Furness Mansion

Rittenhouse

Frank Furness, 1895

Frank Furness was one of Philadelphia’s most important, prolific, and controversial architects of the Gilded Age. The Jayne House has an intriguing and idiosyncratic terracotta façade that immediately expresses the unique power and vision of the architect. The current owners wanted to adapt the interiors for 21st-century living without losing the historical character of this masterpiece, but the design and integrity of this once-great townhouse were almost completely obliterated in successive renovations for commercial use. Left with acoustical tile-ceilinged cubicle-like rooms and no extant original plans, we joined a team of architectural archaeologists to discover clues about the original layout, materials, and details from the remaining areas revealing original character. We researched plans of other Furness houses of this particular time frame and worked with John Milner Architects to extrapolate likely scenarios. Every square inch of the house was studied to restore this astonishing structure to its original use as a family residence of peerless character.

These glamorous rooms are meant to be lived in, so fragile fabrics and antique furnishings were placed strategically to extend their lifespan. Period lighting fixtures and 19th Century antiques mingle with original millwork, and a scenic mural based on country house precedents supports the breathtaking 400 square foot leaded glass skylight. We designed numerous custom light fixtures based on a single surviving example, produced wallpapers inspired by the originals, and created trompe l’oeil stained glass compositions reminiscent of the original skylights. In the end, this historic home is now livable, touchable, and thoroughly welcoming.

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With no extant original plans and many details altered in successive renovations, we joined a team of architectural archaeologists to discover clues about the original layout, materials, and details from the remaining areas revealing original character.

Client

Barbara and her entire team listened to what we hoped to accomplish with this restoration — and they rose to the challenge! Well done!