Philadelphia rowhouse remodel

Owner: Sesh Sundararaman

Builder: Walnut Tree Construction, Inc. + TerraCabinets

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Year Completed: 2012

Size: 440 square feet (renovated area)

Photos: John Carlano

Project Description

This project entailed the substantial renovation of the first floor of a two-story, early-20th century rowhouse located in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The most substantial changes occurred in and around the utility room at the rear of the house.  The opening in the brick masonry wall separating the utility room from the main part of the house was shifted in order to provide direct passage between the two.  As well, a full-lite exterior door was installed to give a direct line of sight outdoors (small rear yard), plus admit abundant natural light indoors.  These two (2) straightforward interventions significantly improved the circulation, sense of openness and general feel of the entire house.

The utility room itself was further reorganized.  An open niche serves as a convenient, out-of-the-way place to keep coats and footwear, and above, a large, deep shelf provides ample storage for suitcases, boxes, etc.  On the opposite side is a built-in bench with Slatwall (see below) above.  The refrigerator too is located in the utility room, though in a spot immediately proximate to the kitchen.  Easy to access, it functions and even feels as if it is part of the kitchen, without actually being in it, and so this bulky appliance does not compromise the openness of the space.

The kitchen itself has also otherwise been completely reconfigured and remodeled; fixtures and appliances, as well as storage, arranged in the interest of efficient flow and ease of use.

This particular project effectively demonstrates how just a few basic moves can result in a substantial improvement, particularly within a small Philadelphia rowhouse.


  • The large kitchen ‘peninsula’ provides ample space for food preparation, dining and is even a great spot to spread out and work.
  • In the utility room, one wall consists entirely of Slatwall slotted wall panel.  The horizontal grooves accommodate a wide variety of accessories (hooks, brackets, small baskets, etc), such that the homeowner, an avid cyclist, can easily store and readily access his helmet, water bottles and myriad other gear.  The accessories are easy to move and replace, making the system particularly adaptable and convenient as needs change over time.
  • A new 1st to 2nd floor stair, with uniform treads and risers, makes for safer passage up and down.
  • Several remedial structural interventions were made in order to reinforce poor framing connections and compromised joists, resulting in a stronger and safer house.
  • Environmentally-preferable products and materials include kitchen cabinetry fabricated with no added urea-formaldehyde (NAUF) particleboard panels made with 100% (pre-consumer) recycled wood fibers; sliding door and built-in bench made in reclaimed hardwoods; recessed light fixtures with state-of-the-art MR 16 High Output LED lamps; durable, non-toxic wood floor finish composed of whey protein (natural byproduct of cheese-making); careful insulation and air sealing of all exposed ducts (and pipes) and zero-VOC interior paint.