Finding Space in the City - Design Bureau

Terra Studio - Catherine St. Residence

Terra Studio - Catherine St. Residence

Terra Studio - Catherine St. Residence

Terra Studio - Catherine St. Residence 

Finding Space in the City

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Photos by Sam Oberter 

This architecture firm makes “urban comfort” a reality in a historic Philly ’hood. Any loyal urbanite will tell you that nothing compares to the vibrancy of city life. But for many city dwellers, urban living can mean having to sacrifice a little extra room to breathe.

“One of the challenges of building in a city is that you really have to capitalize on the space you are given,” says principal architect Timothy Kerner of Terra Studio, a Philadelphia-based architecture and design firm.

So when Kerner and his team were tasked to completely renovate and redesign a relatively narrow townhouse in Philadelphia’s historic Bella Vista neighborhood, they went to work on a design that would be stylish enough for the city but also bright, casual, and spacious enough to accommodate day-to-day activities.

“We began this project by getting to know our clients and their lifestyle,” says Kerner, whose firm worked closely with The Sullivan Company, the general contractors for this project. “It was important for the house to link together many aspects of sustainable city living with the specific needs of the homeowners.”

Providing the entire space with a warm, natural primary tone, Terra Studio used sustainably sourced bamboo flooring throughout the house and added energy-efficient glass doors to draw sunlight in through the kitchen from the back of the residence.

And because the owners of the house utilize bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, Terra Studio decided to better integrate the transition between the backyard and the side of the house, where their bikes are at the ready. The team designed a large multilevel back deck that facilitates an organic flow from outdoor to indoor areas.

“What we find with these older houses is that they typically don’t have good connections between the interior and exterior spaces,” Kerner says. “By restructuring the house, we opened it up to create more useful and varied living areas.”

When it came to the interior design of the residence, team member Carlo Fiammenghi chose contemporary furnishings that complement both the client’s art collection and the building materials that are used throughout the house. The cohesive interplay of cool and warm colors and materials successfully creates a look that is simultaneously chic and welcoming.

“Some austerely modern houses are a bit inhospitable,” Kerner says. “With this design, all of the elements come together to create a modern and comfortable urban residence.”



A family-owned and operated GC specializing in high-end renovations and additions, The Sullivan Company shined on this residential renovation thanks to an emphasis on quality materials and unique design features.

“When collaborated correctly,” owner Jim Sullivan says, “the architect/ contractor relationship allows design vision to be successful, giving both trades great satisfaction and leaving the client extremely excited and happy.”

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