It is difficult to visit the home of Margaret Meigs and Paul Laskow without recognizing their passion for the Schuylkill and sharing their concern for the river's future.
The couple's 2,000-square-foot condominium in Queen Village seems to be dedicated to promoting the Schuylkill even though Philadelphia's western waterway is about two miles west of their new home.
Their thoughts are never far from the river. Not only do the couple get up at 5 a.m. each day to row on the Schuylkill, but their aqua living-room rug was custom-designed to show the patterns of the river with its bends and borders housing the boathouses. In addition, the couple are both officers in the Schuylkill Navy and dedicate much of their time to trying to preserve the river, their number-one cause.
Margaret, who is now vice commodore of the more than 150-year-old Schuylkill Navy, said: "We are really involved in trying to save the river, which is getting shallower and shallower and, if it is not dredged, will not be able to support any type of boating."
Margaret, who runs a marketing firm in her home, joined her husband, a former Schuylkill commodore, as an adult in rowing on the Schuylkill. She said Paul, a semiretired lawyer, has been rowing since he was 13.
"I started rowing at 40, but my husband started when he was a student at St. Joe's Prep and later at La Salle" University, she said.
On a wall, as visitors enter their second-floor living room, are dozens of framed photographs of the couple's three grown children, most engaged in rowing activities on the river.
The aquatic theme in the living room is carried out in a bathroom, where the wallpaper is full of colorful pictures of different types of fish and in Paul's study, where a mural shows waterways in London, where he attended the London School of Economics.
The couple bought the condominium and decided to move from Chestnut Hill two years ago when the building was under construction. They liked that the units were "flat," located totally on one floor, and that the project was platinum LEED certified, which means the building comes with certifiable claims of sustainability.
"We wanted to have more room to entertain on holidays," Margaret said, "and it is important to us to feel we are not wasting environmental resources."
The large windows of the living-dining area face west and are surrounded by black boxlike frames without drapes or curtains. On one side of the room is a large built-in fireplace.
"We sent for the fireplace, which was not part of the condo," Margaret said.
The fireplace, she said, is flueless and scentless. It was designed by a New York firm and comes with cartridges that contain alcohol and don't interfere with the sustainable quality of the apartment.
Paul and Margaret's home is part of a three-unit development by Re-Vision Architects of Manayunk, a firm that specializes in sustainable architecture and that is led by principal Scott Kelly, who said Margaret and Paul's home was designed by his firm and built as a modular construction plan that took days to assemble as opposed to months for conventional methods.
"The building replaced two dilapidated structures that were torn down," Kelly said. "The bricks from the old building were recycled by LEED standards and the exterior of the new building is cedar siding and brick to fit into the neighborhood."
The modular construction means that the home is "very tight" and well-insulated. The couple's cost for energy has been $300 a year, very low.
"The unique thing about this building is each unit has access to the outside and it has tons of light," Kelly said. "They share a courtyard and one unit has a deck, another a roof deck, and another a patio, and they all have their own parking."
"We care about the environment," Paul said. "And it feels good to live in a house that was built with sustainability in mind.
"We asked for a few changes to the original plans, such as access to the decks from a hall instead of our bedroom, and they were made," he said.
Other than that, the couple said they were happy with their modular home and the short commute to their beloved river.