Before And After: Philadelphia Story

Tara Mangini and Percy Bright of full-service design business Jersey Ice Cream Co. set the groundwork for their home renovation venture (and their relationship) shortly after being introduced by a mutual friend three years ago. The couple's shared aesthetic taste quickly led to the launch of a vintage shop, and eventually a full-service design company, named for one of the pair's antique finds: an embossing stamp emblazoned with the moniker. In 2011, the duo set out to remake Bright's living room with oak basecap moldings sourced from an abandoned school in North Philadelphia. "It was slated for demolition any day, so I didn't feel too badly about trying to preserve some of the unbelievable craftsmanship that had gone into building the place," says Bright. We talked to the couple about the process behind the jaw-dropping transformation.

SALVATION ARMY (OF ONE) Step one was salvaging 400 linear feet of molding from the school, which Bright did singlehandedly, sans any formal training. "Our trade educations aren't exactly traditional, says Mangini, who studied graphic design and photography in college. Bright studied Greek and Latin, but is entirely self-taught--save for his plaster technique, which he honed with a group called SAAW, who do the wall finishes for Anthropologie.

SPECIAL TREATMENT After de-nailing the molding and installing it, the couple primed their product, and paused to consider the merits of a lighter shade. Eventually they wrote it off as too "high tea," favoring a darker custom hue mixed with a base of Behr's Dark Granite. "Paint always looks so different when we get it home, that we often find ourselves mixing things together to get the look we want," says Bright.

A FINISHING TOUCH The molding is obviously the star of this show, but a best supporting nod goes to the ingenious use of the fireplace as a book-based installation. "We knew we wanted a fun and interesting alternative for the fireplace, since we wouldn't be lighting any fires in it," Bright explains, noting that their chimney is currently in need of repair. "The idea of putting books inside the fireplace rather than bricking it up with patterns or other filler clicked. It looks great and sort of nods, with tongue-in-cheek, to book burning.


Photographs: Jersey Ice cream Co