Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're headed to Fishtown tonight...PostGreen Web Launch Party!

Join us tonight at PostGreen's launch party to kick off the next phase of their development plans- 15 new, modern, green homes in the coming year- and their new website, where you can customize your very own green home online.

Thursday, July 30, 6pm
2424 E. York St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
More info: click here.

Christopher Stromberg & Dave Quadrini will be on hand as reps from Bench Dog Design for anyone interested in learning more about our custom furniture that utilizes wood reclaimed from Philadelphia homes & warehouses. Our workshop just a few blocks away in the same Fishtown neighborhood, so who knows...after a few beers, you just might be able to talk them into a tour.

If you can't see the slideshow below, click here to see final images of the 100k House Table, which was Bench Dog's first project commissioned by PostGreen. (A big thanks to Carryn Golden of Golden Silhouette for the photography expertise).

For anyone who doesn't know Chad & Nic personally, they're incredibly easy to work with and continually inspire us in their vision. We look forward to future collaborations...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunset Open House, Friday 7/24

Please join us tomorrow evening for a special Open House!

Sunset Open House
Friday, July 24, 5-7:30pm
1536 Montrose St, Phila, PA, 19146
RSVP requested to krupp[at]

Sunset is at 7:22pm...
Enjoy local art, wine & cheese, and a skyline view from the green roof.
Learn about green building and the ways you can update your own home to be more energy-efficient.

For those who aren't able to attend, take a look at our latest photo album that documents the interior finish work, reclaimed wood vanity, salvaged pine paneling, kitchen cabinet installation, and custom rainwater harvesting system. If you live in the Philadelphia area, mark your calendar now for our two August Open House events, Sun. 8/9 from 11am-1pm & Sun. 8/23 from 2-4pm.

Contact Krupp[at] or call 215.740.8355 if you are interested in scheduling a private showing of Montrose Green.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some kind words from PHS / Philadelphia Green

Click here to read the latest post from Philadelphia Green News - a blog published by Philadelphia Green which mentions Montrose Green and our recently constructed stormwater planter.

Philadelphia Green® is a program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and is the nation’s most comprehensive urban greening program. Since 1974, Philadelphia Green has supported the development and ongoing care of community gardens, neighborhood parks and high-profile public green spaces in Philadelphia.

Sign up to receive RSS updates from Philadelphia Green News here and stay up-to-date on summer events in your neighborhood park, sign up to become a Tree Tender, learn about the City Harvest program, and the other innovative ways that Philadelphia Green & PHS are leading the green movement in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Artists

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the two artists that provided the artwork for our recent Open House at Montrose Green. We have always been proponents of the powerful combination of art and architecture. These two artists share this philosophy: one through the expression of the material with which things are made, and the other through the expression of the people who inhabit our world.

The paintings and mixed-media pieces are the work of Marjorie Tether Arendt. "Marjorie’s paintings are inspired by structures and the materials from which they are made, including oils, paper, cardboard, encaustic and wood". Marjorie is also a fellow architect, mother of two (a big welcome to baby Rowan!), and friend of the family. We discovered Marjorie's work at an exhibition at AxD Gallery a couple of years back and were immediately drawn to it. We feel very privileged to have her work grace the spaces of our house. The hand crafted detail and creative exploration of various materials in her work continually amaze and inspire us. If you attended the Open House and are interested in any particular piece, or if you would like to come tour the house and see the artwork, please either post a comment on our blog or send and email directly to Marjorie at: wolf.margie[at]

The large beautiful photographs are the work of our good friend Nema Etebar. Nema's photographs capture..."philadelphia soul.. interest in people and how they move, smile, dance, worry or not with their thoughts/are forever... photo-picture :: picture-photo... bringing back moments and memoirs.. into the streets, this city in time as time dose...has changed life". Nema has a remarkable way of vividly capturing the essence of a character in time and place. Please check out his website at: Make sure you take time to scroll through the various sections of his portfolio. You can also visit his JPG site to vote on your favorite photos. Although we love his images of Philly local color...the shots from his recent trip to India are truly amazing. If you attended the Open House and are interested in any particular piece, or if you would like to come tour the house and see the photos, please either post a comment on our blog or send and email directly to Nema at: nemaetebar[at]

Many thanks to Margie and Nema for loaning their work and enlightening our spaces.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Open House- this Saturday, 7/11

Hope to see everyone on Saturday afternoon from 3-8pm!
Montrose Green: Open House
1536 Montrose Street, 19146

A big thanks to our event supporters, recognized below.
  • Triumph Brewing Company
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Pumpkin Restaurant/Market/Cafe
  • Betty's Tasty Buttons
  • C & R Building Supply
Local music by Chris Devenney of New Pony, Christopher Farrell of Rit Mo Collective, and Kaveh Saidi. Local artwork on display by Marjorie Tether Arendt (painting/mixed media) and Nema Etebar (photography).

