If mid-century architect Frank Weise were alive today, he would probably be delighted that the Bushong family lives in one of the 13 houses he designed in the Philadelphia area.
Carmen and Chris Bushong and their sons Corey, 7, and Sammy, 5, seem to fit perfectly into the 1,500-square-foot, concrete-and-glass house in Roxborough, which Weise designed in 1951. The three-bedroom home could have been created just for them by the architect, who was a student of Walter Gropius and Louis Kahn in the post-World War II era.
The Bushongs are both architects who met as students at Philadelphia University in East Falls and moved to Los Angeles soon after earning their credentials to practice. Chris now works for Gensler, and Carmen is with Blackney Hayes Architects.
“We lived in LA for several years, but decided to return to Philadelphia as a place to raise a family,” Carmen said. “Philadelphia is a lot cheaper than Los Angeles, and we liked it after going to school in the city.”
She continued: “We wanted to find a rowhouse in Center City, but couldn’t find anything we liked until we saw this house. As soon as you walk in the door, you see a beautiful connection to the beautiful outside back patio.”
Said Chris, “The layout of the house and how it flows from inside to out felt very West Coast.”
Everything in the house seems custom designed, from the large glass windows and slatted ceiling beams to the horizontal ribbon windows, a Weise specialty, which eliminate any need for blinds or drapes.
The living room, with its 20-foot ceilings, retains original yellow Noguchi lamps hanging on almost invisible attachments. The room is filled with such natural materials as teak and cork. In the corner in front of a large fireplace is a child-sized teak table for the boys. Overhead, crossing the living room is the banister of the second floor.
“The front of the house is very solid and offers us lots of privacy,” Chris said.
He replaced the glass in the two windows in front and three on the side and converted the fireplace to gas from wood, which made the house warmer in winter.
The dining room area, which opens off the living room, has eight-foot ceilings. It contains a large Danish teak table and chairs, which need to be oiled regularly. No screws, nails, or any type of connector were used in the construction of the set.
The second floor features the boys’ room, the master bedroom, and a combination work, television, and guest room. The boys’ room had been painted many times by previous owners, Carmen said. At one point, it was a teal blue. She and Chris covered the layers of paint with cork paneling.
The outdoors is very important to the family. Carmen, originally from Iowa, and Chris, from Lititz, Pa., say gardening is essential.
The couple found that the yard, which is as large as the house, had not been used by the previous owner. They removed ivy that stretched on the north side of the house to the property line.
“We found that under all that growth we saw outside, there was a hidden wall,” Carmen said. They incorporated the wall into the yard redesign.
In the cleared land, the couple started a garden in one section. On the patio, they now have a grill, tables, and chairs, which enable them to live outside in warm weather.
A ginkgo tree dominates the northern area of the lawn, where the boys like to play ball and just run around. Chris replaced a driveway and carport with grass to provide more play space.
In the front of the house, the Bushongs planted a plum tree to replace an ailing dogwood. It adds color to the landscape.
“We moved into the house when our son was 6 months old, and seven years later, we live here with our two boys," Carmen said. "We love it that this house has a history, and that it’s one of a kind.”
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