In the early 1970s, the renowned Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn took on a project that entailed turning a century-old Philadelphia, PA corner storefront, the spaces above it, and the adjacent colonial row house into one single family home. The end result is a home with layers and layers of history — an intriguing mix of styles, boasting everything from historic brick walls and beams to modern, minimalist lines that Khan himself has become known and admired for. Elizabeth and Jeffrey Bergeland, “a couple of rock-climbing Colorado kids who somehow ended up in the middle of the city,” have called this unique family home their own for the last five years.
The house, located in the heart of the historic Queen Village neighborhood, isn’t hard to miss — its oversized statement arch entry is unlike anything else in the area. Viewing it for the first time, Elizabeth, an artist, and Jeffrey, VP at a tech startup, knew they had their work cut out for them, but the endless potential and unique features, including a private outdoor courtyard, couldn’t be ignored. To make the house functional for their family, the couple dove right in — they gutted the kitchen, removed dropped ceilings, exposed original 19th-century beams and got rid of some walls for better flow. The dining room, which was covered in mirrors from floor to ceiling when the family moved in, was also redone to reflect both the earlier history of the house and the family’s own eclectic taste. Design-wise, the potpourri of architectural styles in the home has felt nothing but liberating. “[It] has given us a lot of freedom and taken off a lot of ‘design pressure’ in terms of styling our home. You can’t really tell exactly what style the house is, and most of the time, I can’t really tell what I’m going for either!” Elizabeth laughs.
Although Elizabeth and Jeffrey have focused on creating a home that truly nourishes their family’s creative spirit, they know that a home is not just about the things that you can fit inside four walls. “Decorating a home is expensive and time-consuming,“ Elizabeth says. “Making a home is so much more about the collective home — the community you take the time to build, and the experiences inside and outside of the house itself,” she explains. The couple originally honed in on the Queen Village area because of the great K-8 public school that would be ideal for their children Worth, Adlai and Alouette. In addition to good education, the tight-knit neighborhood now offers the family a wonderful sense of community they wouldn’t trade for anything. “We honestly feel like our neighborhood is one of those very rare, special places on the planet,” they share. “There’s live music in the parks throughout the summer, movies on the lawn, impromptu picnics, al fresco dining, organized ballroom dance lessons and farmers markets at the Square, a neighborhood association that plants dozens of trees for free each year, a thriving business district with shops and dining, and always a block party to attend. We could go on and on — it’s really a true community.” The family’s advice to others who are in the midst of renovating or decorating is not to rush things, not to take things too seriously, and to focus on what your surroundings can offer. “[…] Like any creative endeavor, [a home] will never feel quite finished or just the way you want it in its entirety. Go ahead and have many seasons of abandoning home projects. Go outside the house walls and do some living!” —Sofia