A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand

by Lauren Chorpening Day

Our homes are powerful instruments of inspiration. There are few places that we can walk into and decide to change and personalize through furniture, color and finishes. Home is a safe place to express our personalities, tastes and creative innovation. Artist, textile designer and graphic designer Thao Nguyen and craftsman and builder, Anthony Angelicola have transformed a dilapidated carriage-house-turned-mechanics-garage into a minimal and rustic home for them to share in Philadelphia, PA. The project has taken them three years, and the result is breathtaking.

When this 1914 shell of a house in the Fishtown neighborhood was brought to Thao and Anthony’s attention, they weren’t looking to buy. Thao was working in Brooklyn, NY and Anthony in Philadelphia. When Thao was hired to be a textile designer for Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, they decided to take on the renovation project and turn this house into their home. “The property was a complete shell (no interior walls, no plumbing or electrical) and [it had] some serious roof issues. It was formerly used as a mechanics garage and upholstery factory — there were a lot of existing materials we removed that allowed us to better appreciate the original architectural details,” Thao says. “We worked together to plan out the interior space and slowly worked on the renovation whilst maintaining full-time jobs. The process to make the home bare-bones move-in ready took 11 months, with us doing a majority of the renovation work ourselves including putting in skylights, sandblasting the wood beam ceiling and restoring the pine floors. Once we were able to move in, we worked another two years on the finer finish work — such as designing and installing custom oak french doors, open kitchen shelving and modern bathroom vanity.”

The process has been long and well worth it. The cozy-yet-minimal furniture and styling inside Thao and Anthony’s home is so beautifully done. Each room feels like a piece of artwork and the house itself, a gallery. “We wanted our home to reflect our favorite experiences traveling and appreciating art. One particularly is experiencing Donald Judd’s work out in West Texas — his philosophy for curating his home environment and work has a strong influence on how we approach furnishing our home. We designed and built many of the furniture pieces in the home to suit our needs but to keep in line with our simple and handcrafted aesthetic.” Their home’s transformation was spurred from inspiration, and their house is now the muse fueling their new home furniture line, Fire on the Mesa. This peaceful, eclectic and gorgeous home has been many things in the last 100 years, but it’s finally at its best. –Lauren

Photography by Heidi’s Bridge


The house is all painted in Benjamin Moore — Snowbound flat finish

chunky throw is from Kneeland Mercado
pillows from Urban Outfitters
oak coffee table and rustic side table is from Fire on the Mesa
teak wall units are from Vintadelphia
record player by Crosley
cacti from Shop Field

oak day bed is from Fire on the Mesa
linen pillow covers are from IKEA
closet doors are from Home Depot
cacti from Shop Field

ceramic sink and faucet, mirror are from IKEA
light is from Schoolhouse Electric
vanity is by Anthony Angelicola

closet doors are from Home Depot
maple and steel post bed is from Fire on the Mesa

stove, oven, cabinets, faucet are IKEA
metal sink is Karan
shelving, hood and side panel and poured concrete countertop are by Anthony Angelicola
dining table and chairs are from Fire on the Mesa
pendant light is from Schoolhouse Electric

lighting is from Schoolhouse Electric
sliding pocket doors are by Anthony Angelicola
cacti from Shop Field

A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
This space looks nothing like its former lives as a mechanics garage, upholstery factory and, even at one point, a speakeasy during prohibition. The work that Anthony and Thao have put into their home is incredible. Anthony's custom made doors, the furniture from their Fire on the Mesa (FOTM) brand and reupholstered vintage pieces make their home truly unique and personal to them.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
Anthony, Thao and their dog, Boyd, in their living room. "Once we moved in, we adopted the guy right away and he has made our space truly feel like a home," Thao shares.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"We realized that our taste was always more expensive than our budget, but fortunately we did not lack the skills to build many of the custom fixtures," Thao says. "This always was a struggle for us -- prioritizing and time managing between work that paid and work on our home. However, on the flip side, we are really proud to be able to share this space as a part of our portfolio!"
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
The teak mid-century shelving unit in their living room displays objects created by Thao and other favorite artists.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
The FOTM daybed in their spare bedroom is perfect for the space. The design allows the room to be flooded with light. The vintage bed linens, lamp and mirror set off this modern bed beautifully.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
The mid-century chair and wall hanging by Thao in the guest bedroom create a sophisticated, vintage style in the space.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"Our home is decorated with art works from artist friends, objects from travels, and unusual vintage furniture and objects. The approach feels like a somewhat never-ending curation of life and work, but has resulted in a home environment that is a constant source of inspiration," Thao says.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"The vanity is made of darkened walnut and steel pulls, both designed and built by Anthony," Thao says.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"The bathroom has a flushed walk-in shower," Thao says. "The windows throughout the house were originally boarded up but are now retro-fitted by Anthony and designed to have a minimal, clean finish."
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"A king size steel-and-maple poster bed with an oak nightstand designed and built for FOTM. The side console table is also from FOTM from which perches a seriously overgrown philodendron which I've named 'Phil.' A vintage Alvar Aalto stool used as a mismatched nightstand. A vintage kantha, I picked up on a work trip to India," Thao shares. "The pillow is one of my favorite pieces."
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"A view of the hallway which we designed with skylights to make the enclosed space feel airy. The church pews were collected by Anthony from a local salvage yard which he kept at the warehouse space he lived in before. The abstract paintings are a series by me. The fiber art wall hanging is one of my favorite scores off eBay," Thao explains.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"The kitchen open shelving with seamless LED lights and matching Judd-inspired hood vent were designed and installed by Anthony," Thao notes. "The poured concrete countertops [were] also fabricated by Anthony using a mold form. The faucet and cabinets, stovetop and oven are all from IKEA and sink is by Karan. Some of my favorite items to collect are vintage ceramics and enamel ware. I love how the earthy tones of stoneware come together with the bright colors of enamel and textures of more naive studio art ceramics are unexpected."
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
The dining room table doubles as a workspace for Thao and Anthony. They can go from hosting dinners one night to designing furniture the next day in the same space.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
The leather pillows are from Fire on the Mesa. Their "Dr. Seuss-looking palm" is one of their favorite plants in the house.
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
"What we love most about our home..."
A Philadelphia Home Transformed By Hand | Design*Sponge
Thao and Anthony's floor plan.

Suggested For You


  • Not to be pedantic, but those are not French doors. French doors have windows that extend almost their entire length.

  • The lighting is what amaze me. I always wanted a home with a direct light shines on every corner of the house. It’s very relaxing I guess to stay here. I just love it. You did a great job on it. Thanks for inspiring me.

  • WOW. this is a total dream. such wonderful collections of art & objects mixed with beautifully simple and modern handmade furniture. and the textiles! and the vintage! and the shower! really really nice.

  • This space is perfect and proof that a refined home can also be cozy and personal. I love everything about it, especially the beautiful pieces from Fire on the Mesa. You’ve done a wonderful job!

    Do you remember the name of the “Dr. Seuss-looking palm?” Every time I see one I’m desperate to add it to my plant collection.

    • This is a Dracaena marginata. However it’s not very healthy. Looks like it could use more light and a larger pot to perk it up. It should be full of leaves, not spindly.

  • Your home is stunning and I love that you did most of the work. I would love to know what the finish on the floor is. Thank you.

  • I love your day bed! How do I purchase it? The website does not seem to offer options for purchase.

  • i am getting ready to remodel my bathroom and i am drooooooling over the vanity you built. it is perfect! wish you lived in Portland, OR, and could build me one!