Hugh Blanchetti and Zach Boyers found their perfect home in Manayunk, a 1,600-square-foot duplex built around 1860. When Blanchetti purchased the house in April 2019 and began some DIY renovations, the couple discovered that the house contained hidden gems.
“There was a leak in our second-floor bathroom, and when we turned off one of the lights, we saw a beam,” said Blanchett, an ambulance assistant with the Philadelphia Fire Department. “We tore down the ceiling to expose these beams, which, along with the original floorboards, give the house an old world charm.”
When they removed the layers of stucco and plaster, they also gained height. It turns out there were hidden beams in the master bathroom and guest bedroom, too. To match, they added new beams in their attic bedroom on the third floor.
“Packages have become a home theme,” said Bowers, a project manager for New York-based software company, Obraviv.
The first floor of the three-storey house includes the kitchen, living room and half bathroom. At the top of the narrow, winding staircase is a guest room, office, and full bathroom. Uphill, another narrow winding flight is a large, third-floor loft with a master bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area. Although they could now appreciate those stairs, that wasn’t the case on the day of the move.
“Nothing could go up the stairs, and the movers were not prepared to lift them through the window,” Blanchett recalls. They hired a different company to lift the furniture through the second floor window.
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“We thought that would be a very special style of movement, but then we realized they only used the straps to pull the furniture up,” Bowers said. “We’ve been doing it ourselves ever since.”
One of their favorite places is the living room, where they installed an electric fireplace and an antique hood they found on Facebook Marketplace. They added decorative tile and bookshelves, a chair rail, and crown molding to create a cozy central focal point.
“The house had a central fireplace, but it was removed over 150 years ago,” Boyers said.
Across from the fireplace, a stunning gallery-style picture wall is displayed above the sofa. Inspired by museum visits as a child growing up in San Antonio, Boyers started with one old picture in an ornate frame and built it from there.
He said, “We can’t buy Van Gogh, but you can find great things at antiques and thrift stores.” “I go for things that look Victorian. There are bits and pieces about us. There are two pictures of Hugh’s relatives, there are a few George Washington because he’s from Virginia, and some old historical photos of Philadelphia. We mix things up frequently.”
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Another favorite space of the couple is the master bathroom, which they renovated out of necessity. Blanchetti is 6-foot-4 and the Boyers is 5-foot-11, but with a pitched-down ceiling, bathroom ceiling angles were an issue.
“Neither Hugh nor I could fully stand anywhere in the bathroom next to the bathroom,” Bowers recalls. “We spent two years with this bathroom and decided if we experimented with the wall between the cabinet and the bathroom, we could reconfigure the space for a double table where we could stand, with a better bathtub and shower.”
During the renovation, they discovered the original wood flooring under the existing tiles and ceiling beams above the drywall. They found the phone booth shower for its classic look and as a complement to mosaic tile for the shower floor and dark grout.
Their home is filled with flowering plants, from roving philodendrons to potted succulents. The Boyers have the indoor green thumb, while Blanchetti is in charge of the outdoor vegetable garden.
Blanchettie said the backyard was their most ambitious project—a sort of weedy apocalypse, a rusty old clothes line and a hammock set. That space was especially important for half-year-old chocolate Lab, Cooper, and 6-year-old orange cat, Chitto.
After the property was vacated, Blanchett installed a fence and garden.
“I grew up on a farm in Virginia,” said Blanchett. “It’s my way of bringing a piece of my childhood here.”
Their home has been a haven, especially during the pandemic. Now that things are safer and the weather is nice, they enjoy entertaining, especially in the summer when the tomatoes grow in the trellises and the grass is green.
“We still have projects to do, but after that, we hope to settle here for a while,” said Boyers, who shared his progress with more than 12,000 followers of “thisyunkyhouse” on Instagram.
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