A sunny place for life and livelihood in Fishtown

Linda Mencel (left) with her husband Patrick and their dogs Jagger (brown) and Alex (grey). The Mencels bought this house after saving three years for a down payment by taking turns living with both sets of parents.

Linda and Patrick Mencel, who are in their late 20s, saved three years for a down payment before buying a house in Fishtown. The enterprising young couple accomplished this by saving and by taking turns living with both sets of parents.

That their house cost them only $200,000 is due to Linda and Patrick's  having received a grant from the New Kensington Community Development Corp. for an additional $200,000, which acts as a second mortgage for 10 years. During that time, they cannot sell the house without paying high penalties. The $400,000 sale price included their own work toward finishing the house, which also has a roof deck.

Linda is a graphic designer for a firm called Styleworks. Patrick is a musician who teaches and makes farmhouse-style furniture — he built all their wooden furnishings, a craft he learned from his father, Jim, and from his grandfather "Poppy."

"The furniture is mainly pine, and it looks like old-time wooden furniture, which people seem to like," he says.

The couple have lived in the three-story house for a little more than a year. Both are from Lansdale and graduated from North Penn High School.

"We knew each other since we were both 15 years old," Linda says. "I am so happy to live in Fishtown, which is full of young professionals and people interested in the arts. We fit in really well here."

Also fitting in is their foster dog, an Alaskan husky named Jagger (after Mick), whose coloring matches the couple's huge gray sectional sofa perfectly. There's room on the sofa, too, for their dog Alex, whose hair is reddish.

Linda says they appreciate that the house has lots of flexible space, which serves as a place for her art projects, for the dogs they foster while they await permanent homes, and for Patrick's music. The sun-filled structure allows each of them to have a studio.

Patrick says he's always working on something there: songwriting, or producing with groups of musicians.

"We both work here, and we are in each other's business every day," he says. "It's good there is so much room here."

In fact, the house looks airy and even bigger than its 1,750 square feet. The view from the entrance reaches through the great room's 900 square feet to the rear yard and past a modern kitchen with all the amenities, including a long white-pine table Patrick designed that seats eight.

Beige and white and gray dominate the Mencels' decor — as illustrated by the depiction of a fox over their sofa. Patrick's wood pieces provide texture and warmth that balances the cool metal of the appliances.

Light radiates in through the front door and the large window and door at the rear, looking out toward the yard.

Patrick says he is happy that, despite his work with his music groups, there have never been noise complaints from neighbors. And Linda says they appreciate  utility bills for the whole house that are never more than $100 a month.

"This is the result of planning," says Chad Ludeman, principal of Postgreen Homes, which designed and built the 13 houses in the development where the Mencels live. The house was constructed according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

"The first house in the development opened in 2013 with 9½-foot ceilings and super-insulation," Ludeman says. "This means that the drywall is installed between the houses in double panels, with space and insulation between the panels. The double walls act as a sound as well as an energy barrier."

Hence the energy efficiency and lack of noise issues.

"We wanted to find a way to make three-story houses more reasonable in price and accessible for middle-income families," Ludeman said.

And that's fine with Linda, who says she loves her home and Fishtown, which she calls very welcoming to "artists and creative people."

"I feel we really did win the lottery," she says.

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