Two charming personalities

Jim Hausman and Zofia Laskowska Hausman on a patio behind their Penn Valley home, where they wed on New Years Eve 2010.
Jim Hausman and Zofia Laskowska Hausman on a patio behind their Penn Valley home, where they wed on New Years Eve 2010. (SHARON GEKOSKI KIMMEL / Staff Photographer)

From the outside, the Hausman home in Penn Valley could be a chalet in the French countryside. Inside, though, the mood is thoroughly modern.

Posted: August 18, 2012

Set high on a hill, with its cobblestone driveway and stone facade, one with peaks and changing elevations, it might be a French chalet.

And although the Penn Valley home of Jim Hausman and Zofia Laskowska Hausman may be all Normandy countryside in its exterior, inside, it's high-art contemporary - and a perfect setting for romance.

It seems altogether fitting then that Zofia, 38, a British-born photographer and documentary filmmaker, and Jim, 45, an entrepreneur with the distinction of rescuing the more-than-90-year-old Center City Swiss Pastry Shop from demise, were actually married - one year after they met face-to-face in London - in this home on New Year's Eve 2010.

There was love in the air that season, and both agree that some of it was heaped on a home they saw - and bought - in less than a day.

It all began in October 2010 with a phone call - as so many life-altering events do.

"It was 11 o'clock at night," recalls Zofia, "and we were in our pajamas when Jim took a call from a good friend who happens to be a Realtor.

" 'You know that house you love? Well, it's on the market. . . .' "

So at 11 p.m., Jim and Zofia got dressed and headed for the home that Jim, then living with Zofia in a small but unique 1820 carriage house in Merion Station, had admired for years.

"The trees were twinkling with lights, and it looked like some kind of paradise," recalls Zofia. "I knew it had to be ours before we even went inside. . . ."

The "magical setting," as Zofia calls it, turned out to have plenty of interior charms, too.

Given the nontraditional floor plan of this 1977 custom home, the couple could be creative, using a first-floor open space to create a continuous flow from living room to dining room.

In the living room, with its pillared columns, the modern mood is softened by calm colors and lush textures on upholstered furniture, while art provides bursts of color.

Between the living room and dining room is the scene-stealing "love table" - with glass top and a confluence of branches beneath, and a surface filled with photographs of loved ones.

Zofia's own photos are scattered throughout the home, adding instant impact. Her prints are studies of places or people, but Neviah Films, of which she is founder and owner, focuses on raising awareness about social issues. Her latest film, The Agtivists, documents the effects of genetically engineered foods.

The couple's dining room table, a slab of heavily grained wood, is surrounded by white leather chairs with high backs that have a European look.

Jim, who has been involved in a series of business ventures - including brokering international telecommunications for 10 years and rehabbing real estate - has created a private office space on the first floor, with lots of shelving allowing a glimpse of a lifelong interest in ceramics.

The heart and soul of the home is the large kitchen area with an adjoining family room that has a vaulted beamed ceiling. A fireplace with a large mirror above it is a family room focal point, and a state-of-the-art chef's kitchen continues the home's sleek but stylish vibe.

Up a grand staircase with an ornamental banister is a balcony housing the sweeping master suite behind French doors. The room is decorated in neutrals and simple furnishings, and its bank of windows becomes the focus, affording a view of the property's sprawling five-plus acres, including a private heated pool area with waterfall, a meandering stream, a vegetable garden cultivated by Jim, and stone patios.

"I sometimes wander down here to the hot tub early in the morning and just settle in and listen to the birds," says Jim, who owns what is now called Swiss Haus Bakery. He also loves the home's private outdoor shower and the lower level with sauna, two steam rooms and recreational space.

The landscaping is an unlikely combination of manicured and natural, a blend that somehow suits the split-personality property - formal but playful, close to the city but evoking the country.

It almost seems a matter of instinct - something that's mirrored in their work and in their relationship (Jim, who met Zofia on JDate.com, claims he was falling in love with her before they even met in person).

"Just like the way we felt about each other - we both knew it was right - it's been wonderful to start our marriage in such a special, beautiful home," says Zofia. "But then, anywhere I can be with Jim is automatically my home."

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