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Photos by Ed Williams
Dark colors are the compromise that sets the stage for this pair’s mix of modern and traditional home design in Delaware County.
Garry Staegemann is a minimalist. John Crossan is a collector. Staegemann is contemporary. Crossan is traditional. The home they share is a happy marriage of sophistication and sentiment—a place where a weathered century-old butcher block lives harmoniously in a sleek, modern kitchen. “This house is perfect for us,” says Crossan. “It’s a mix of both worlds, a meeting in the middle.”
When the partners started house hunting back in 2015, they’d been in a relationship for six years but hadn’t lived under the same roof. Staegemann owned a hip condominium in Philadelphia, and Crossan rented a secluded country house in northern Delaware.
In their quest for a home together, they toured more than 20 properties before settling on a faded circa-1990 house. Set in a woodsy Concord Township neighborhood bordering Chadds Ford, the home offered a sense of community, along with the tranquility of hundreds of unspoiled acres just outside its back door.
When Staegemann and Crossan came on the scene, the house had just been relisted after three years of being on and off the market. “Like it was waiting for us,” Crossan says.
The partners quickly struck a deal, looking past dated finishes and focusing on the flowing floorplan and sweeping woodland views. The natural setting was the inspiration for the name they chose for the home—Treetops.
They immediately began putting their own stamp on the house, starting with the oak flooring they discovered beneath drab wall-to-wall carpet. The wood was in pristine condition, though the orange-tinged stain didn’t appeal to the new owners’ aesthetic sensibilities. To ground the decor, the floors were refinished in a dark espresso mixed with mahogany and black. That set the stage for a masculine palette of five carefully curated Sherwin-Williams colors: Bottle Green, like the saturated hue of the deepest forest; Plum Brown, the deepest of purples; a calming navy-blue Anchors Aweigh; a warm Cloak Gray; and a fruity-brown Raisin.
Committing to such a bold color scheme was a risky decision—but the owners believe it was the right one. “It feels like I’m walking into a retreat, a place of peace,” Crossan says. “The dark colors calm the spirit and help your eye focus on the views outdoors.”
Staegemann chose Bottle Green for the vaulted family room, enveloping the ceiling and walls to enhance the sense of coziness. They retained the existing brick fireplace, flanked on either side by built-in cabinetry. Over the mantel, there’s an artistic twist on a deer head—a panel depicting a buck fashioned from roofing nails the couple found at an art fair in Chadds Ford. “No animal had to die for us to have a deer head over the fireplace,” says Staegemann.
CONNECTED TO NATURE
The green shade also heightens the family room’s connection to woodland views behind the house, which are visible through glass doors that lead to a deck perched over Beaver Valley. The owners installed horizontal cable lines below the deck’s railing for an unobstructed view. Uplighting in trees makes the outdoors feel like a natural extension of the family room. “The valley is not just a backyard—it’s a window into God’s world and a reminder to do our part to be good citizens,” says Crossan, a Concord Township councilman and an open-space advocate.
With a long, lean mid-century sofa from Scout & Annie in Kennett Square, the formal living room is devoted to music. “This house has great acoustics and was meant for a piano and a party,” Staegemann says. “One of the things I loved about this home is how all the rooms circulate.”
The Steinway grand piano is a stunner. Made in 1879, it was purchased by Crossan’s great-grandfather, who passed it down to his grandmother. “She paid for me to have piano lessons, and I used to visit her and play for her,” he says.
In the dining room, the rustic chandelier above the table was crafted from driftwood. The couple discovered the piece while vacationing in Bali and took it straight to the local post office, where the staff found a sturdy box and packed it for shipment to the United States. “It goes to show that if you find something you love while you are traveling, you can find a way to send it home,” Staegemann says.
All throughout the house are artistic reminders of the owners’ travels. A wall clock from Vienna chimes in the kitchen. Vibrant rugs from Romania and Mexico City warm the floors in the master bath, where a vintage atlas is always open to the next place the couple plans to visit. And from Staegemann’s native South Africa: a trio of shields decorated with seashells and a chess set with wood pieces carved in the shape of animals.
Other items were found closer to home. The coffee table in the dining room is the repurposed Army chest of Crossan’s father, Robin Adair Crossan. A framed rendering of a 1930s Boeing B-17 test-piloted by his grandfather de él hangs in the office, and a wooden stool is a family souvenir from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. As for the aforementioned butcher blocks, they came from the Wilmington sausage and scrapple business operated by Crossan’s grandfather and great-grandfather. “The things that we have represent what we value,” he says. “Many of the pieces I have keep me connected to my grandparents and great-grandparents.”
Original art is also an important part of the mix in the home. The couple commissioned Greenville, Del., artist John Matteo to paint two large oil panels of fish, which flank a large window facing the woods. The spiky wood chandelier hanging between the paintings is reminiscent of a sea urchin.
Matteo also gave the couple a colorful canvas as a gift. Framed in ornate brass, it was created over time by various artists, who applied the excess paint on their brushes to the canvas after classes. “In a way, the painting represents Garry and me, with the very modern spatters of color and the very traditional frame,” says Crossan.
After six years in the home, the couple continues to refine its look and feel. For their most recent project, they replaced builder-grade closet doors with sleek sliders resembling shoji screens. Outside, they planted a meadow of wildflowers in the front yard to enhance the connection to the woodlands behind the house, which is now national parkland. “We think of the meadow as a transition from cul-de-sac to woods,” Crossan says. “You step out from the suburbs and step into the beauty of the Brandywine Valley.”
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