Haven: Reimagined with an artist's eye

The dining room, opening up into the kitchen and living room, continues the trail of circles throughout the house. VIVIANA PERNOT / Staff Photographer
The dining room, opening up into the kitchen and living room, continues the trail of circles throughout the house. VIVIANA PERNOT / Staff Photographer

HAVEN | In Jenkintown, creative minds come up with a collaboration of circles and colors.

Posted: August 17, 2014

Teresa Shields Westkaemper lives in a sprawling four-bedroom house in Jenkintown with husband Paul Westkaemper and their three daughters.

She is an accomplished watercolorist with a master's degree in fine art, and a very specific artistic sensibility: She loves circles and the colors red and blue.

"I can't tell you why I like circles, but I always have, and I express them everywhere," she says.

It makes sense, then, that after a renovation that included demolishing and rebuilding the rear of the structure, the Westkaemper home is blue in the front and has a red caboose, so to speak. Inside, Teresa's circles appear on the drapes, the carpets, the fireplace, the shower curtains - just about everywhere.

The old section meshes with the new in a vibrant dwelling whose rooms are bright with colors and patterns.

The couple lived in the 3,000-square-foot house for 15 years before deciding to redo it.

"The renovation started when we realized that Ruby, our oldest daughter, who is 18, was going to college, and we wanted to make the improvements we had been thinking about for years before she left," Teresa says. (Daughter Mia is 15; Cady is 11.) She also wanted an architect who was as proud of being creative as she is.

Paul Westkaemper, a chemical engineer, says he left the choice to his wife.

Through MamaCITA, a cooperative association of artists in the Philadelphia region who meet monthly and help one another with shows and professional support, Teresa says, she found architect Jim Cassidy of C2 Architecture, "and the process ended up being fun."

For Cassidy, the feeling is mutual about working with artists, which is why he was recommended to Teresa.

"Artists understand the creative process," he says, adding that in their efforts to develop a design for the new back half of the house and the yard, he and Teresa worked well together.

When they first met, she showed Cassidy the small kitchen, which had a small side door leading to the dining room. Another small door led to a dark family room.

"We used the family room primarily as a timeout place for the girls," Paul says. "We don't need it anymore, fortunately."

The original second floor had a master bedroom with a small closet; the third floor housed Teresa's studio.

Access to the yard was limited to a single door.

"Jim brought us three plans," Teresa says. "One showed us simply redoing the family room; then there was a more complex plan, and finally we decided to do the whole project."

The footprint of the house did not change. Cassidy designed its new features - the family room, the improved kitchen, and the rest - in spaces formerly used for other purposes, tweaking closets and storage areas in the process.

"The work was actually a collaboration. . . . It was hard work, but fun for all the parties, I think," Teresa says.

Among those parties was a contractor dedicated to the green movement, who found recycled wood and materials for the project.

Brendan Jones, of Greensaw Construction in Northern Liberties, located flooring from an old bowling alley to reuse in the kitchen and a new laundry room, as well as the redwood for the decks. Doors from the dining room were repurposed on the second floor.

Three years later, the kitchen is a rich spot filled with warm wood and ample work and display spaces. It includes an island, a tile backsplash with a continuous ribbon of Teresa's signature circles, and a deep window seat.

Between the kitchen and the dining room, a wide opening has replaced the tiny door.

At the rear of the first floor, behind the dining room, stands the new family room with its fireplace.

There is a new mudroom, too.

Outdoors, a small patio offers a place for sitting and barbecuing. Special grass that cars can drive over without ruining was planted in a grid pattern.

On the second floor, a revamped master bedroom now features the circle motif in soothing blues and greens.

And a skylight illuminates Teresa's third-floor studio. Steps lead out to a new roof deck.

"I think it worked out very well," Paul says of their reimagined, partially rebuilt house.

"It opened everything up. Rather than having a dining room you never use, we use it every day, and our kids and their friends want to come here."

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