Haven: In a home for the long haul

The dining room is Americana-furnished; Griffith installed the doors to open up the view of the backyard garden.
The dining room is Americana-furnished; Griffith installed the doors to open up the view of the backyard garden.

He loves his quarter acre and backyard garden. And what's undone will wait.

Posted: September 01, 2013

He thought finding a house in Cherry Hill, his hometown, would be a cinch. Instead, David Griffith and his wife toured 43 properties back in 1990 before settling on a two-story, gray-sided dwelling on a quiet street.

The allure of shopping malls, the close proximity to city nightlife, and the location a stone's throw from family were key to keeping the couple rooted in the township, but price was the top priority.

"We weren't going to kill ourselves for the five-bedroom mansion and a soaring cathedral entry," he says.

As soon as Griffith, the owner of a landscaping company, stood on the quarter-acre, semi-wooded lot, he saw a wealth of gardening potential. The interior needed some work, but large closets and a breezy 1,400-square-foot floor plan helped clinch the deal.

"I knew that as soon as I had the time and the funds, I would update this property and make it a place where I could remain as I age."

Today, Griffith, 51 and divorced, is well on his way. But this is no man cave.

His home's Americana styling harkens to a fondness for folksy artwork that, blended with edgy furnishings, inspires a masculine yet sophisticated aura. Some favorite pieces were found at craft fairs and local antiques marts, as well as on travels through Europe and the Caribbean. Others came from furniture retailers.

Last year, Griffith redecorated his living room, a formerly nondescript space, into a modern sitting/reading/entertaining salon. To complement his sofa, he bought a wood-plank coffee table, a replica of an old factory cart, at the Dump. A copper ottoman came from Material Culture in Philadelphia.

Rounding out the look are a bench from Indonesia and an avant-garde wood-slatted chair resembling a cutout box. A vintage green-leather telephone chair lends a vibrancy to the room's mostly neutral palette.

Adding whimsy to the hallway are a metal shoe and a dog from a New Orleans emporium and papier-mache masks made in St. Maarten/St. Martin and the Virgin Islands.

"If something catches my eye and has a hidden meaning, I buy it," Griffith says.

Carpeting was ripped up and replaced with oak flooring that sweeps into the dining room, where the Americana theme prevails. Walls painted Williamsburg blue are a backdrop for the black-and-russet Ethan Allen dining table, chairs, and buffet.

In 1998, a 300-square-foot master-bedroom wing was annexed to the first floor. Recently, Griffith created a serene atmosphere there, with a mostly Asian theme that contrasts with the rest of the house.

Brazilian cherry hardwood flooring is the staging for a bamboo bench, a wicker chair, and an armoire. Glass and metal lanterns hang over the low platform bed, a strategic investment bought primarily so Griffith's convivial pugs (Angus, Elliot, and Penelope) can maneuver bedtime with ease.

On the wall is a prized possession: Banyan Trees, an ink rendering by the late Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead. "I've been to more than 100 of their concerts," Griffith says with a twinkle in his eye.

An avid cook, his kitchen features cherry cabinets, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances. (Specialties like coq au vin, osso buco, and roasted duck take center stage at his parties.)

A breakfast bar divides the kitchen from the family room, a comfy spot with a brick-faced fireplace. Griffith proudly shows pictures and awards belonging to his daughter Kendra, 21, a senior at the College of New Jersey and goalkeeper of the soccer team.

When she is home, the second level, with three bedrooms and a bath, is mainly occupied by Kendra. It's a place where a young woman can alternate between solitude and together time with Dad.

Griffith's greatest pleasure has probably been the metamorphosis of his backyard into a dazzling display of more than 200 varieties of trees, shrubs, and plants.

Ornamental grasses surround moss-covered walkways that lead to sitting areas, a birdbath, a koi pond, a rain garden, and a "bottle tree" to ward off evil spirits. Showcased among hostas, hemlocks, elephant ears, and hollies is the moonlight garden, which comes into full bloom with white flowers every evening.

There are still some things Griffith would like to upgrade (the second-floor bathroom, for one). But there's no rush.

"Sometimes, it's hard for me not to be tinkering around," he says. "At the end of the day, I'm where I want to be. It's nice to be in a home I enjoy."

Is your house a Haven?

Tell us about your haven by e-mail (and send some digital photographs) at properties@phillynews.com .

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