Michel Noel and Traviss Kraisoraphong joke that they move every five years. Though they didn’t quite have the itch yet, when they saw the Presidential City apartments on the Philadelphia side of City Avenue in 2017, they decided the time had come. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,600-square-foot apartment has an open design with a large, gourmet kitchen and amenities that blew them away.
“When I visited the penthouse where we live, I just fell in love with it,” said Noel, co-owner of NoelSy Art and Beauty hair salon with Kraisoraphong and Betty Lin Sy in nearby Bala Cynwyd. “You can’t really find these spaces and amenities in the city, and the grounds are amazing. It’s like being on vacation every time you come home and look out your window.”
Said Kraisoraphong: “We can get everything that we’re looking for in our lifestyle. We’re big food people and love to cook and entertain, and the kitchen is amazing. The island, which is where the stove is and what we use the most, looks straight out to the beautiful pool area. The light that comes through is incredible.”
Their three dogs, Simone, Frankie and Minou, enjoy the property’s two dog parks, open grassy space, and proximity to Fairmount Park. “There are so many people that have dogs, so it’s nice to be around other people that appreciate being a dog owner,” Kraisoraphong said.
In designing their apartment, the couple drew inspiration from some of their favorite hotel rooms. The space is an elegant but simple retreat with clean, crisp lines. The apartment is mostly white, with colorful accents. The main bedroom features a walk-in dressing room and en suite bathroom with a soaking tub, shower, and toilet nook.
One of their favorite pieces is a bright-red hutch — bought off eBay for $125 — which is a focal point in the living room. The sellers told them their grandfather had built it, and it had been sitting in their basement since he died. Though reluctant to part with it, the sellers needed the space. The couple appreciate the piece’s history and style.
“I cut hair all day long, intensely using my eyes 10 hours a day, so I want to come home into a very restful, peaceful environment,” Kraisoraphong said. “We both like that very simple color pallet but didn’t want it to be boring. The pops of color keep it interesting in design, but not overwhelming for the eyes.”
Both their families live out of state, so before COVID-19, they had lots of visitors. “Michel is from Quebec and used to work for Cirque du Soleil, so we have friends from that experience who come to stay,” Kraisoraphong said.
The property, completed in 2017 by Post Brothers, took three years to renovate. The site was originally developed by John McShain in 1950. His plan was to build 48 towers that would be named after all the presidents, but he managed to build only four — the Washington, Madison, Adams, and Jefferson — before selling the rest of the land, said Elise Halter, asset manager for Post Brothers, a multifamily development company based in Philadelphia.
The heart of the massive apartment complex is the amenity-rich Sora Pool Club. “It’s been there since the ’50s, and we reinvented it to be a modern, sleek, serene oasis featuring three saltwater pools, bocce courts, a gym, and multiple terraces,” Halter said.
Noel and Kraisoraphong enjoy using the outdoor spaces and amenities, but they also appreciate the beauty and serenity from their window views — the pools, the Center City skyline, and Fairmount Park.
“It’s so peaceful to the eyes,” said Noel, especially important during a pandemic. “We don’t even need to leave the property to get what we want.”
Though the couple wishes they didn’t need to use a shared elevator right now, they are comfortable that the apartment management is being careful in enforcing federal and state public health requirements, Noel said. They enforce mask wearing and regularly clean the elevators and public spaces. The gym is open, but they aren’t comfortable using it right now.
“The fact that our home is very spacious, we don’t feel claustrophobic,” he said. “Even when we were quarantined, we still felt safe.”
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