Through a series of interviews with Philadelphia’s burgeoning community –  real estate entrepreneurs, architects, designers, and developers – we’ll explore their unique process and perspective that is shaping Philly’s modern spaces. We’ll discuss how they are remixing the city’s historic past with creativity, design, entrepreneurship and lifestyle. As we take a deeper look into their 24-hour slice of home and how they live, work, play and invest in the city, we’ll follow the pulse of trends and developments that are influencing and inspiring the city’s new urbanism.

To break the ice, we launch the series with founders of boutique design firm SHOPHOUSE.  Known for their fresh aesthetic and unexpected approach, personal and property stylists, Kiley Baun & Betsy Helm reinterprets spaces with unbridled passion.


1.  What inspired your team to set up SHOPHOUSE DESIGN and a home in Philly? 

SHOPHOUSE has been an idea in our heads since we were in college. We moved to Philly around the same time and fell in love with the energy, history and the eclectic neighborhoods. After years of working separately in our fields, we were finally ready to work together as a team. We really felt our roots spreading here. It was the perfect time and place to start SHOPHOUSE.

2.  Which neighborhoods do you live in and why did you decide to buy a home there? 

Kiley Baun: South Philadelphia. I loved the sense of community I felt when I was looking at buying. I love that there are so many different people, so many unique places and its proximity to Center City.

Betsy Helm: Rittenhouse. In love with the feel of this neighborhood, proximity to the trail, highways and most of all, the charm. Nothing beats a morning coffee walk or an evening stroll admiring all of the architecture.

3.  What are your go-to hotspots? 

K: Nam Phuong for Pho, Stateside for a stiff drink, Mr. Martino’s for simple Italian and the best host in the city.

B: Audrey Claire and Barclay Prime have always been celebratory spots for me. With Dmitris gone, Gusto has been a great spot to bring a bottle of wine and share a pizza. We love to get our friends together for dinner picnics in Rittenhouse in the summer as well.

4.  What’s unique to Philadelphia design and architecture? How is it changing?

B: What attracted me to Philadelphia was how rich it’s history is. Growing up in New England, I felt a strong pull to the architecture as well as its proximity to the coast. For us as designers, we appreciate the juxtaposition of the modern architecture that has been going up (Cira, Comcast) with historic homes in Old City and the Mansions in Rittenhouse.  This city serves as inspiration for us for how it all plays together. With all of the new tech companies moving to Philadelphia, we see a great future for our city as this brings a need for more housing, more dining, more gentrification in surrounding neighborhoods.

5.  How is SHOPHOUSE’s approach/process different from others? 

We have two completely different styles. We are very collaborative in our approach and love involving our clients in the process. We like to push our clients boundaries a bit while helping them make decisions that they will be happy with for years to come. We strive to make it a pressure free and fun process for our clients. Doesn’t everyone make better decisions when they aren’t under pressure?

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6.  What does a day usually entail for your team? What’s your 24-hour slice of life in Philly? 

A day is truly never the same for us. We spend a lot of days in and out of client meetings, visiting showrooms, stopping by job sites, planning events, working with artists. Although certainly rewarding, our job is definitely not always glamorous. Some days we are picking out toilets in our high heels at Home Depot, some days are spent in front of the computer drafting out kitchens and space planning, pulling our hair out until it just ‘clicks’. When the day is over, we can be found running the trails with our dogs, going to yoga and getting together with friends at a BYO. We are also pretty serious about our Bachelor Fantasy League (and yes, we do mean ABC’s the Bachelor).

7.  What inspires you as designers and stylists?

B: The mixing of styles. I am so inspired of the blending of details to create the perfect mix of modern and traditional. I think these layers speak to who we are as people, constantly evolving, and ever changing. We like to re-imagine spaces to best suit the needs and lifestyles of our client, we never try to do too much of one style.

K: Fashion. Fashion trends and interior trends go hand in hand. I love color and texture in both areas. When all the layers come together, it creates an amazing piece.

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8.  A home is a reflection of one’s personality and lifestyle. What style advice can you give to homebuyers on the search for their dream home? 

We always say focus on the envelope – everything you can’t shake out of the home.  The envelope is the most important layer in design. You can have the most beautiful couch in the world, but if you have a dated kitchen or odd layout, it won’t make one bit of a difference. Look at the potential, taking a wall down can change your life- literally. Look for high ceilings, interesting architectural details. There are so many easy changes that you can make to obtain what you want. Look at the granny houses, look at the houses with carpet on the walls, that’s where you can score. Many times clients hire us to house hunt with them, so that we can point out all of the potential that they would overlook.

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9. Can you offer some staging tips for sellers? 

Paint it a light neutral. Take all your personal items out of the space. Proper conversational layout in a space can change the tone of the room. Buyers want to picture all the fun things they will do in their new home. Don’t we all have the grandest of intentions while we are dreaming of the future? Set up a styled bar cart, put some fresh fruit and flowers in a vase. Turn on the lights when you know you are having a showing.

