Toby & Samy’s Mid-Century Makeover

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Name: Toby Shawe and Samy Badawy
Location: Roxborough – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Size: 2300 square feet
Years lived in: 18; Renovated 2008 – 2010

“Space becomes more an exciting entity that is allowed to exist purely for the pleasure of experiencing it.” Architect Arthur Tofani spoke these words in 1958 in reference to one of his most notable works, the D’Onofrio Residence, but he could just as easily have been speaking about the home of Toby Shawe and Samy Badawy, which he also built, ten years earlier. Here, light flows from one room to the next, unimpeded by rigid formality. Slivers of stone become walls and casework acts as windows, with views to spaces just beyond.

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You might think a beautiful, historic home like this would be a challenge to live in. And you’d be partially right. Toby and Samy have worked to be respectful of the home’s roots, both in their furnishings and in their renovations. But they’ve also lived here 18 years, raised three children here, and from looks of it, had a lot of fun in the process.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Warm autumnal colors; Samy collects Japanese pottery and modern Japanese prints. These objects have influenced a lot of our style.

Inspiration: Our house is our inspiration. Built in 1949, by the Italian Architect Arthur Tofani, our house commands a certain level of respect as an homage to its mid-century modern, Eames/Frank Llyoyd Wright origins. It’s a bit like living in a museum; we feel an obligation to uphold the integrity of this landmark house.

Favorite Element: The custom dish drying rack in the kitchen. It’s a small detail, but it makes such a difference to have everyday functional elements that integrate seamlessly with the style of the house. You wouldn’t plop a plastic dish rack in a house like Fallingwater. Objects from a different era really stick out like a sore thumb in this house.

Biggest Challenge: How to modernize the house without destroying its original elements. One of the architect’s signature details was the use of random sized window walls. These exterior walls were all single pane glass and were in bad shape. We eventually decided to replace these walls with double insulated glass but we saved pieces of the colored glass and used them in other places in the house like the master bathroom door. Our house also has no right angles, so the designers had a real challenge designing the kitchen cabinets and the hall closet.

What Friends Say: This house begets questions. People always want to know the history of the house and who is our designer.

Biggest Embarrassment: While the house was under renovation, having to wash dishes in the snow with a hose in the backyard while wearing rubber boots and pajamas!!!

Cleverest Custom Touches: In the hidden bathroom, our design team created custom towel bars (including toilet paper holder) using off the shelf Home Depot copper plumbing fixtures! I love the rustic look. In the front entry closet, the bench is the perfect spot to sit and put on your shoes. At the same time, it hides the DVD and all the electrical components to the TV located on the other side of the closet wall. This allows the TV wall to be empty and not cover up the grass wall paper with components. In the front entry closet, there is no door to the foyer, just an angled wall. The designers tilted a full length mirror in the closet entry so that you can see yourself when you pass by. The mirror also reflects a wooded area outside an adjacent window. If the mirror was mounted directly to the wall, it would reflect the closet into the front entry and you wouldn’t be able to stand far enough back to see yourself. Mounting the mirror on an angled frame made all the difference! I love it every time I walk out the door.

Biggest Indulgence: Creating a brace to be able to open the fire place up on three sides, taking out the back staircase and replacing it with an open stairway and creating the hidden bathroom! Once we saw the plans, we couldn’t resist…..

Best Advice: Know the right people to hire; you will go through joy and tears with them! Be ready to dance in the moment. Large scale historic renovations take on a direction of their own. Be willing to move with it.

Dream Sources:

Principle designer: Val Nehez, StudioIQL

All metal fabrication including fireplace brace: Michael Jackson

All wood fabrication: John Doyle

All wood sourced from: Hearnes Hardwoods, family-run in Oxford, PA.

Lucite supplier:

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Resources of Note:


    • Benjamin Moore: Winter Solstice (living room)
    • Benjamin Moore Aura Collection: Vermillion (living room and kitchen accent color)
    • Benjamin Moore: Princeton Gold (library)
    • Benjamin Moore: Covington Blue (family room)


    • Glass doors, cabinetry and shelving: all custom
    • Couches: blu dot, Bo concepts


    • All cabinetry and metal work: custom
    • Bar stools: West Elm


    • Headboard: thrift store salvage
    • Grass wall paper added to headboard and on walls: Sherwin Williams


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Thanks, Toby & Samy!

Images: 1,2,13,16,21-23,26-27,32. JJ Fox 3-5,14-15, 17-20,24-25,29. Sam Oberter, 6-12. Michael Jackson

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