Haven: Condo in the center of the action

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When it came time to jettison their single-family home in Gladwyne, octogenarians Shirley and Seymour "Sy" Kurland didn't search for a tranquil retirement community.

Instead, they moved into a 2,500-square-foot penthouse in vibrant Old City.

"We wanted to be where the action was," says Shirley, who was ready to abandon the upkeep of their suburban house.

Even though he regularly frequented the city, Sy was more apprehensive about becoming a permanent urbanite.

"I thought I'd miss our gardens and working in the yard. But . . ." he says, waving his hand toward the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on display through windows that flood their penthouse with light, "the move was worth it."

That said, the couple, married for 61 years, say their favorite thing about their new home might be its location: Restaurants, museums, shopping, their movie club, gyms, and classes at Temple University are all at their fingertips, allowing them the car-free, bus-taking lifestyle they appreciate.

Plus, Sy, a retired lawyer, need only look to their vast 20-by-35-foot patio to quash any buyer's remorse. On a warm, early fall day, their city oasis was filled with a mix of colorful annuals and perennials, a grill and eating area, and comfy chaises.

A casualty of the real estate collapse, the penthouse had been in foreclosure, sitting empty for four years, the couple say, before they and their daughter, Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland, found it in 2012.

Typically, empty-nesters and retirees discover that a move to condo life means purging treasured furniture and personal belongings. But to the delight of the Kurlands, their extensive inventory fit perfectly into the penthouse, with the exception of some antiques they passed down to their children.

An elevator delivers guests to the Kurlands' private floor. Standing guard by the front door is a grandfather clock purchased during a trip to England.

With its myriad windows and tall ceilings, the great room could feel overwhelming. But the couple have kept it cozy, creating a seating area in front of the flat-screen TV with a lapis-hued sofa and two floral-printed chairs. A hanging ceramic by French artist Fernand Léger lends a bit of buoyancy.

A transitional spot between the seating and dining areas, the kitchen features modern cabinets and stainless-steel appliances.

The dining set is surrounded by antique buffets. A striking iron chandelier with cascading crystals hangs overhead for impact. Nearby is one of Shirley's favorite pieces, Charles Semser's wooden sculpture, The Tango, a gift from Sy marking their 25th wedding anniversary. Imported carpets bring drama to the hardwood flooring.

Photos of ski and beach trips with their four children and nine grandchildren are displayed throughout the premises, adorning shelves and walls.

Yellow is the accent color that warms the expansive master suite, complete with a handsome poster bed, low-slung seating, and more artwork. Gray tiles and sleek chrome are balanced with shiny, wall-mounted cabinets in the master bath.

The two other bedrooms have been repurposed into an office for Sy and a craft room for Shirley.

Sy, who has hiked throughout Europe with Shirley, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 1986. His certificate hangs proudly near his office door.

"The hardest part of the climb is the last 3,000 feet. You climb three feet and then slide back down," he says.

A braided blue-and-white rug adds character to the room. Built-in shelves are filled with books and law memorabilia.

For years, Shirley took art classes at the Barnes Foundation. Equipped now with two work stations, she paints furniture and novelty items such as place mats.

A circa 1200 A.D. Latin prayer scripted in calligraphy, found in a rare-book store on Chestnut Street, serves as wall art. Six bowling pins once belonging to actor James Cagney sit on a shelf.

"The legend is that every movie he made, the pins were in them," says Shirley.

For this very active couple, as well as for Emmy, their midlife cockapoo, their move from the suburbs to the city has been transformative.

"There's a sense of freedom and simplicity to living here," says Shirley. "We really enjoy it."