Sometimes a house calls out, "I'm the one," and for those who believe in the validity and power of instinct, it truly is.
Such was the case with Jeff Hansbro, who came upon a circa-1910 Tudor on a quiet street in Bala Cynwyd. But here's the tricky part: His future wife was not there, and the decision had to be made quickly.
Talk about pressure, and trust. Jeff, vice president of a product-development firm for the sleep industry, discussed the house with his fiancée, still back in Chicago at her job.
She agreed, sight unseen, that it was a go.
"You can imagine how Jeff was feeling when I first saw the house. I think he had a hard time breathing," Katie Hansbro says.
Their endlessly patient lawyer/Realtor, Bernard Faigenbaum of Ardmore, offered Jeff ongoing moral support. But as it turns out, Jeff needn't have worried.
His bride-to-be also loved the house, from the charming front porch to the classic angled chestnut staircase that is one of its architectural highlights.
But Katie extracted one significant pledge from Jeff: She wanted assurance that the master bedroom would definitely include an adequate closet.
"Yes, I'm a shoe person!" she admits.
Summer and fall 2012 were definitely hectic for these new homeowners. It included planning and staging a wedding, settling into a home and, for a few months, Katie's commuting to Chicago every other week to her old job before she began her new one in Philadelphia. (She is now chief operating officer of Design Science, a firm that consults on pharmaceutical and medical equipment.)
The house needed work. Most of it involved alterations on the second floor, where three bedrooms, including the master, and a hall bathroom, were vastly improved.
With the help of architect David Feldman, president of Right-Sized Homes L.L.C., the Hansbros reconfigured space so their bedroom both lent and borrowed from surrounding areas. Katie got her closet, and a sleek hall bathroom, in the process.
"David showed us how to utilize space in important areas, and it made all the difference," says Jeff.
The couple moved up to the third story during the renovations. The claw-foot tub there lost its charms after a couple months.
What were originally two empty bedrooms are now occupied by son Hunter, 3, and his baby sister, Hayley, a cherubic 5-month-old. Decorating those rooms has been a special delight. Vivid oranges and blues dominate his room, while purples and blue-greens enliven her nursery.
The children have identical lamps in a circus theme - the very lamps Katie and Jeff discovered they had in common in their bedrooms growing up. Somehow, they had survived.
But perhaps the most cherished object in the house is a painting by a Chicago artist that hangs on a dining room wall. It is of historic Fonthill Castle in Doylestown.
"That was the site of our wedding - we loved it - and I surprised Jeff with the painting on our first anniversary," Katie explains.
A painting by the same Chicago artist hangs in the living room as a reminder of where the couple met. Says Katie, 34, "Together, they kind of track our history."
The dining room is Katie and Jeff's favorite space. They sought a color both loved, and celebrated when they found a deep, rich blue at once stately and interesting.
It's a perfect backdrop for the handsome traditional dining table and high-back chairs that make the room one they hope to fill with family and friends as years go by. A show-stopping buffet has intricate doors that highlight the room's background color.
Also inviting is the family room at the back of the house that features an exposed stone wall and another unique find: Katie and Jeff's DNA patterns as wall art.
Because they already have sweat equity in it - credit for the challenging dining room paint job goes to Jeff, who also handled other improvements - the Bala Cynwyd home has come to feel as if it is truly theirs. The "to do" list includes a kitchen redo down the road and, ultimately, a finished basement.
"This is really a house that has character, and we feel so lucky that it's also close to a train line," says Jeff, 42. "Most of all, it's a great house for kids."
Almost on cue, Hunter comes on the scene, delightedly clambering down the steps, then up again.
Clearly, at age 3, fun is where you find it.
Is your house a haven? Tell us about your haven by e-mail (and send some digital photographs) at firstname.lastname@example.org.