RowHouse Magazine Homepage
From the Publisher's Desk

Dear Friends
The Evolution of a Row House

The mission of RowHouse Magazine is motivated by our lives inside our very own row houses. Almost everyone who works with us, and has contributed to the web site over the past two years, lives in either a row house, a modified row house or a semi-attached dwelling. We talk the talk and walk the walk.

I'm happy to introduce my very own little row house. Built in the early 1830s, it represents typical row houses built in early America for the urban working class. Like so many people these days, everything we do has to be ultra budget-friendly. We opted for a very small house, less than 800 square feet, so that we could live in a better neighborhood with a great public school. Additionally, our willingness to sacrifice (living space, closets, dishwasher, privacy, among other things) opened a great opportunity for us to own not only a house but a little piece of history.


Photo 1: This is one of the first photos we took of our house. It's February in Philly and very cold. Photo 2: We decided to paint the door a color from the Historic Trust collection from Valspar. Actually all our paint was Valspar. I can't remember the name of the pink flowers in the flower box but they were very hardy and lasted the entire season. We added two shrubberies - one azalea and another whose name I can't remember either. A neighbor gave us the flag, the Grand Union, which was one of the first American flags. Photo 3: The little gargoyle is a nod to our European heritage and our slightly darker side. Photo 4 & 5: Christmas at our house in 2007. Photo 6: We got ambitious with our windowbox for the Spring/Summer of 2008 after I researched the window box article.

Living Room

Photo 1: We've been in the house for maybe a month. Boxes still remain to be unpacked. This is how we originally arranged our furniture, like the previous owner had. In such a small space, it wasn't obvious how things could be arranged, only how we had seen them. Although the front half of the house is original, the back half is an addition. Because it's newer, the back wall is essentially one big window which lets in a huge amount of natural light. The sliding door leads to a small backyard. Photo 2: Walk to the end of the sofa and turn around and this is what you see. We felt it was destiny that our sofa matched the wall colors. You can see that the ceiling is painted the same dark color as the walls which is something I don't recommend in a small space with limited lighting. I recommend KILZ primer highly as we went from dark to light throughout the house. In the beginning we didn't have a coffee table because we thought people would trip over it and fall down the stairs. Photo 3: This is the first of three working fireplaces in our house. The built-in shelving is essential in a small house where every nook counts. Photo 4: I had originally planned for something more muted but in the end, it's like sitting in a sunset on an autumn day, which we love. We painted the ceiling and trim white to emphasize the height of the room and return to a more traditional style. The free-standing shelving (an IKEA hack) divides the living space from the office space, an arrangement I originally didn't like the idea of but my husband eventually convinced me of and now I love it. Photo 5: This is the new front of the room. Photo 6: We could have either bought an expensive, custom-made mantle or sawn an period mantle in half. Neither seemed an attractive option. As it evolved, first I fell in love with the frame from IKEA. Then, a few months later, my husband found the floating shelf which had a very similar floral scroll design. I think it's a great old meets new solution that was very budget-friendly.


Photo 1: In the beginning, we put the home office in the living room closet. Seemed like a good idea at the time and it allowed for the living room to be one open space. Photo 2: After we painted. Photo 3: Separating the space was my husband's idea. Originally I was against doing it because the room isn't very big, even in its entirely. However, the dropped ceiling in the back half of the room already separates things visually. Light filters through the open shelving. I refuse to part with any more books even though I know it's crowded. Photo 4: Having this area separated gave us a place to hide our behemouth jogging stroller. It's also a separate place to work, even with other people around. Since this photo, we've gotten a much nicer desk that encloses all the electronics very nicely.

Dining Room

Photo 1: We didn't realize how big our last kitchen was and how small this kitchen is so our dishes had to go on shelving in the dining room. Luckily open shelving is in vogue. Photo 2: The original working fireplace in the dining room. The insert is a later addition but helps keep guests' backs from getting toasted. Photo 3: We really liked the color so we just painted it a slighly less orangey-red color. It was the only room we didn't have to use three coats of primer with. Although small, the window lets in a lot of light. Photo 4: We replaced the totally open shelving with a more traditional china cabinet from IKEA. Thankfully IKEA, flatpack is the only thing that fits down the stairs, has a few styles which are based on Swedish 18th Century furniture so it works well with our house and is much cheaper than antiques. Finally, even though you can't smell either, we wanted to camophlage the garbage cans and litter box. Stashing them under the table with the drap solved the problem. Of course things would work so much better with half the things out of the room but this is a real house... not staged. Our cats and turtle live here too.