10. What exciting projects are on the horizon for you (that’s relevant to our audience)? 

We are working on so many great projects. We do both commercial and residential projects, and we’re starting a custom home building company. Lately, we have been working on a few new offices for tech companies, so we really get to have a lot of fun bringing our crazy ideas to life. Many of these commercial clients have become residential clients, and vice versa.

Holiday Home Edition: Winterize Your Home & Prep for the Holidays


With a forecast of early snow and freezing temperatures, now is the perfect time to start winterizing your home. We found cool and useful links to help you feel warmer, happier, richer and healthier for a stylish (and sane) holiday season.

Winterize Your Home

Image Credit: Blue Pueblo


Got the itch to escape the cold? Here’s how to get your vacant house ready for winter, so you can lounge on the beach without a care.

With chilly weather here, you naturally want to get wrapped up in your cozy and comfortable cocoon. But bringing warmth into your home has its costs. The average American household spends $2,200 annually on energy bills. Reduce energy costs with these helpful tips, so you hibernate peacefully.

Save time, money and energy with this comprehensive checklist to prep your home for the blistering cold

Layers of shedding textiles, roaring fireplaces, dry heat, bustling holiday activities, and wet snow can make your home an incubator for germs with poor indoor quality. Breathe easier through the winter season with these seasonal cleaning tips to keep your home dust and dirt free.

Wishing You A Happy and Safe Holiday

Image Credit: Pix Good


Putting up holiday decorations can be messy – and dangerous with electrical cords, tall ladders, flammable materials, and slippery surfaces. Unwind by the open fire and not the hospital bed. Keep the fun in festive by hanging your holiday decorations with these safety tips.

Plan ahead with these holiday home projects, so the unpredictable weather doesn’t hit you with cabin fever. Survive the snow by prepping ahead.

Staging Your Home For Winter Buyers

Image Credit: HGTV Front Door


If a homebuyer is opting out of Black Friday shopping, chances are they are seriously looking for a home this winter season. Less inventory on the market means a greater chance of your home getting attention from buyers. Take the opportunity to make a special impression. With full steam ahead into the holidays, buyers are more likely to make an emotional connection to the festive flair of the season. Use these tips to make your house shine and stand out in bleak weather.

Spread the Holiday Cheer

Image Credit: Design Manifest


We believe keeping it simple is the key to living the good life. As Leonard Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” And we can’t agree more. Less is more in keeping the spirit alive at this Norway home with their minimalist holiday décor. 

Make your home cozy this winter. When it doubt, put a fur on it. Instant gratification is a beautiful thing.

The fireplace becomes the focal point of holiday gatherings and gift giving. Spruce up your mantel and make this holiday memorable with these design tips.

Image Credit: Blue Pueblo /  Pix Good / HGTV Front Door / Design Manifest

Why Buying A Home Of Your Own Beats Renting

coupleWhich is better, buying or renting? If you’ve been wondering whether to take the step toward homeownership this year, consider this:

Today’s low mortgage rates are hard to beat. Rates this low dramatically reduce the cost of homeownership. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the importance of today’s low mortgage rates in the buy-rent decision. Take a 30-year home loan valued at $250,000. At 8 percent, the mortgage payment would top $1,800 per month At 4 percent, the monthly principal and interest payment would be less than $1,200 per month. Today’s low mortgage rates are giving families a rare opportunity to lock in low rates — and low monthly payments — that they can enjoy for years and years to come.

You get to build equity. When you pay rent, you are paying your landlord’s mortgage — or adding to his or her bank account. When you’re a homeowner, you can create equity by paying down your mortgage balance over time and by benefiting from any increase in home values.

You get a tax deduction. If you rent, your landlord get the tax deduction. When you own your own home, you get the opportunity to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes.

You get freedom. Your landlord probably has a bunch of different rules that keep you from doing things like painting or other home improvements. When you own your own home, you get to make your own rules!

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About New Federal Mortgage Rules

mortgageThinking about buying a home but worried about the federal mortgage rules that went into effect early this year? Don’t worry. While there have been some concerns that the changes will make it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage, the reality is that for most borrowers, it simply isn’t the case. In fact, the new rules, designed to make sure that home buyers are financially ready to purchase a home, offer a variety of benefits to home buyers.

Administered by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the changes are designed so that home buyers have more information and protections when shopping for a loan. Lenders are required to make a “good-faith, reasonable effort” to determine that borrowers are likely to be able to repay their loan. That means lenders are required to check and verify income, assets, debts and credit history, to determine whether borrowers are financially ready to buy a home. Lenders also must make sure borrowers can afford the monthly payments on their loan along with all of their other credit obligations, such as car loans. It discourages loans with risky features and excessive fees. Sounds sensible, right? That’s what reputable lenders have been doing all along.

