Luxe textiles lend a dramatic finish to one Philadelphia's couple's Rittenhouse Square home.
The master bedroom suite, framed by its embroidered four-poster bed, has two master baths.
Some homes take a while to unravel, to reveal the tastes of their owners and the hallmarks of their designers. Not so for this spacious, two-story condo at 1900 Rittenhouse Square. Its most distinguishing traits stop visitors in their tracks as soon as they enter the foyer. There, a deep orange, diamond-patterned velvet marches up the entry’s walls and spills onto a coffered ceiling. Off to the right, a cottony fabric in a coral check envelops a small dining area that floats on an aqua rug scattered with orange roses. In the nearby master bedroom, matching custom-made wallpapers and bed linens coexist genially, like personality-filled siblings who tease one another but remain a true family.
“Perhaps our clients’ love of color, pattern, and texture drew them to Zajac and Callahan,” muses Edward Zajac of the New York-based design team whose exuberant hand is at work here. (Partner Richard Callahan died in 2009.) The home’s owners first turned to the team to decorate their Elkins Park estate in the ’70s, impressed by their work as featured in the top design magazines of the era. When they downsized to this 3,600-square-foot apartment more than 25 years ago, there was never any question that they would call upon the firm again.
The living room showcases herringbone wood floors, high ceilings, and wide windows that look down to the trees of Rittenhouse Square.
“I have friends who have the most minimalist, elegant spaces,” says the proprietress, one half of the well-known Philadelphia couple that calls this distinctive address home. “And I try, I really do. But then I need to go ahead and tchotchke it up again!” Fortunately, Zajac pushed her to go all out. Take the couple’s array of Imari, distinctive red-and-blue porcelain ware from Japan. “I had a few pieces because I liked them as decorative objects,” the owner says. “But Edward encouraged us to start building a real collection. This is just a small portion of what I have,” she adds, pointing to a glass cabinet backed by a dramatic mango shade of paint. Dozens of pieces are stored in boxes. But there’s even more on view than initially appears; looking up, visitors will notice large plates suspended from the ceilings and tucked above the moldings.
“That’s me,” exclaims Zajac. “You’ll always find a certain element of surprise wherever I leave my touch.” But, he acknowledges, “designing is a collaborative journey. I start a conversation with my clients about their lifestyle and interests and try to create something truly unique.” Accents in this apartment, for example, often incorporate the couple’s favorite motif, a sunf lower. It shows up in everything from several mirrors designed by Zajac to the etching on the glass sliding door that seals off a custom kitchen outfitted in wood cabinetry, black and white tiles, and a tin ceiling.
The custom staircase connects the foyer to the upper level, which has a separate entrance.
Throughout the home, riotous floral and geometric prints—often in shades of orange and green—prevail. Inspired by great spaces like Brighton Pavilion and the Chinese Pavilion at the Swedish Royal Palace, these fanciful and layered papers and fabrics, designed by Zajac himself and paired in different ways and in different colors, serve as “intricate collages that almost imperceptibly lead you from room to room,” he says.
As the couple prepares to downsize once again—and to move across Rittenhouse Square—the Imari, Japanese kimono stand, mirrors, and Chinese export silver will come with them. The handiwork of Zajac—the genius of color, pattern, and texture—will stay, along with architectural splendors like a grand but whimsical staircase that uses copper pipes as spindles and sets rectangular mirrors on the stringer. “Moving on is, of course, a bittersweet experience,” Zajac notes. But at the couple’s “new aerie in the sky,” he promises, “more surprises are in store.” For more information, contact Joanne Davidow, 210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., Ste. 406, 215-790-5656