Photo 1 & 2: The kitchen and the dining room are on the same floor. This is the kitchen when we first moved in. It took a little while to acclimate to the size difference from our previous kitchen. Photo 3 & 4: That countertop was hard to match. Along with the rich red color in the dining area, we decided a neutral white would be our best bet. One of my favorite architectural aspects of this room is the skylight which makes an otherwise tight corner, very cheery. Photo 5: The kitchen is about 5 feet wide. We've since reduced the clutter a bit which helps. Believe it or not, two people can cook in this kitchen - one prepping and the other cooking. For one cook, it works out great that everything is within an arms length. I also want to note that I am well aware of the faux paux of having stuff on your fridge. But again, this is a real house with actual people living in it, including one young person who likes to share her artwork. I also want remind everyone to make sure they have a fire extinguisher in their kitchen. I lit a previous kitchen on fire so it does come in handy.

Our Daughter's Room

Photo 1: Kids rooms are always hard. It's impossible to keep them tidy since kids are not unlike little tornados. It's difficult when you don't have a door to close, which we don't since it's a vertically open plan. Photo 2: How many kids do you know who have a working fireplace in their room? I imagine when she gets older we might let her actually use it. Unlike the living room, her mantle is intact although with everything painted the same color you can hardly see it. Photo 3: We have since changed her room a little bit, this picture being about a year old. With every year, we get rid of more loudly-colored toys. She picked out the color herself. Photo 4: Now you can see the mantle which is a nice dark chocolate brown color. What you don't see is the washer/dryer that's in the closet. My daughter is very accommodating, sharing her room on laundry day.


Photo 1: The original bathroom. It's really hard to photograph because it's rather small. Right off the bat, we knew we were going to paint this room. Photo 2: A nearly complete overhall, minus any severe plumbing work. Originally the washer/dryer was in the closet but the new heating unit was too big for the washer/dryer to fit. Instead we have a lot of closet space here that we have yet to utilize.

Master Bedroom

Photo 1: With lemon yellow and cantalope orange walls, we were calling this room tropical fantasy. Unfortunately we are not tropical fantasy kind of people. Photo 2: Originally we though the drawers would only fit here. Quite a few bumped heads were a result. Photo 3: Without a linen closet, using this Expidit from IKEA on it's side seemed to solve the problem. Not the neatest but it worked. Photo 4: The previous owner had her bed in the same place. Things were a little hectic when we first moved in so things just went in whatever place they sort of landed in. With a high headboard I didn't think the bed could fit under the sloped side. Right above the bed is a skylight. It seems like a very pleasent thing to sleep under the stars. In reality, not so. For one thing, it is never dark and when it rains, the sound is deafening. Photo 5: After painting. I matched the color to a shade of sky seen from the skylight. I actually taped the color swatches to the skylight to compare. Photo 6: This was a perfect fit. We got boxes for our linens which looks tremendously neater and wasn't that expensive since they're cardboard. Photo 7: It does fit! And we have the bed on risers so more fits underneath. Behind the bed is also additional storage. The bed is part of the Leksvik collection at IKEA which is modeled after 18th Century designs. Photo 8: In moving the dressers to the other side, we no longer hit our heads when we dress and the room looks much larger because of the open space. Photo 9: We have a wonderful little balcony, just enough for a garden. Like in the living room, the back wall is entirely window which really opens the space up. When our tree is in full bloom, it's like living in a tree house.

And that's our little row house. Thanks for visiting with us. Stay tuned for new photos are our house evolves.

Suzanne Dreitlein

back to top

Brownstone stoop in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

All contents, copy, graphics, code and sound © 2010 - Exclusive Property of RowHouse Magazine except where noted.
contact us
about RowHouse Magazine

* - Please note that this web site is not affiliated with Philadelphia Row Home magazine.