Probably no one is more surprised than Loretta Tague at how lovely her Point Breeze rowhouse has turned out.
When she first laid eyes on the "wreck of a place," it was uninhabitable, with garbage piled to the ceiling, a rear that was falling down, and no working plumbing - though "scattered throughout were several containers with yellow liquid in them," Tague says with a wry smile.
After living in small towns in New Jersey, Tague, who hails from Brooklyn, and her London-raised husband realized they weren't cut out for the suburbs and longed for the joie de vivre of city life. Ten years ago, they bought a new three-story 2,200-square-foot house in the Graduate Hospital area at a time when its streetscape was surging.
Two years ago, the couple decided to downsize and sold that property.
"We loved our home, but it was starting to be more house than we needed," says Tague, an administrative assistant at Radian, a mortgage insurance company.
Friends who were invested in Point Breeze recommended that the Tagues buy a house near them. The fact that it was another neighborhood on the edge of transforming piqued their interest.
"This is a strong community with a mix of old-timers and new people," says Tague, who is active in local neighborhood associations. "Now that we're living here, we're trying to become more involved in this area."
Unpaid taxes and a search for rightful heirs were challenges the couple faced while acquiring the 1,000-square-foot house, forcing them to move into rentals - one, ironically, being the house next door.
"We could really see it come together," Tague says of the seven-month renovation that began in October 2015. They credit contractor Matthew Corcoran and his team at Doghouse Homes in the Graduate Hospital area for realizing their vision.
The original first-floor design of the 100-year-old house was composed of a vestibule and three tiny walled-off rooms. Tague kept the vestibule and had it widened as a landing pad. Hats and coats hang on metal knobs. Footwear is changed on a bench.
The rest of the first floor is one open space.
The kitchen was repositioned toward the front of the house. Enough space was left between the two front windows and the countertops for installation of a banquette, upholstered with dark-gray linen cushions.
A tall coffee table purchased at Mid-Century Modern Warehouse, displaying a colorful plate from Malta given as a gift, completes the "little social" spot.
"We didn't want the kitchen to be smack against the front wall," Tague notes, "mainly because we didn't want to have to change the size of the windows," which are long and filter a lot of natural light.
Sleek dark-gray kitchen cabinets from Ikea contrast nicely with the neutral quartz countertops and glass backsplash. Metal stools with daffodil-hued cushions provide more seating. On an opposite wall, a wood headboard dating to 1957 that belonged to Tague's parents has been repurposed as a console.
Behind the kitchen is the living room. Expansive sidelight windows and a sliding door lead to the backyard, where Tague plans to install a pergola. She made sure the room was spacious enough to accommodate the orange sectional from their former home.
Completing the tailored look is a gray ottoman, a contemporary Matthews ceiling fan, and a black cabinet hosting a flat-screen TV, vases and a gray bird made from salvaged objects by artist Meei Ling Ng. Hanging on the wall is a print of British singer Kate Bush. Concealed in a sleeve behind the print is a book about her career.
The basement was converted into a guest room with a full bath. Nooks and crannies were turned into closets and shelves for additional storage.
The second level originally had three bedrooms but was redesigned into a master retreat. The bedroom is now large enough for a gray upholstered king-sized bed Tague found online at Joybird. A large walk-in closet has Ikea built-ins.
Gleaming globe pendants from West Elm hang over his-and-hers modern vanities, purchased at C&R Building Supply on Washington Avenue.
At the far end of the floor is a sitting room. Nearby, another stairwell leads to the 8-by-12-foot roof deck with panoramic views of Center City.
Tague says she loves her new house and has no intention of moving again:
"I figure if it comes a time when I can't make it up the stairs, maybe I'll put in an elevator."