At one time, Robert and Tami Jamieson considered themselves urban dwellers, having spent most of their adult lives in New York City and Philadelphia. But the desire for a larger home—one they could remodel with their own point of view—pushed them out of the city and into suburbia.
“We could never find the right property. Most of the things we saw were already remodeled in a Home Depot style and we would have been paying for something just to rip it out and start over,” says Robert. “That is when we started casting a wider net and considering moving outside of the city.”
They found themselves in Wayne, Pennsylvania, about 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia. There, they discovered homes by Robert McElroy, a modern architect whose work populates the area around the City of Brotherly Love.
Hallmarks of McElroy’s work include soaring roof lines and ceiling planes, and large floor-to-ceiling windows that generally look out on a wooded site.
When the Jamiesons spotted these homes, they felt their city roots loosen. “Not living in an urban area was a weird thought for us, but this house seemed like an escape,” Robert says. “We were drawn to the McElroys because they are modern homes that align with our sensibilities. They are really in nature, and not cookie cutter houses on a street with other cookie cutter houses.”
The house, a classic McElroy built in 1968, also worked its magic on Tami. “The nature around it makes it feel like we live in a treehouse, and it’s stunning in all seasons,” she says.
Floor-to-ceiling windows are a nearly invisible dividing line between the interior and nature, and give the impression you could stretch out your hand and brush the leaves while sitting on the sofa. “It’s part of the experience,” Tami says, noting that although it appears secluded, the foliage is merely a screen and the home is convenient to everything.
But by choosing this home, the couple signed up for a remodel as well as pretty landscape views. “The house was in really good shape,” says Robert. “But it was nearly 50 years old, and the kitchen and bathrooms were original and needed to be updated.”
The Jamiesons brought their creative spirit to the project—he’s a designer and the founder of Studio Robert Jamieson (a residential and commercial design firm) and she’s senior concept director at Anthropologie—keeping the classic modern spirit, but injecting freshness in the mix. “Whether or not we should have put in a true midcentury kitchen and bath could be a conversation,” Robert says.
“We could have chosen to do a period remodel that followed all of the principles of midcentury modern design, but we chose a different path that we felt still fits with the home,” Robert says. “We decided to add contemporary, authentic materials that we were drawn to and that spoke directly to us, and that’s the thread that runs through the entire project.”
For instance, the maple floors once lived in the gymnasium of a Wisconsin university, and the occasional patches of blue and red used to make up the team’s logo and boundary lines on the basketball court.
In the kitchen, the backsplash is composed with a row of dip-dyed tiles that give the space a handcrafted look. This is where the couple made a slight change to the interior architecture, removing a row of upper cabinets that separated the kitchen from the dining room. “Now that they are more open to each other, the space is much lighter. Removing those cabinets was literally the first thing we did,” says Robert.
With a live-edge dining table and chairs that are works of art (a friend makes them by applying thrifted paintings to the backs and seats) the dining room hits both rustic and refined notes. The large R is a piece of architectural salvage. “We also have a T, for Tami, but it’s in storage right now—we purchased the the letters when we had a loft with 18-foot ceilings,” says Robert. Tami’s presence is felt in the row of plants on a wall-hung shelf. “I give her credit for all of the greenery in the house—that’s one of her passions.”
Since both Jamiesons are creative and have distinct aesthetic opinions, working on a project as a team could be a challenge. “Decorating with interesting found objects is her, the clean modern lines are me,” says Robert. “We both have strong, independent views on aesthetics. Even simple design decisions for our home can be a long process of discussion and compromise, but in the end, we always land on something that we both agree on and is probably better than what either of us would do individually. We both have positive influences on each other’s personal style.”
In the bedroom, the motif of growing things contributes to the indoor-outdoor nature of the space. A wall covering decorated with birch trees seems to meld with the trees outside. “I love the way the house sits on the land,” says Robert.
Tami feels the same way. “I absolutely love the outdoors being part of our interior. We see deer and fox on a regular basis, and our son Axel enjoys naming them—my favorite is Marshmallow the fox,” she says. “This is the first place I have ever lived that is completely quiet and dark at night. I never thought I’d live in the suburbs, but I love waking to the sound of the birds and a running creek.”