For those not able to walk/bike/take public transit...

Parking will be available nearby:
C&R Building Supply
1600 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Signs will guide you back to Montrose Green (1.5 blocks away)

Friday, July 3, 2009

How to build a Stormwater Planter...

We have successfully installed a stormwater planter in front of Montrose Green. And what exactly is a "stormwater planter", you ask? Well, it's similar to the tree wells that you typically see in the sidewalks running along the city streets, but bigger and constructed much differently. Here is a portion of a previous blog post explaining a bit about stormwater planters and how we were inspired to install one at Montrose Green...

(from June 18, 2008) "The Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds has embarked on an ambitious program to install stormwater planters that are designed to capture and infiltrate street run-off. There was a presentation of this at PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) recently that Emily and I attended...The concept is pretty simple: basically, instead of having continuous impervious paving along the street (with the occasional tree), we can create small stretches of pervious planting beds (up to 20' long) that will infiltrate sidewalk and street run-off. There is also a scheme to do an island 'bump out' that essentially takes the place of a parking space and replaces it with a lush vegetated area that can capture run-off. Obviously, these also greatly enhance the aesthetic of the street as well as contribute to better air quality."

The basic Stormwater Planter diagram, in section...

Here's a link (click here) to an informative document that describes stormwater planters in greater detail.

So it didn't take much for us to be convinced that installing a stormwater planter at Montrose Green would be a worthwhile venture. When it came time to bust up and re-pour our sidewalk a few weeks ago, we marked off an area along the street roughly 3'-6" wide x 15'-0" long and didn't pour any concrete there. After the sidewalk was set in the remaining area, we began the construction process.
Because neither of us are plant experts, the first thing we did was to team up with a great landscape designer to help us with the planter construction as well as the plant selection. We met Brian Weinrich through our contractor, Merlin, who is also helping Brian renovate his own house in South Philly. Brian actually works for the City Planning Commission, so between his landscape background and involvement with urban issues, he was definitely excited about helping us out with the planter. Below are his initial concept sketches (with planting options) as well as his final colored plan.

The curved stone path running through the middle of the planter represents a dry "riverbed" that will fill up during heavy rains. You can also see that we decided to go with three different trees and various arrangements of ground coverings....all of which need to be wet tolerant, due to the amount of water the planter will take on after a big storm.

One of the most challenging parts of this endeavor was the fact we had to dig the planter well by hand due to the utilities -gas and water lines- underneath. Above you can see me (on the left) and Anastasio (from Merlin's crew) digging away. The recommended planter depth is roughly 3'-0" deep. Ugh! It took us a couple days, but we finally got it all cleared out.

Above is a series of photos showing the steps involved in adding the drainage bed of fabric-wrapped 'clean stone'.
Step 1: the cleared out planter, Step 2: we laid permeable landscape fabric down, leaving a few feet of extra material in all sides, Step 3: fill the well with 18" of clean stone, Step 4: wrap the extra fabric up and over the top of the stone, essentially fully encasing the the stone as to prevent any dirt from getting into the drainage bed, compromising its effectiveness. This portion of the planter allows large amounts of water to infiltrate and recharge the ground water system below.

When it came time to select the plants and the soil mixture, we utilized two sources: One was a large nursery out in Lancaster County (where we got the trees and a few of the larger plants) and the other was our favorite local nursery,
Greensgrow Farms, up in the Fishtown area of Philly. We have been going to Greensgrow for years, enjoying their nursery and farmstand, and have also been proud members of their unique CSA. Above, you can see the various bags of material we used for the soil mixture. Brian felt a nice variety of compost (mushroom and leaf), shredded woods, soil conditioner, and sand would make for a rich, well-drained mix for the plants. You can also see a few of the native annuals & ground coverings we purchased. For the trees, we selected a Sweetbay Magnolia, a White Fringe, and a Serviceberry (or Juneberry) which all have different qualities.

