From Grandma to Grand in East Passyunk
“Look for grandma houses,” Solo Real Estate’s Alex Franqui advised married couple Leah Rominger and Dave Krevolin. Dave elaborates, “Grandma houses have good bones but bad design.” With Dave being a sculptor and Leah a landscape architect, good bones were all they needed. With Solo, they found them!
Leah and Dave chose Solo after meeting Alex at an open house three years prior, at which they’d stopped in on a lark. The couple was immediately drawn to Alex’s honest and approachable demeanor. When they were ready to buy a house, Leah and Dave already knew Alex was the agent they wanted to work with.
Alex helped Leah and Dave distill their priorities. Together, they realized it would be better to get more for their purchase price by leveraging the couple’s design and handyman skills. The final list of must-haves consisted of: location near Passyunk Avenue, more than 1,000 square feet in size, and, of course, those good bones.
Part of their attraction to the area was Leah’s participation as lead volunteer for the Community Design Collaborative team that created a conceptual redesign of the Columbus Square Park. She felt an attachment to the neighborhood and knew it was where she wanted to buy.
After looking at about twenty houses and putting in three offers, the couple closed on a 1,345 square foot home in East Passyunk Crossing with a sound structure filled with “poor 70s design,” as Dave puts it.
The short list of such design choices included drop ceilings, carpeting, and wallpaper—even on the ceilings! From their closing date at the end of December until now, the couple, along with friend and fellow sculptor David Markham Gessner, has worked diligently to reverse those design decisions and expose lovely original features in addition to layering on their own, modern touches.
“I always underestimate how long things will take,” Dave claims, but for only six months of work, the house has experienced an astonishing transformation.
Some of their accomplishments include: removing the first floor carpet to reveal and refinish stunning original oak flooring with inlays, pulling off infinite amounts of wallpaper and exposing brick in the living room and bedrooms, a gut rehab of the bathroom, building a custom bed frame and starting to rebuild the second floor addition.
Leah and Dave didn’t stop there. Despite having the ubiquitous paved South Philly backyard, theirs is larger than usual. Leah took advantage of this extra space to design, as she puts it, “pop-up beer garden-style furniture,” using repurposed pallets. (Their tip: Target’s parking lot on Columbus Boulevard is a reliable source for pallets.)
The only spaces yet untouched by their refined design aesthetic are the powder room and the kitchen. As for the latter, Leah explains, “We want to live with it first to figure out what it needs.” The only steps taken thus far were installing a new light and removing the fake Styrofoam “exposed beams” on the ceiling.
Give Leah and Dave another few months and their former grandma house will be completely unrecognizable, and will be simply grand.