Susanne LaFrankie-Principato had driven past the pale yellow English cottage in Haddonfield many times, always noting how adorable it was. As luck would have it, when the time came to downsize, she and her husband, Bob, discovered the home was on the market.

“There’s just something very magical about this house,” said Susanne, who had lived in two other homes in Haddonfield. She loved that the circa-1910 home had its original vaulted ceiling, hardwood floors, and French doors. At about 2,400 square feet, it was smaller than what they wanted, but the original owner had plans for an expansion that he was willing to share.

Soon after settling on the home in 2015, the couple began construction, adding a main bedroom and bathroom and another powder room. Their goal: “Creating a more modern flow without sacrificing the integrity of the home and the historical look of it,” said Susanne, a TV journalist turned Realtor for Keller Williams.

They also took down a wall between the kitchen and dining room, extended the home eight feet, and added a porch. Living through nine months of construction, during which heavy storms pounded the tarp-covered, not-yet-completed roof, was worth it.

The kitchen has become a family gathering place. The couple has three children, all in their 20s.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The kitchen has become a family gathering place. The couple has three children, all in their 20s.

“We added a nine-foot island and a fireplace in the kitchen, something I always wanted,” she said. “In the winter, we have the fireplace on while I’m cooking, and everybody can gather here. It’s created a lot of memories and happy, close times for the family.”

They also added a mid-century modern bar — “Sort of a Mad Men style,” said Bob, who has perfected making Manhattans. “I think of our home as a retreat, especially after a rough day at work.”

The living room’s vaulted ceiling is a favorite of the couple’s, though Susanne thought that the wood made the room too dark. For the first two years she lived with it, afraid that if she painted it and wasn’t happy, she couldn’t go back. Ultimately, she left it alone but stained the surrounding woodwork a dark walnut and painted the walls Revere Pewter. The room felt brighter, and the dark against light created a nice contrast.

Susanne LaFrankie-Principato debated whether to paint the vaulted ceiling but in the end, opted to paint the walls a light, contrasting color.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Susanne LaFrankie-Principato debated whether to paint the vaulted ceiling but in the end, opted to paint the walls a light, contrasting color.

“My favorite spaces are our kitchen and connecting back porch,” said Bob, a physician at Jefferson Health. “They are both perfect for entertaining and relaxing areas for our friends and family. Inevitably, everyone gravitates to the kitchen. The back porch is a quiet place to sit, relax, and watch the birds eating from our two bird feeders, or to simply watch the clouds go by.”

The kitchen is the heart of the home for the pair, who enjoy cooking for family and entertaining friends. During the pandemic, that entertaining has been mostly limited to their children, Robert, 26, Victoria, 25, and Michael, 22, who briefly came back to live in the home in the early days of COVID-19.

“When we bought this house, I wanted everyone to have a bedroom,” Susanne recalled. “They are small bedrooms, but everybody has their space. I didn’t expect the kids to be home for three or four months, but everybody set up a desk in their own space, so it really worked out.”

“What makes our house a home are our many family photos displayed throughout,” Bob Principato says.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
“What makes our house a home are our many family photos displayed throughout,” Bob Principato says.

The children are now gone, but Marty, the couple’s 3-year-old Cavapoo — a cross between a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and poodle — enjoys romping in the yard. Three years ago, they landscaped the backyard, adding a bluestone walkway and stairs, and comfortable dining and lounging furniture. In the front, they created an English garden with butterfly bushes, hydrangea, lavender, and boxwoods. The garden sits behind a small, decorative whitewashed gate.

“What makes our house a home are our many family photos displayed throughout,” Bob said. “The pictures are from family trips to St. John, Italy, and a recent trip to Ireland, as well as special occasions as our family has grown through the years.”

The couple met in 1990 on a blind date, soon after Susanne got a job in the 6ABC newsroom. They married within 16 months of meeting, first settling in Voorhees, but soon moving to Haddonfield, where Bob had grown up.

Susanne appreciates the town for its shopping, walkability, the people who live there, and the ease of getting into Philadelphia on PATCO.

“It’s a very unique, quintessential small town with a deep history,” she said. As for their quaint cottage, “we enjoy being here. Especially with COVID, it’s a retreat from all of the turmoil and tumult that’s going on right now.”

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“My favorite spaces are our kitchen and connecting back porch,” Bob Principato said. “They are both perfect for entertaining and relaxing areas for our friends and family.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
“My favorite spaces are our kitchen and connecting back porch,” Bob Principato said. “They are both perfect for entertaining and relaxing areas for our friends and family.