Haven: With work, aging architectural gem became place to grow old

Tocreate an elegant foyer, a bathroom door was skillfully hidden behind cherry paneling.
Tocreate an elegant foyer, a bathroom door was skillfully hidden behind cherry paneling.
Posted: February 10, 2014

Samy Badawy and wife Toby Shawe were expecting their third child in 1994 and living in a small house in Roxborough.

They needed more space, and each had priorities for a new home.

"Samy wanted light," Shawe said, "and I wanted our bedroom to be separate from the kids' bedrooms."

The couple found a light-filled, mid-century-modern house with separate sleeping wings and much more in the nearby Wissahickon section of Roxborough.

Arthur M. Tofani Jr. had designed the futuristic home on a sloping lot in 1949, just two years after he earned a degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Its limestone facade, pierced with narrow panes of colored glass, was crowned with a row of clerestory windows. The glass back wall faced a terraced rock garden.

Tofani's client, a physician, had requested an office and waiting room off the side entrance of the house. Stairs led up to a kitchen and dining area, which was divided from a sitting area by a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. The four-bedroom/three-bath house featured central air conditioning, radiant heat, dimmer lights, and a then-state-of-the-art Jenn-Air kitchen stove.

Badawy, 53, a surgeon, and Shawe, 60, a dermatologist, did not intend to practice out of their new home, so the office/waiting-room space with fireplace became a family room/study and a yoga/meditation room.

And eventually, the couple renovated the master bath with new fixtures, a cloud-covered ceiling, and faux-painted gold walls.

But by 2009, it was clear that, after 60 years, the rest of the house needed serious attention. Badawy and Shawe hired design firm EnnisNehez to update their home but "to keep its aesthetics," Badawy said.

Drafty wood-framed, single-paned windows were replaced with double-glazed models in aluminum frames. The glass back wall was bumped out three feet to give the living area a better flow, and the stone fireplace was braced and opened on three sides.

The home's side entrance became its main entrance, with an open staircase. To create an elegant foyer, a bathroom door was skillfully hidden behind cherry paneling. Cherry shelving was installed in several rooms, and cherry wood floors replaced worn Berber carpets.

Badawy hated to give up original-to-the-house beautifully grained wood cabinets in the kitchen, "but they were falling apart," he said. He now prepares gourmet meals on a new Wolf six-burner with a grill and two ovens. The couple often entertain his large family, which includes five brothers.

Designer Val Nehez wanted to install marble countertops in the kitchen. Shawe insisted on granite, instead, she said, because "marble stains."

A curved faucet over an extra-deep sink resembles a serpentine sculpture. A vermilion wall picks up the color in the glass-tile backsplash.

Cylindrical light fixtures above the dining table are original to the house.

Shawe found the fabric for a multihued striped tablecloth on Fourth Street in Philadelphia. Its jewel tones echo the colors in the couple's collection of ceramic plates and wall hangings from India, Japan and Turkey.

One wall is lined with fanciful masks of human faces with animal headbands from Mexico. An abstract work in pastels, purchased at a Manayunk art gallery, hangs above a large chest from China.

Folding gates at either end of the kitchen accommodate two active German short-haired pointers: "We can either keep them in the kitchen or out," Shawe said.

The dogs sleep in the master bedroom with their masters. The room has a door to the garden, so the dogs can be let out easily in the middle of the night.

Soon, Badawy and Shawe will be empty-nesters. Their daughters, Gabrielle and Natalie, are 24 and 19; son Dylan is 20. But even as their lives evolve, the couple do not anticipate moving.

Doors from the living area also open to the garden and are level with the house.

"You can walk around to the street without going up steps." Shawe said. "We could grow old here."

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