The new rules DO NOT require consumers to make only large down payments, have only excellent credit scores or take out only certain types of mortgage loans in order to purchase a home. Want to learn more? Here’s an informative guide to the myths – and realities – of this new consumer protection measure.

Tips for Effectively Staging Your Home for Sale

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Written by Mandy Collier

In her book, “Staging to Sell: The Secret to Selling Homes in a Down Market,” author Barb Schwarz defines staging as preparing a property for sale. She says staging helps buyers envision themselves in the property, and that clutter, a lack of cleanliness and emptiness that imparts a cold feeling all turn buyers off. Well-staged homes sell 32 percent faster too, according to Amy Miller, author of “Home Staging to Sell Your Home Fast.” Plus, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Agency reports staged homes sell for 17 percent more than homes that aren’t staged. If you want to sell your home, prepare to de-clutter and clean, use the right colors, and arrange furniture for an attractive and welcoming atmosphere so that buyers can picture themselves living there.

De-clutter and Clean


Nothing turns buyers off faster than dirty, neglected property. De-cluttering and cleaning is the first step in home staging. It may be easier to work on one room at a time, simply removing everything from the room including floor lamps, window treatments, and pictures and wall hangings in preparation for cleaning.

Steps to de-clutter:

  • Remove excess furniture and accessories, keeping only the basics for each room.
  • Store, sell or donate anything that isn’t staying in the home.
  • Don’t be tempted to fill the garage because buyers will be looking in there, too.
  • Pay particular attention to the kitchen, bathroom, living room and closets.

Steps to clean and refresh:

  • Thoroughly clean the room from floor to ceiling, including windows, walls, light fixtures and baseboards, and repair any cracks, holes, pits or gouges.
  • Clean or replace carpets, and buff and wax wood floors.
  • Make sure there are fresh light bulbs in all lights and repair or replace any broken or outdated light fixtures.
  • Paint walls and ceilings with light, neutral colors.
  • Put up simple, attractive window treatments such as rolling shades and side drapes in light colors to allow as much natural light into the space as possible.


Use the Right Colors

right colors

Use light, neutral colors and textures to make the space look bigger and brighter. Avoid harsh or garish colors, even for accents. Creams, beiges and light browns lighten a space and do not detract from a decor. Keep the walls and ceilings light and go just a shade darker for window treatments and area or accent rugs. If your furniture is dark, consider reupholstering in lighter colors or selling existing furniture and buying updated pieces in a more neutral, lighter color palette.

Arrange Furniture


When the room is cleaned and refreshed, bring in basic furniture settings such as a couch, coffee table, and one or two floor lamps for a living room. Use contemporary or traditional style furniture with wood legs and frames, not metal or ultra-modern or eclectic styles.

An understated area rug and one or two conservative wall decorations are the only accessories necessary. Resist pushing furniture against the walls and instead arrange seating in inviting groups. Keep furniture away from windows.

Pay Attention to Light


Bring as much natural light into rooms as possible, and make sure all light fixtures are operational and have bright light bulbs in them. Rooms should have different types of lighting, including natural light from windows, overhead lighting and table lighting. Consider a large light fixture in the ceiling, floor and table lamps, and wall lights such as sconces or track lighting.


Miller recommends talking to real estate agents in your area to find out what home buyers like and what turns them off. Agents talk to buyers every day and have first-hand knowledge of what homes are selling.

What’s In Store For The Housing Market in 2014?

Housing Market

Wondering what is in store for the nation’s housing market next year? Expect another upbeat year for residential real estate, according to the National Association of Realtors. The association predicts home prices and sales will continue to increase in 2014.

All economic signs point to a continued housing recovery nationwide, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. Yun predicts the national median existing-home price to increase by a healthy 6 percent in 2014. Existing-home sales are forecast to hold steady at about 5.12 million in 2014, with new home sales expected to reach 508,000 next year, up from 429,000 in 2013.

What’s in store for the Philly housing market? In the Philadelphia metro area, the housing recovery continues to gain strength. Home sales and prices are rising, and that trend is expected to continue next year. Mortgage rates are expected to rise in 2014, but are forecast to remain near historic lows.  All in all, 2014 will be a great year to buy or sell a home.

What are you waiting for?

List Of Improving Markets Hits Record High


Here’s some more good news about the nation’s housing market. The number of markets listed as “improving” on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index has reached a record high of 291.

That’s a significant vote of confidence in residential real estate. The index, started two years ago, is designed to track the housing market’s recovery in 360 metro areas by monitoring three key measures: Housing permits, employment and home prices. In all, 80 percent of the metros tracked by the index, including Philadelphia, have shown consistent growth in these three measures in recent months.

The index is just one of several key indicators that demonstrate the continued strength of the residential market in Philly and beyond. For more information about the index and a city-by-city look at the nation’s housing recovery, go to this link.