A Society Hill brownstone with ties to Jackie O strikes a balance between understated style and contemporary design.
Bunny Mellon, style doyenne and Jackie Onassis’ closest confidante, declared the design motto that “nothing should be noticed.” I’m thinking about her words as I walk through the four-story Society Hill brownstone, the Bouvier Mansion at 260 S. Third St. The house has an understated refinement. If it were a person, it would be the impeccably mannered, soft-footed butler who soundlessly arrives behind you to take your coat and hat. It was Onassis’ great-great-grandfather, Michel Bouvier, a French cabinetmaker who immigrated to Philadelphia, who built the Italianatestyle home in 1850. The good bones of the 7,244-square-foot mansion are indisputable. Ceiling heights range from 12 to 14 feet. Light streams in from large windows—front, back and along the interior wall. It is certainly one of the perks of the home’s stately 18-foot-wide lot.
The surprise upon entering the home, listed at $2.77 million, is the lack of original details. Crown molding, millwork and wooden banisters were all removed in a 2009 top-to-toe renovation. Now simple, clean spaces can serve as a neutral canvas to buyers’ own design tastes. The wall between the first floor’s parlor and dining room has been removed to create a stately front room that opens up with French doors to an outdoor terrace. While the house has an austerity that is a mark of its contemporary revamp, it has gained 21st-century HVAC, sound and security systems, recessed lighting and other wow amenities (such as the spalike sauna and Japanese soaking tub!)
“Everyone is moving toward the modern aesthetic they see in every design magazine these days,” says the home’s agent, Laurie Phillips, about the trend toward the contemporary idiom. “People prefer simplicity, but they still want the high ceilings and large windows they get with old homes.” the sleek kitchen, complete with all the high-end appliances you’d expect, plus a long quartz-covered island and walnut custom cabinetry. French doors open up to the back garden, where mature holly trees provide year-round greenery.
Hop on the home’s elevator and head up to discover the second-floor library. The room conveys a gravitas with its dark-wood floors and built-in brown bookshelves and cabinetry. A Poul Henningsen artichoke chandelier lends a touch of Danish modernist whimsy. Across the landing is the second floor’s master bedroom, a showstopper with its 11-foot ceilings and morning light that pours in from three grand east-facing windows. A wood-burning fireplace gives the refined room a cozy mien (there’s another in the living room downstairs). The master bath has such an inviting deep soaking tub that one potential buyer even climbed in fully clothed to test out its depth—sans water, of course.
Upstairs are more bedroom suites—the home has a total of six bedrooms (including the basement nanny suite with a separate entrance). As I finish my tour through the dignied property, I can’t help but smile back at the demure “Red Jackie” Warhol print hung at the top of the staircase. Sorry, Bunny, I couldn’t help but notice.