On the Market profiles homes for sale in the Philadelphia region.
John-Paul Duffey didn’t know much about designing homes, but after taking a risk with a home in Springfield Township in 2002 – now on the market for $1.7 million – he has made it his second career.
Duffey, a Philadelphia native who was living and working in New York City as an insurance executive at the time, came across this property on the 700 block of Thomas Road that would be the first of many projects he would undertake.
“I saw it as an investment opportunity,” Duffey said of his purchase of the Montgomery County property more than a decade ago. “I bought the lot at first, and then drew a house design that reflected how I want to live. My blood started flowing and I started getting excited about buiding the house.”
At the time, all that was on the lot was a barn that was built in the 1970s. But it was the location that interested Duffey, as he said he always considered that block “to be one of the most special and privileged locations in the entire Delaware Valley.” The block empties into Wissachickon Valley Park, also known as Valley Green, where he frequently would go for a run.
One he started designing the home, Duffey hired builder Paul O'Hagan of Pyramid Construction and local architect Gregory Tomeszko. Three years of design and construction later, Villa Valvert, French for “the Villa of Valley Green,” was born. The finished product was a 5,471-square-foot home with three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths.
“As a lifelong traveler and foreign language enthusiast, I was always enamored with Old World Europe,” Duffey said. “This house was a realization of many years of inspired traveling, seeing a lot of old villages and homes, and just coming up with my own ideas.”
European-inspired designs can be found throughout the home, especially in the candle-lit wine cellar, which is accessed from a spiral staircase off the gourmet kitchen.
“I have been to many old wine cellars in Italy, Spain and France,” Duffey said. “When I had all these old stones and reclaimed bricks I wanted to create a very special old world style wine cellar out of those materials.”
Duffey used stones in the room that he excavated from the property’s 100-year-old circular wall, which served as a Quaker Meeting place in the early 1900s. He also found a “treasure trove” of stones in the property’s basement.
The wine cellar also includes reclaimed brick flooring and rustic old furniture that was built in Colombia.
The home also includes many French-influenced features: the traditional carriage house doors, the copper cone-shaped corner, which is a common theme in French Castles, the brick side patio, and the center courtyard.
The entire first floor has hardwood flooring made from extinct chestnut, which Duffey converted from old barns in Lancaster County. This floor consists of the kitchen, two master bedrooms, and the living room and dining room.
On the second floor, there’s an oversized suite that could be divided into two bedrooms, a bathroom and closet.
Duffey said he left parts of the basement unfinished to allow future owners to design it to their liking. The basement is 3,000-square-feet and has 9-foot ceilings.
The home has a three-car attached garage with handcrafted mahogany carriage doors, three fireplaces designed from scratch with the builder, and radiant heating on the first floor.
Twelve years after Duffey took on this large project, he has decided to put the home on the market for either a long-term rental lease, or for sale. Duffey has since developed other properties, and is currently working in Medellin, Colombia on a colonial-style, fully-furnished tourist destination property.
“Villa Valvert was my inspiration to retire very young and pursue other passions in my life,” Duffey said.”