By Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on November 22, 2013.
Citizens Bank Park can be seen from the home’s terrace.
Chase and Jen Utley may be one of the city’s most high-profile couples, but when it came time for the Phillies second baseman and his wife to decide where to move, they were lured to the suburbs for the same reason that so many other young parents are: They wanted a yard.
“For us, it’s getting harder and harder to have a toddler and a dog in the city. We’d love to have a yard for both of them—it would just be easier,” says Jen with a tinge of sadness as she talks about the 4,500-square-foot residence at the Ayer that the couple recently put on the market for $4.3 million. “It’s time.”
From the moment the Utleys moved to Philadelphia in 2005, they knew they wanted to live in Center City. While the Rittenhouse area may have been the expected choice, they preferred the privacy and slower pace of Washington Square. They rented there for a time, and one day, after a trip to the gym, they stepped into the Art Deco–style Ayer building. They were curious. The landmark circa-1929 property, previously home to the ad agency N.W. Ayer, was being converted to condos. It featured a spectacular lobby and impressive period details, like exterior carvings and a massive bronze front door. “It was our first real home,” says Jen, “and I think we knew when we walked in.” Chase says they both loved the character of the building, but having everything new and updated was “the icing on the cake.” The couple bought raw space in the property in June 2008 and, smitten with architect Michael Ryan’s sample unit (he is also a resident), signed him to convert their penthouse and the apartment below it into a three-story home with two terraces and a private elevator.
Chase and Jen Utley.
“We were such newbies to the design process, and yet we knew what we liked,” Jen says. The toughest part for Ryan was stitching together those two apartments. One way he did so was by creating two sets of steel-framed wooden floating staircases with glass railings. The Utleys also asked him to add a bar to the lower level. “I’d like to think that area was part my doing—or at least Jen has told me that,” jokes Chase. In fact, Ryan says, Chase attended every design meeting. The architect even flew down to Phillies spring training to get plans approved by the couple. “Mike had great ideas,” says Chase. One was a stainless steel top for the dark-stained, textured-wood bar. Adds Jen, “We have had some great celebrations down here.” The lower floor also includes a media room (Chase’s favorite spot) and guest bedrooms. “Up and down, Mike made this space feel like a house,” Jen says. “You hire these professionals for a reason, and since we moved in, we have never changed a thing.”
When it came time to find and work with an interior designer who could give the modern space a fresh look, Jen took over. She asked friends at her yoga studio for recommendations and foundGreg Augustine. Like Ryan, he had no idea who the Utleys were, surprisingly, but he and Jen immediately hit it off. “She has impeccable taste and we like so many of the same things,” says the designer. Because their lives involve so much travel, the Utleys asked him for a home that was calm and soothing. “We wanted it to be modern but sophisticated,” says Augustine, “but still approachable and not showy.”
The oversize kitchen is perfect for big family gatherings.
Jen and the designer both love grays and used the cool neutral tone throughout. “It’s very ethereal, soft, and subdued,” Augustine explains. The accents are in icy blue, deep blue, and eggplant. Luxury details include floors of stone or walnut and walls of glass or stone. One of Jen’s favorite walls—in a light-gray blue polished marble with just the right amount of shimmer—separates the stairway from the oversize Bulthaup kitchen, featuring gray riffed-oak cabinetry and walnut floors. While she doesn’t cook all that much (she confesses to preferring the convenience of Talula’s Garden, just downstairs), she has hosted family from California for Thanksgiving.
The living room, with its 11-foot ceilings, has tailored gray flannel sofas and a silk hand-knotted rug. “I love our living room at night,” says Jen. “The whole house is windows. There are two terraces, and from one you can see bits of the Delaware and from another you can see south all the way down to the park.”
Chase and Jen Utley’s former home is the consummate clubhouse.
In the dining room, Augustine had stone floors and stairs installed and gave the room a bit of drama with a custom chandelier made of hundreds of delicate, smoky quartz stones and vintage silk-wrapped bulbs. Beneath it, the custom walnut table—with a lacquered top and modern chrome legs—seats 12. The walls are grass cloth in steely blue, and on one hangs an oversize sepia photo of wild horses by Robert Dutesco. The backdrop is the adjacent terrace and views of the city.
When Augustine was working on the house, the Utleys had just adopted two cats, Sugar and Sebastian. Jen, who volunteers tirelessly with the Pennsylvania SPCA and has helped raise more than $1.5 million for the organization through The Utley Foundation, asked the designer that no animal products be used in the house. After moving in, they added Jack, a pit bull. Says Jen, “My friends joke that Jack, who is gray and white, matches the house.”
In 2011, son Benjamin joined the family, and he’s the main reason the Utleys are bidding the city a bittersweet adieu. “We’ve loved living in Philly all these years,” says Chase. “The city has grown so much since we first moved here, and we wanted to be a part of that, but we have a little guy now. We’ll miss so much about [living here] and this home, but we’re also excited to start a new chapter.”For more information, contact Melanie Stecura of Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. 226 W. Rittenhouse Sq., Ste. 102, 215-735-2225