Mike and Amanda Brahler, both architects, told a friend in 2007 that they would not move from their South Philadelphia home unless they could find a mid-century modern house on a large site that was an easy commute from Center City Philadelphia.
Oh, yes, and the house had to be affordable and in a good school system for their young son.
Three years later, the friend told them she had found a house, built in 1953, that fit their description. It was affordable because it needed work. It was designed by noted architect Frank Weise in the Meadowbrook section of Abington Township.
As graduates of the Boston Architectural Center, where they met, the Brahlers were excited about finding a house by Weise, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High School and the University of Pennsylvania.
Weise’s work in Philadelphia included leading a group of architects in 1960s to redesign a portion of Interstate 95 to run below street level to preserve some access between the city and the Delaware River waterfront. He also was involved in the restoration of Head House Square in Society Hill. He practiced until his death in 2003.
“We would have been happy to stay in South Philadelphia if we hadn’t found a house that fit our wish list,” Mike said.
So, in 2010, Mike, Amanda and their 3-year-old son moved to Meadowbrook.
Weise’s design takes advantage of its two-acre wooded site. The house is 2,700 square feet, 65 feet long, and 32 feet wide. Encased in glass, it stands on pillars and faces a brook. Most of its windows point east, where sunlight is strongest in the morning. From the driveway, the house looks like a gleaming blue jewel reflecting the sun.
The Brahlers are now a family of five, including two daughters, ages 9 and 3. They’re very comfortable in the four-bedroom home, they said. The three children like to play on the large site, particularly next to the stream.
The house has office space used by the original owner, a psychologist, to see her patients. Mike has adapted it for his firm, OOMBRA Architects LLC. Amanda commutes 30 minutes to her job with Brawer & Hauptman Architects in Center City.
“It is a short commute, and I don’t mind it,” Amanda said, smiling. “Still, I am a little jealous that Mike gets to stay home every day.”
Since the family moved in, Mike and Amanda have been constantly making repairs and repainting. One project was changing to a brighter red tint on the exterior under the windows.
The entrance hall of the house, at the top of the Wissahickon schist stairs, is a small wood foyer with carved figures on the walls. Glass surrounds the living room, where the theme is pastel yellow and black. The furniture is small so it doesn’t compete with the view from the panoramic windows.
“We are surrounded with glass, and we thought anything bright would compete with the brightness coming from the windows,” Mike said.
Amanda and Mike are proud of the living room chairs, which they collected from various trash spots and furniture stores.
“We like to root the trash and find lots of things,” Mike said. “Sometimes we cut out the step to the antique store.”
Weise was a fan of built-ins, Mike said. “The built-in cabinet in the living room is where our daughter stores some of her craft equipment, as well as space in her room,” Amanda said. The 9-year-old “creates things” throughout the house.
A pile of neatly stored logs is next to a large wood-burning fireplace in the living room, which adds to the impression of being out in the woods.
A white table with a vase holding orange flowers stands in a corner of the L-shaped area of the great room that forms the family’s dining area.
In the kitchen, a modern stove and oven copies one built in 1950 and includes a high back, knobs, and a broiler pan on the stove top. Behind the stove are rectangular green tiles.
Amanda said she and her husband are very happy with the move.
“We didn’t think we were anything but city people," she said, "but we are thrilled with everything we found out here.”
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