During the COVID-19 pandemic, many folks scrambled to find a comfy place to work from home—and lots of us are still reinterpreting seldom-used living rooms, guest rooms and dining rooms as highly functional, attractive and ergonomically friendly offices. In Westtown, an underutilized parlor was transformed into a home office with a desk that’s integrated into a wall of custom, built-in cabinetry painted vibrant blue and accented with brass hardware. A pair of cozy club chairs accommodates conferences with clients—or cocktails after hours. “Times change throughout life, and so do our needs,” says designer Kate FitzGerald-Wilks of Timeless Design in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. “The question that should be asked of each room in your home is, ‘Are you giving me what I want?’ You may need the room to serve dual purposes, while others are calling out for the wow factor.”
Long valued as durable yet beautiful flooring, porcelain tile is an increasingly popular choice for kitchen counters. Lucy O’Brien recently designed a cottage-style kitchen with counters and a feature backsplash that harken back visually to soapstone. Quarried in New England, the dark-veined stone is known for its ability to withstand heat. Despite its good looks, soapstone scratches and dings with wear and should be treated regularly with mineral oil. Instead, O’Brien sourced an artful look-alike: porcelain tile slabs from Elegantly Set in Stone, a seller and fabricator in Claymont, Delaware. “It’s great for wear and tear, and you don’t have the maintenance of traditional soapstone,” says O’Brien, founder of Tartan & Toile in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
Because the graining in porcelain slabs looks like natural stone, O’Brien sometimes mixes it with the real deal. In the kitchen at left, the island is topped with contrasting natural white marble.
Pollinator gardens are generating a lot of buzz, as they attract the critters who perform the essential task of pollinating fruits, veggies and other plants. That’s especially important now that pesticides, air pollution and climate change have dramatically reduced populations of pollinators in recent years. By creating an environment where pollinators flourish, gardeners can ensure that plants reproduce. “Gardens aren’t just places that look pretty,” says Cara Santoleri of Terren Landscapes in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. “They’re part of our ecosystem.”
Daytime bloomers like aster and coreopsis attract bees and butterflies. Evening primrose and other flowers that open after dusk keep moths, bats and other night-fliers happy. Pollinators are more familiar with native plants, so you’ll enjoy more sightings of butterflies and hummingbirds if you stick with indigenous species like Joe Pye weed. “We like to stay with native plants because they don’t need as much water and are better for the environment,” Santoleri says.