Finding home again, this time on Washington Square

RE1HAVEN04
Sam and Kuna Yankell pose inside their condominium at the Hopkinson House in Philadelphia, PA on October 17, 2016.

It may be only a 35-minute drive from a vintage Queen Anne Victorian in Moorestown to Hopkinson House, a sleek high-rise facing Washington Square, but it's a significant journey from one world to the other.

That journey began in May 2014, when Sam and Kuna Yankell said goodbye to the rambling Victorian they had shared with three now-adult children.

"It was the typical story: The house was just too big for us, and it was time to move on," says Sam, a retired research professor at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental Medicine.

And if ever there were an example of the exhilaration change can bring, Kuna and Sam are the poster children for it.

"We absolutely love our space, this lifestyle, and the fact that we can still go back to Moorestown whenever we want to," says Kuna, a retired school librarian and grandmother of seven, including 15-year-old triplets.

When the Yankells began exploring city life, their affection for Society Hill guided their decision.

They also were looking for a more open feeling than they had in Moorestown, and were hoping to find a location with both park and city views.

When they happened upon this unit, they saw not just its spectacular views but also the potential for changes that would open up the look and feel.

For guidance, they often turned to their son, Bala Cynwyd artist Stuart Yankell, who had tackled a makeover of his home.

"Stuart helped us to see where we could make some changes that absolutely made all the difference," says Sam. "Painting, which is something we share, sometimes leads us to new ways of looking at things."

One inspiration came with the notion of simply adding length to the unit's foyer. The management permitted that alteration since it did not interfere with any public spaces.

The effect was immediately dramatic. The foyer is a welcoming space, and a home for pieces with meaning to the Yankells.

Moving the washer-dryer from the master bedroom suite to a location that once housed a half-bath gave the couple a wonderful walk-in closet, as well as a "wine cellar" situated in another closet.

Eliminating some interior walls also made a significant difference, yielding spaces the Yankells love. The condo has a contemporary vibe now.

It's difficult not to be happily distracted by the abundant art in every area of their light-filled space, as if exploring a high-end art gallery with works of endless variety. That includes the work of the late Leon Bibel, an artist friend and mentor to both Sam and Stuart.

One of the couple's most prized possessions is a handsome clock at the condominium's entry that was literally in pieces, about to be discarded, when Bibel died. Instead, Sam tackled putting those pieces together, a labor of love and ultimately a conversation piece for visitors.

A huge painting by son Stuart of a Rittenhouse Square outdoor dining scene enlivens the dining room area, where the Yankells' much-loved Danish modern table has found a city home.

In a space Sam chose as a home studio, his newfound passion for small sculptural pieces, many of them suggesting yoga and ballet postures, is evident.

"It's a kind of new beginning for me, since painting in the condominium could get a bit messy," Sam explained. The whimsical works fill many of the condominium's shelves.

Kuna is delighted that their new home also has brought a new aesthetic into their lives: "As much as we loved our Moorestown home, this is a chance to see familiar things in new ways."

Case in point: Handsome rugs that were less noticeable in the Queen Anne have been reborn as scene stealers in the airy condo.

The lifestyle transition has been swift and satisfying. Sam is involved in a morning walking group, and Kuna hopes to become active in reading for the blind. Both are pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful city folks are,

Then there's this: Their triplet grandchildren, who live in Rhode Island, love city visits with them. Adaptable furniture like sofa-beds come to the rescue.

That's not to say memories of Moorestown are not present here. A painting of their old home adorns a wall, and it clearly it has emotional pull.

"But this move came at the right time, and to the right place," says Sam. "And when we step out on our balcony and see the city on one side, and the greenery of Washington Square on the other, we realize that for now, this really is the right place for us."

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