The Space

By J. Cooper Robb
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 15, 2006

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Maria M�ller
Occupation: Theater artist.
Neighborhood: South Philadelphia.
Style: 1,100-square-foot row home.

When theater artist Maria M�ller bought her first home in South Philadelphia, it was of course a significant event in her life. But when her parents sold the family's longtime home a year later, M�ller began to think deeply about just what makes a house a home. This exploration led M�ller to develop a new theater piece called House to House, which will have its world premiere next month at the Community Education Center in West Philadelphia. With her new home's stunning hardwood floors and charming color scheme, it's easy to see how the place inspired her new play.


Where did you live before?
"I rented a place at 10th and South."

What made you decide on this place?
"It was affordable. Also, I wanted to live in South Philly. And I soon discovered the house had these wonderful hardwood floors. In the living room, dining room and downstairs hallway, the floors are maple, while in the two bedrooms upstairs they're pine. Also, while some stuff was worn by age, you could tell it was the kind of house someone had lived in a long time and really cared for. It turned out it had been owned for years by an elderly woman named Ida, and she obviously had kept it very clean. The only drawback was that it was almost entirely pink."

So did you just paint over the pink?
"It was a little more involved than that. The walls had these giant pink squares surrounded by faux wood trim that was embedded in the walls. So it wasn't just that the walls were painted pink. They were like these giant pink pictures."

What did you end up doing?
"The walls were a light stucco texture, so I wound up putting drywall in every room but the kitchen and bedrooms before I could paint."

I love the color you chose for the living room. What do they call it?
"It's called 'foxy.' Sherwin-Williams makes it."

It works perfectly with the poster you have of the pretty Asian woman.
"The poster is a repro of an old advertisement in an outdoor market. I got it in Hong Kong a few years ago. The window frame I found in someone's trash. I just put the poster in with Scotch tape. It's very low-tech, but it came out well. In terms of the color, I knew I wanted a reddish terracotta wall, because I thought it would go well with my sofa, my rug and my artwork. I actually worried about the whole thing looking too Italian-y with the green stained glass in the house. But the dining room rug, which my parents bought when we lived in Rome, is from the Abruzzo region of Italy, and I think it all works. Besides, the previous owner of the home, Ida, was from Abruzzo. I've always felt her presence here, and I like thinking she would like what I've done, even if I did paint over the pink."

I love the tile in the kitchen.
"Me too. It has really mellowed with age. I describe it as pink and green, though some of the pink is more salmon-colored. Either way, it's a color combination I've always loved, and it looks great here."

Do you like living in South Philly?
"I do. At 10th and South, I didn't know my neighbors. But here it's different. For instance, I had a hole in my screen door. I came home one day and it had been fixed by my neighbor. I love living in a place where people watch out for each other like that."

More images from the Space can be found at below.


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