Haven: Their historic farmhouse

The Wolfs' farmhouse . They were initially outbid when buying the house; then the other bidder lost his job and they were able to buy it.
The Wolfs' farmhouse . They were initially outbid when buying the house; then the other bidder lost his job and they were able to buy it.

HAVEN | They bought the rundown property in Media years ago and have enjoyed upgrading it.

Posted: March 09, 2014

Three days a week, dentist Peter Wolf heads to his Center City office from his centuries-old farmhouse in Media. There, he drills holes, builds bridges, and otherwise tends to people's oral hygiene.

The four other days, he is often in his neat and tidy woodworker's workshop. It is there that Peter, 65, a self-taught furniture maker, creates the remarkable pieces - a Pennsylvania tall clock, wall-to-wall cabinets, and more - that fill the home he shares with wife Mary Anne, 60.

In the couple's bedroom, for instance, is a suite of furniture modeled on one by Thos. Moser, the high-end designer. Peter made a pencil-post bed frame, a chest of drawers, a bureau, and two nightstands, all from cherry flame wood.

That DIY spirit also extends to Mary Anne Wolf, who retired from Verizon as a product manager in 2002. If there is fabric on a bed, window or bench, she has sewn it.

Together, they have painted . . . but wait, this story is moving too fast.

Backtrack about 20 years, when the couple was living in a nearby townhouse with their baby daughter, Amalie. Every day, Mary Anne says, she passed a dilapidated property on which sat a farmhouse, a barn and a workshop. It had been vacant for three years, but she knew the structures held potential.

When a for-sale sign went up, she and Peter walked through the property. He shared his wife's vision. The place was situated far back from the road, and the workshop was perfect for his furniture-making equipment.

An initial bid was rejected. Two months later, the property was still available; the couple put in another bid, with the same results. A high-income professional had outbid them.

And then fate stepped in. The day before the deal was to go to settlement, the Wolfs got a call: Did they still want the house? The person who had outbid them lost his job.

The first years, living in the house was neither easy nor cheap. The Wolfs replaced the roof. They took down trees that had grown through the windows.

When the septic system spewed toilet paper, they dug out the system's bad part by hand, then a plumber took over from there.

They put plastic sheets over the windows until Peter could replace them - that took two years.

Mary Anne's brother-in-law, a professional contractor, restored the barn and renovated the couple's bathrooms and kitchen.

One section of the barn was converted into a home for Peter's parents. His mother still lives there. (His father was very ill at the time; one reason Mary Anne retired was to help care for him.)

As infrastructure issues evaporated, the couple began decorating each room. Bokhara and Iranian rugs are mainstay floor covers throughout.

And Peter's workshop, in another room of the barn, started to hum. In the oldest section of the house, constructed in 1790, he built a simple mantel of black walnut for the living room's fireplace.

On the opposite wall, he built seven cherry cabinet units, subdivided into smaller units. Some are lit; some have glass doors.

Mary Anne says Peter got the idea from a Chester County furniture shop - he stood in it and "measured every unit."

As to what to build where, Peter says, that was easy: "Necessity is the mother of invention."

They needed a server in the dining room. Done.

Mary Anne also required a place for tchotchkes in the same room. Peter crafted one from a single piece of cherry wood - a two-foot-high, wall-to-wall cabinet.

Need doesn't always dictate what he creates. A few years ago, Mary Anne and his mother, Amalie, bought Peter the guts for the tall clock. He built the case from curly maple (with a cherry dye), and the couple hired a Philadelphia artist to paint their house on the clock's face.

The master bathroom's design and decor is simple: white tile for floor and walls; black granite for the countertop and glass to enclose the large shower.

Peter made a bench and a cabinet, which sits on the floor. Both are from curly maple, left natural. Like the rest of the house, nothing here is overstated.

More beautiful homes exist, says Mary Anne Wolf, but this one has "a lot of heart."

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