A Historical Pennsylvania Home Is Refined and Casual All at Once

Its vibrant interior rivals the breathtaking gardens.

wendy wurtzburger and chris bentley
David A. Land

Celia Barbour: This home looks like it’s in the countryside — or perhaps the suburbs?

Bentley: It’s actually within the Philadelphia city limits.

Wentzburger: But it’s on four- and-a-half acres, and it backs onto a park, so it’s really oriented toward nature. It was built in 1840 and feels like an old farmhouse: The rooms are small and low-ceilinged, and it has those nooks and crannies that old houses have.

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In other ways, too, your house defies easy categorization.

WW: Chris and I are collectors — we love family and pets and plants and art and history. The way we choose to live is to put it all together.

Fine antiques are also in the mix.

CB: Those are mostly from my family.

WW: They’re heirlooms, but we’re not fancy — we mix refined with casual, so we have this history of both of our families.

wendy wurtzburger and chris bentley sitting area
David A. Land

It’s like a scrapbook of your lives. How do you keep it from looking like a hodgepodge?

WW: The rooms are themed around our collections and our art, but it’s not literal. We group things by instinct, to create visual storytelling. We’re both stylists in different ways: Chris has been a photo­grapher and painter, and I have created stories around merchandise for my entire professional life, first in my 16 years at Anthropologie, and now with my new ventures, Roar + Rabbit and Until Soon.

How does this play out in your decorating choices?

WW: When we moved into the house, we’d already been collecting a lot of natural objects — rocks, pods, bird nests, deer heads — so we called the living room “the nature room” because they found a home there. But over time, that room also became about pattern: The abstract images above the sofa are collages of butterfly wings, there’s a vintage Hermès bird-print scarf that I had framed, and Chris’s collection of floral Murano and resin paperweights is clustered on the table.

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Like nature through the looking glass.

WW: A certain kind of fantasy interests me: I love oversize flora and fauna. Like the giant crepe paper flowers in the umbrella stand by the front door, or the library, where an exploded floral print covers the table and giant butterflies adorn the ottoman. In the dining room, a living trumpet vine grows right out of the cupboard. It comes in through the basement somehow. We cut it back every year, but it returns. It’s like the spirit of the house.

CB: Or Little Shop of Horrors.

wendy wurtzburger and chris bentley master bedroom
David A. Land

You also take a fantastical approach to mixing patterns.

WW: I love textiles, and each one tells a story: the bedspread from India, a scarf I found at a Paris flea market. The duvet on our bed looks 1970s Scandinavian, but I actually found it at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. And I collect contemporary art. An artist made those way-beyond-bargello pillows in the living room — I was excited by the idea of using them en masse, like an installation.

Color seems to play an important role.

WW: The palette was a conscious choice, as well as an evolution.

CB: The living room colors were based on a mural of this house commissioned by the previous owners. In the library, I chose deep blue to accentuate the snow paintings over the sofa. It makes the room feel more modern and also intimate. The bedroom color — it’s called Absinthe — was inspired by a trip to Belgium.

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And you use color to accentuate details.

CB: A lot of the millwork ideas, like the painted door panels and the interior of the dining room cupboards, were inspired by our travels, particularly to Charleston house in England.

WW: Once you start mixing colors, you kind of have to keep going, and you have to be bold about it.

wendy wurtzburger and chris bentley pergola
David A. Land

How did you bring your design sense outdoors?

CB: The plan of the garden reflects the history of this property and the existing stonework, which uses the local schist. But the plants are a riot of colors, from swaths of yellow daffodils in spring to peonies in early summer, then later, blue and yellow borders. Just like in the house, we like a wild assortment of everything.

WW: It’s all about mixing and fantasy — taking what we love and using it to create an original style.

See more photos of this gorgeous home:

This story originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of CQ.

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