Here's a great little clip of the truck (from Cava Building Supplies) delivering over 3 tons of clean stone. I will be honest in saying I was pretty nervous when I saw how much stone dumped out of the back of that truck. I felt we had way too much. In the end, we only needed about 2-1/2 tons but were able to utilize the rest in the back yard rain garden.

So after a long weekend of planting, our stormwater planter came to life...Above you can see Brian (top center image) knee deep into the planting process. And to make extra sure we were planting the correct species - the trees, along with almost all of the other plantings, came from PHS's list of plant species recommended for stormwater planters.
It's not published on their website yet, but we have our sources. The recommended species list includes native plants that are hydrophillic (water-loving), as well as hardy & salt-tolerant due to their proximity to the harsh conditions of street life.

Above are some detail shots of the planter. Hard to believe this is front of a Philly rowhome, huh? We are very pleased with the outcome. Thanks so much to Brian for all his expertise and hard work. In fact we were so excited about our planter that we entered it (along with the green roof and the rear yard rain garden) into the PHS "City Gardens Contest". Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Togo Construction - our finish carpenters

So it's funny how some things come about. Emily and I have been practicing architecture for several years now...about 4 of them in Philly. We have made a lot of connections in the construction industry. So when it came down to finding the right team of carpenters to help us finish Montrose Green, you'd think they would come through our numerous connections "in the business" right? Well, not exactly.

About a month ago, Emily and I were strolling through our neighborhood (Grad Hospital) with my in-laws and we dropped into a new artisan confections shop called Betty's Speakeasy (aka Betty's Tasty Buttons). Needless to say, the amazing selection of sweets made with local ingredients was the main attraction. But we also took note, as architects inevitably do, of the design details of the space. In addition to noticing the use of reclaimed wood floors for trim, custom concrete countertops, and other unique features...we also admired the craft in which the details were executed. Emily asked the owner about the carpentry work and she gave us the contact info for Togo Construction. She highly recommended the company, especially if we were looking for unique designs constructed with reclaimed materials. We smiled and gave her the address to our blog.

Togo Construction is owned and operated by Lance Morabito. In case you were wondering, the name 'Togo' comes from a classic modern couch designed in the early '70's by Michael Ducaroy. Now what does the Togo couch have to do with Lance's company? Not much, actually. He just really likes the couch and thought it was a catchy name. Fair enough.

Anyway, we called Lance the following day to see if he might be interested in helping us out at Montrose Green. He met us the next day, walked through the house, expressed a genuine interest in what we're doing, and has been on-site just about every day since then. His 'second' carpenter, Dave Palmer, has also been continually involved and the two of them are doing some really great work.

I hope that Lance knew what he was getting into when he agreed help to finish out a design/build project being run by the owner who is also the architect...and on-site everyday. Let's just say that I get fairly particular sometimes regarding design details. The great thing is that Lance seems to be just as particular about the way his work is constructed. Finding a carpenter (never mind two of them) that are totally into modern detailing and all its nuances who have the tools, skills, and creative insight to successfully execute those details is a rare find these days. Lance also has a genuine interest in working with reclaimed materials and finding new and creative ways to incorporate them into the project.

Togo recently completed all the trim work for the house. You can see below a few images of the 'nearly finished' details. The door/window/baseboard detail that we used is considered a 'museum' or 'gallery' trim detail. Basically, all the wood trim sits flush with the face of the drywall and is separated by a continuous 1/4" reveal (the obligatory modern detail). It took a lot of discussion and some trial and error to figure out the cleanest way to build this detail, but in the end it came out beautifully. These images are from the third floor which is being touched up with a final coat of joint compound (or spackle). The shot with the ceiling fan is looking through one of the bedroom transoms.

Togo Construction is currently working on the rear yard cedar fence (images below). I have had the design of this fence in my head for a long time, so I'm pretty excited to finally see it come to life. Lance also appears to have a fascination with pouring concrete, so we're now discussing going back to one of our original ideas of pouring concrete pavers for the rear yard patio that would incorporate 50% slag in the mix along with some color pigment.

Below are a few shots of Lance and Dave working on the details of the cedar fence.

Finding high quality craftsman who take pride in their work is a real treat. Along with Merlin and LCB Construction (our GC), we are excited to have Togo Construction as part of the SoLibs team.