by Heather Duffy
Occupation: Fifth-grade teacher.
Style: 1,224-square-foot house.
Since November Kamau Stanford has rented a 100-year-old Victorian-style house from his best friend, Bobby Spears Jr., who bought the property two years ago. "He never lived here. It was an investment property for him," says Stanford.
A Germantown native, Stanford, 28, went to college in Washington, D.C. He moved back to the city early in 2002 and took up residence in Northern Liberties, which remains his favorite Philly neighborhood.
When Spears' previous renters didn't work out, Stanford moved into the space.
It's a three-bedroom, but since the house has little closet space, the room adjacent to the master bedroom is used as a closet and dressing room. The eat-in kitchen has a built-in island and tons of counter space. There's a built-in couch and entertainment unit in the living room that also features a wood-burning stove.
The home includes a basement laundry room, an office and a modest backyard. But the eye candy of the space is the woodwork and exposed brick. The brick stretches the length of one wall, from the kitchen to the living room, and warms up both rooms while adding to the home's soft lighting.
The wood, from the built-ins to the floor, has been well cared for over the years. But it's the wooden center staircase that remains the home's central focus. With a raised platform at the bottom, the staircase appears massive in its role of separating the kitchen and a seating area from the living room.
The space has undergone several renovations. Part of the long kitchen countertop was removed to make room for a half-bath on the first floor. A new kitchen floor was laid. More of the brick was exposed and weatherproofed, and the woodwork was cleaned. Last year, before most of the renovations, the house was appraised at $75,000.
Describe the space and decor.
"I kind of went after my own '70s and '80s retro feel. I just brought my own furniture in--a '70s bar, leather chairs, a patchwork leather couch--and added my paintings and pictures that accented the house's character. I think the house has this Urban Outfitters feel to it. Or a Ms. PacMan pinball machine. If I had one, it'd be perfect. There's wood and brick, earth tones of oranges and browns. The lighting is always soft, and there's lots of natural lighting. What I like most about the house is its character. I was amazed how well my old furnishings fit in this space. I also like the location. I used to live in Northern Liberties, and I'm truly a city mouse. I especially like how I'm out of the city, where it's quieter and cleaner, but close enough that I can get to the city quickly."
What have you done to the space?
"The kitchen floor was retiled and the countertop cut down to install a powder room. The brick in the kitchen was covered in sheetrock. I saw the brick and thought it was weird that it started where it did, and I discovered that the brick covered the whole wall. So I tore down the sheetrock and glazed the brick to seal it. I put in wall-to-wall carpet upstairs. In the bedroom the lighting was so intrusive I made maroon velvet curtains that also help with the cold since the windows are so old. There are really no restrictions. Bobby and I have been friends for 10 years. We're both from Philly and we went to college together. Neither of us has a brother. I might buy this house, so it's in my interest to keep it to spec."
What are your favorite features?
"The wood-burning stove, the intimacy, the eat-in kitchen, the counter space, the yard space, the brick and wood. The brick front to back I really like. I'm not crazy about where the stairs are located. I would have done it different, but I like it. The house is quaint, small. Its character--I feel like it reflects me. This place is just fun. It's nice to watch TV in the kitchen on Sunday morning with breakfast and the paper. I don't know when I got so
What's the neighborhood like?
"The neighborhood is okay. A block in any direction is a different experience. What I liked about Northern Liberties is that it has a comfortable blend and is community oriented. Germantown has pockets--some white, most black. I don't really know this neighborhood. It's clean, it's quiet, but I don't have a reason to walk around and be Mr. Community."
Got a great space? Email Heather M. Duffy (hduffy@philadelphia weekly.com) with your name, neighborhood and contact info.