The Philly Love Notes Loft

by Annie Werbler

In a converted shoe factory loft from the turn of the century, Emma Fried-Cassorla and James Healy make a 600-square-foot studio in the Callowhill neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA their home. James, an ex-jet engine engineer turned web developer, had been living in the flat for a while before he and Emma, an ex-neuroscientist and now communications manager for the Delaware River Waterfront, decided to move in together. Before this apartment, James lived a pared-down life on a 50-foot sailboat for almost two years. The couple wavered back and forth about living in the studio together but decided to try it; the two walls of windows and amazing light meant that no other spaces could compare, even if they were bigger.

When Emma moved in, the place was decidedly spartan. James had built the Murphy bed (which they try to put up every morning so as not to feel like they’re cooking in their bedroom). All of James’ stuff remains, including the giant Stormtrooper decal. Emma brought a lot of the furniture with her, like the chairs, rug, and dining room set. Since then, they’ve been adding local Philly art and plants that thrive in the light. Two walls of windows means less hanging (hence the clustered gallery wall), but lots of sunlight. In order to make the small studio work for two people, the pair have gotten creative. James ceded the closet to Emma and moved his wardrobe into a small back room that houses the washer, dryer, and hot water heater. He also built a table to fit the nook for when someone requires quiet time in which to work.

Emma, who runs a blog called Philly Love Notes highlighting the wonderful things about Philadelphia as written by residents, also makes custom lasercut maps based off hand-papercuts she makes in the space. Having a corner studio means that they live in a bit of a bubble. Emma keeps the windows open as much as possible, especially for the sunrise, but people can see in. On the other hand, they can watch people walking and driving by, and best of all, the view looks right out onto what will be Philadelphia’s future Rail Park. Emma adores many things about this loft apartment — the natural light that wakes her up every morning, learning to live with less, and most of all, making a relationship work in such a small space. —Annie

Photography by Bradley Maule and Emma Fried-Cassorla

The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma Fried-Cassorla and James Healy's Callowhill, Philadelphia studio apartment in a converted shoe factory loft.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma and James snuggled up in front of the historic city views.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The home with its pull-out Murphy bed tucked away.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma admits that the Stormtrooper decal on the Murphy bed is the one part of the house she and James fight about. "But he loves it," she concedes, "So it’s staying."
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma won the old bedside crate at a raffle, and it hides the router and James' Playstation. Above it hangs one of the very first lasercut wood maps that she ever did. It was a gift for James and a heart marks where they live.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
A Murphy bed is the key to living in a studio, according to Emma. Though, she advises making sure to have a pull to get it down. The commemorative Glacier National Park blanket from Pendelton was a 30th birthday gift to herself.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The croton plant is potted in Emma's grandmother's pickling jar. A small alarm clock is her attempt to keep phones out of bed.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The entire living space with the Murphy bed extended. Even in a small space, there are clearly defined areas.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
From the desk, a fantastic view of the city looking north. Emma spent about three months papercutting a 3'x4' city of Philadelphia map, which she uses as a base for making additional custom paper and wood maps at NextFab Studios.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma bought the wood slab tabletop then attached some Floyd legs to it for an instant dining table. Two of the chairs are hand-me-down Møllers.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The dining table with red accents contrasts against the green glass cladding the building across the way.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
"What we love about our home... So much natural light!" - Emma Fried-Cassorla and James Healy
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
New hanging lights with red cords from The Color Cord Company illuminate the seating area. Edison bulbs provide super warm light for the space at night, and a homemade bike rack made of a hanging bar and S-hooks can be seen in the background.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
With two walls of windows, Emma and James needed to consolidate their art into a gallery wall. It features a large Colette Fu panorama, photos Emma took of Glacier National Park when she lived there, a dancing nude sketch by Kelsey Reply, a black-and-white Philly rooftop photo by Douglas Bovitt (one of Emma's favorite photographers), a Michael Norcross and Adam Tetarus piece that's part of a series of prints illustrating strange natural phenomena, a Kid Hazo fake parking sign, and a Philly Home Portrait by Billy Cress. It also is a good way to disguise a TV.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The kitchen island is key - it offers more counter space for prepping meals, or a place at which to sit and eat. The large shark was made by James for his Halloween costume last year. He attached it to his back, wore a wet suit, and positioned it so it looked like it was biting his backside.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
This side of the kitchen features a little coffee nook, and a large print by Philly artist Jow Boruchow. The cabinets are low and the ceilings are high, so it's a great place for big statement art.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma has slowly been replacing their old IKEA mugs with handmade ones she finds online or receives as gifts.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The back office was originally just for the washer, dryer, and hot water heater, but Emma and James have turned it into a multipurpose space. He uses the open shelves as his closet since he was nice enough to give Emma the main one in the apartment. It's also the main storage area for lots of camping equipment, and has a small desk for quiet work.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The bright white bathroom feels huge compared to the rest of the apartment. A Delaware River print from Eyes Habit hangs on the wall.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The bathroom is big and bright enough to grow lots of plants.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
When Emma was in school getting a masters in environmental studies, she became obsessed with gantry cranes. When she found this mini in a San Francisco store, she knew she had to buy it.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
Emma has had her Woolly Pocket and the philodendron for four years. The plants have grown so large that they pool on the floor. The small barn collage was a gift from a friend.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
In the entryway, Emma and James find it helpful to have a place for keys, wallets, phones, and assorted items. The stool comes from the Philadelphia Salvage Company, and the bowl was given to Emma by a farmer and woodworker whom she met at a sustainable agriculture conference a decade ago. The hooks hold her beloved Winter Session bag, rain jackets, and bike equipment.
The Philly Love Notes Loft, on Design*Sponge
The loft layout is drawn on a piece of butcher paper hung on the fridge for notes and to-do lists.

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  • Love all that light, and a super darling couple : )
    May your home be forever happy!

  • Lovely space and so many great plants! I recognize those green windows on the building next door ;) I live nearby in Spring Garden.

  • This home brings back so many happy memories for me as my husband and I used to live in a condo in this building. It was our first home purchase and where we started our family. Now we live in Sydney Australia. I hope Emma and James love there and the community as much as we did.

  • Swooooon! Those windows and the light! The views just make me light-headed – in a good way! :) I love this space. The dining table is badass and the entire apartment just looks comfortable, attractive and warm. I enjoyed this tour so much!

  • Lovely home!

    The three plants on top of the toilet caught my attention – any chance you know what they are called?