Style: 5,000-square-foot renovated carriage house.
Unlike most Americans, Philadelphians like to recycle everything. In fact the entire city itself is being endlessly recycled. Take Con Roche and his wife Laura's place. Their home was once a carriage house where the horses resided on the ground level while the carriages (after being raised by a lift) were housed on the second floor. You can still see much of the original design in the couple's extraordinarily spacious home, which was renovated by Con and decorated with considerable charm by Laura. Dominated by an extremely long hallway, the space is wonderfully open and, with the help of a few well-placed doors and walls, private at the same time.
Did you do the work yourself?
"Yes. It was a furniture factory before. It took about a year and a half to renovate."
The hardwood floors are marvelous. Are they original to the building?
"Yes. They were covered with about a half-inch of glue from the factory, so I had to ground and sand-blast them. Any feature the building had we used. Like the wooden pillars, which again we just sand-blasted and cleaned up a bit. We didn't make any actual structural changes at all."
And the bedrooms go along the hallway?
"Right. First there's our bedroom, and we also have the bathroom incorporated into that same space. Then my son Conor has his bedroom and a bathroom. We also have a computer/office space, and since the hallway is so long, there's another computer room at the other end of the hallway where Conor can do his schoolwork."
Is it expensive to heat?
"That's by far our biggest expense, which of course will be worse this winter. But we have the wherewithal to close off the heat to either end of the home depending on who's here."
Because you have an entire other living area here at the far end of the hallway, which has one of the nicest wood-burning stoves I've ever seen.
"Thank you. It does help warm up this entire part of the house. Laura has two girls at college who come by occasionally, and there's a bedroom and another bathroom back here they can use. Also Conor can come back here with his friends, and it gives them some privacy."
Were you able to picture how it would look the moment you saw the place?
"Not right away. I saw the potential, but the construction project wasn't the hard part for me. It was the design. I'd spend hours sitting here imagining I was watching TV or whatever, and trying to think what it would be like living here. The hard part was just imagining how it would work."
Your furniture is perfect for the space. Did you buy it all new when you moved in?
"No, not at all. Both of us came from previous lives before we got together, and we've really just blended everything we had. It all just ended up working out nicely."
Got a great space? Email J. Cooper Robb (email@example.com) with your name, neighborhood and contact info.