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Blank Canvas

A West Coast couple creates unexpected luxury in Center City, Allentown.

(page 3 of 3)

The kitchen's open floor plan allows great opportunities to gather when the homeowners entertain.


Do Something Creative Every Day

What she lacked in formal training, Kim more than made up for with a keen eye for detail and a professional’s design decisiveness. Never a fan of plain white surfaces, she had the kitchen appliances upgraded from white to stainless steel, and hired a local faux artist, Wendy Wolf, to touch up the master bath. “It was so sterile-looking before,” Kim recalls. She had Wolf paint one entire wall the color and texture of a green vase she had, and asked the artist to conceal a white plastic access panel below the sunken tub by faux painting it the same stone swirl of the surrounding tile. The result blends in perfectly.

The Conrads were able to use plenty of furniture and décor from their previous home in Arizona, but Kim replaced all the standard ceiling light fixtures, in one case selecting the fabric for shades herself and having them custom made. She also had Allentown furniture maker William Kreider, an artist with a modern-industrial bent, known for using reclaimed materials, fashion a shelving unit for the main living area out of bright red-painted pipes and pieces of wood salvaged from old bleachers at Hellertown High School. The shelves are as much a piece of art as what they hold, and can stay relatively uncluttered since Bill had a friend who installs audio systems consolidate all the room’s electronic equipment—TV speakers, cables and the like—into a closet near the front door.

But these instances were exceptions; in most cases, Kim preferred to make what she wanted herself. Knowing what a challenge and expense it would be to find window treatments the right scale for the huge panes that let light and fantastic city views into the living area, she fashioned some herself from two store-bought panels, stitched together with a swath of a contrasting fabric—left over from upholstering the room’s ottoman—in between.

In one of the four bedrooms, dubbed the Rock ‘N’ Roll Bedroom for its music-themed décor, Kim crafted a mirror frame from old vinyl LPs. As efficient as she is creative, she also fashioned chain link towel hooks in the adjoining bathroom from a length leftover from the bedroom’s chandelier.

With its oversized walls and high ceilings, the loft could double as a gallery, which meant there was more than enough room for the assortment of artwork the Conrads brought with them from Arizona. Kim hung every piece, and curated a few new exhibits herself, including a collection of clocks on one living room wall, a framed matchbook cover bearing the logo of the Mayflower Moving Company that she found on eBay while researching the property, and a print of the words that sum up her personal mantra, “Do something creative every day.”

“After we moved in, we spent one week living with just mattresses and lawn chairs..."

She knew she needed something special for the short, curved brick hallway that winds from the penthouse’s main entrance and living area around to the kitchen and dining room and is one of the space’s standout features. So Kim found the sheet music to Billy Joel’s “Allentown,” and framed each page, hanging them in a row along the wall.

One of the four bedrooms, which has been pressed into use as a home office, is hung with pug-themed art in homage to the couple’s favorite dog breed, which they also collect, in a manner of speaking, having rescued three. Their current roster includes Yuma, Rocco and a pug/Boston terrier mix named Pejai, in honor of two previous pugs the Conrads owned, Phoebe and Joel.

All of Kim’s handiwork was on full display last November, when roughly 500 visitors came to admire the newly decorated penthouse as part of the Old Allentown Preservation Association’s annual tour. “The space was like a magnet,” says Palumbo. “It was the highlight of the tour because you don’t expect to find this in Center City Allentown.”

The location has other perks as well: the Allentown Brew Works is within walking distance, there’s a new hockey stadium set to open two blocks away, much to the delight of Bill, a lifelong fan (he and Kim had their first date at a Hershey Bears game), and the huge windows of their penthouse frame stellar views of the fireworks after every Iron Pigs baseball game. “We really love it here,” Kim says. For a while, at least, the perpetual decorator adds, “I don’t see changing anything.”

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