A Vision Realized: Whole House Renovation in Walnut Hill

Amanda and Abram’s West Philadelphia row home had beautiful architectural bones. The problem was that the rest of the house was...not so beautiful.

 “It was a mess,” Amanda remembers. “There was no sight line on the first floor, and it was so dark. There was shag carpeting and a bunch of mirrors, and the space was really chopped up.”

But Amanda saw potential in the space. Standing in the entry way of the house, she saw past the dark, claustrophobic first floor, with its small kitchen and outdated finishes, and envisioned an airy and welcoming home without so many dividing walls. She imagined a flowing space for large Passover Seders and family gatherings. “It’s more important to me to have more common space…I don’t care about bedrooms as much,” she said. “As a Jewish person in West Philly, it’s important to me to make Judaism here in my home, like it’s supposed to be. This house, because of how open I thought it could be, I knew it would be a great space for parties and friends.”     

Amanda and Abram had their dream, now they needed a contractor to realize it. The couple researched Bellweather online, but knew our reputation in the neighborhood. “I shopped around for contractors and Will had no marks against him, and I looked pretty hard!” Amanda was happy to learn that Bellweather had worked on dozens of houses homes in the same style as hers. She felt that she shared a similar aesthetic with Will. “His style is simple,” she said. “With this house, we’re only the third owners, and even with the shag carpet and mirrors, this house was loved. I wanted to bring this house back to what it would’ve looked like in the 19-teens, and then modernize it by opening up the layout.”

The connection with Will went beyond style; honesty was paramount. Amanda recalled a story of a walkthrough with Will and an architect. “The architect was making jokes about wasting money, like on purpose, and Will was firmly like, ‘No, we’re not wasting money,’” she says. “And it really felt like he was on our side, and he’s proven himself to be honest, over and over.”

Amanda and Abram’s vision of a light, open space came true. We enlarged the doorways throughout the common areas to open up the floor plan, yet we maintained defined rooms (kitchen, dining room, and living room) and created sight lines from the front porch clear through to the kitchen.

The kitchen is especially lovely, thanks to some elegant design choices. “I wanted a white kitchen but I didn’t want it to be so boring,” she said. “I know gray isn’t crazy, but I think if you make a million interesting choices, you won’t see any of them.” The quartz counter top, which Amanda calls "the J-Lo counter top,” is the star of the show, and stretches across the long counter and the sleek waterfall island.

The second floor consists of three bedrooms to accommodate their growing family, a master bath, and a hall bath. The radiator covers (which double as window seats) were also Amanda’s idea, and the work of our master carpenters far exceeded her expectations.  “They are way better than I even imagined!” she says.

Over the course of the six month project, we kept Amanda and Abram updated on the progress. Even when the couple was away for six weeks in China, we sent them pictures weekly and kept in touch through email as design decisions needed to be made. Amanda even had to pick out the paint color for the trim on the exterior of the house from a computer in China!

“I felt like I was involved in the process,” she said. “There was no blindfold moment like in the reality T.V. home design shows I watch, but now when I watch those shows and I feel so much more educated about houses.” Amanda and Abram own a few rental properties in West Philadelphia that we’ve worked on for them as well. Amanda reflected on what she learned from her own home renovation project as she makes decisions about those properties. “I feel knowledgeable now about how construction works, how expensive it will be, and what it will entail.... I would not feel confident about that if I didn’t work with Bellweather,” she says.

After three years of living in the transformed home, Amanda, Abram and their baby daughter are happy and comfortable. They’ve hired us for other jobs since then, and soon we’ll be finishing and building a unique custom play area in their basement. Amanda says she keeps coming back to Bellweather because of our integrity and our quality. “I have a lot of friends who’ve used other contractors and end up having to pay for the same work again down the line,” she says. “It’s worth it to have Will and Bellweather, because everything is done to code, done correctly, if there’s a problem he comes back…that’s not a contractor experience that many people get to have.”