireplaces.
A deteriorating backyard wood deck was replaced with an expansive brick patio covered by what at first glance appears to be a classic pergola with 12 white columns holding up a roof.
But look up: The roof is made of 48 solar panels.
Uncovered, the yard got full sun, Steve said. “Even with umbrellas, it was too hot in the summer.”
It made sense to install a roof for shade — and why not one that also produced energy? Steve said air conditioning bills used to top $1,000 a month. Now they are in the $200 range. The panels also provide electricity to the house. They use gas for heating and cooking. Steve recouped the cost of panels with tax credits and rebates, and they add value to the house.
Not that Carol and Steve, who are both 68 and retired empty nesters, are in a hurry to sell. He had a career as a professor, teaching graduate business courses, and then owned a cellular business. She was a longtime special-education teacher of kindergarten through second grade and then was an early-intervention specialist for children under 3 in Delaware County.
Thanks to one of the features of the sample house — a first-floor housekeeper’s quarters with a full bath — the Goldbergs can age in place. The space, now used as a sitting area, could be converted to a bedroom suite.
The couple also like having room for visiting family, including their two grandchildren.
But when Steve tosses a basketball with his grandson, the fragile Lladró clown in the foyer gets removed from its pedestal.