DIY renovations uncovered hidden gems in a Manayunk trinity

Hugh Blanchetti and Zach Boyers found their perfect home in Manayunk, a 1,600-square-foot, double trinity built circa 1860. When Blanchetti bought the home in April 2019 and started some DIY renovations, the pair discovered that the house had hidden gems.

“There was a leak in our second-floor bathroom, and when we pulled one of the lights out, we saw a beam,” said Blanchetti, a Philadelphia Fire Department fire paramedic lieutenant. “We ripped out the ceiling to expose these beams, which, along with the original floorboards, give the home an Old World charm.”

When they removed the layers of plaster and drywall, they also gained height. It turned out there were hidden beams in the primary bathroom and guest bedroom, too. To match, they added new beams in their third-floor loft bedroom.

“Beams became a theme in the house,” said Boyers, a project manager for New York-based software company Operative.

The first level of the three-story home includes the kitchen, living room, and half-bathroom. Up a winding narrow staircase are a guest room, office, and full bathroom. Up one more narrow winding flight is a large third-floor loft with the primary bedroom, bathroom and sitting area. Though now they can appreciate those staircases, that wasn’t the case on moving day.

“Nothing could go up the steps, and the movers weren’t prepared to hoist them through the window,” Blanchetti recalled. They hired a different company to hoist the furniture up through the second-floor window.

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“We thought that was going to be some super special moving technique, but then we realized they just used straps to pull the furniture up,” Boyers said. “We’ve been doing it ourselves since.”

One of their favorite spots is the living room, where they installed an electric fireplace and an antique mantle they found on Facebook Marketplace. They added decorative tile and bookshelves, a chair rail, and crown molding to create a cozy central focal point.

“The home would have had a central fireplace, but it was removed over the 150 plus years,” Boyers said.

Across from the fireplace, a striking gallery-style wall of photos is displayed above the sofa. Inspired by museum visits as a child growing up in San Antonio, Boyers started with one old photograph in an ornate frame and built out from there.

“We can’t procure a Van Gogh, but you can find pretty cool stuff at antique and thrift stores,” he said. “I go for things that look Victorian era. There are bits and pieces about us. Two pictures are of Hugh’s relatives, there are a few George Washingtons because he’s from Virginia, and some old historic photos of Philadelphia. We mix things around pretty frequently.”

» READ MORE: Renovation in Haverford preserved the historical exterior while creating a modern interior

Another of the couple’s favorite spaces is the primary bathroom they renovated out of necessity. Blanchetti is 6-foot-4 and Boyers is 5-foot-11, but with a downward slanting roof, the bathroom’s ceiling angles were problematic.

“Neither Hugh nor I could stand fully upright anywhere in the bathroom besides the shower,” Boyers recalled. “We lasted two years with that bathroom and decided if we demoed the wall between the closet and the bathroom, we could reconfigure the space to have a double vanity where we could stand, with a tub and a better shower.”

During the renovation, they discovered the original hardwood floor under the existing tile and the ceiling beams above the drywall. They found a phone booth shower for its classic look and as a complement to the shower floor’s mosaic tile and dark grout.

Their home is filled with thriving plants, from wandering philodendron to potted succulents. Boyers has the indoor green thumb, while Blanchetti takes charge of the outdoor vegetable garden.

The backyard was their most ambitious project — kind of an apocalypse of weeds and an old rusty clothes line and swing set, Blanchetti said. That space was especially important for their 1½-year-old chocolate Lab, Cooper, and 6-year-old orange tabby cat, Cheeto.

After clearing the property, Blanchetti installed a fence and garden.

“I grew up on a farm in Virginia,” Blanchetti said. “It’s my way of bringing that piece of my childhood here.”

Their home has been a retreat, especially during the pandemic. Now that things are safer and the weather is nice, they enjoy entertaining, especially out back in the summer when the tomatoes are growing up the trellises and the grass is green.

“We still have projects to do, but after that, we hope to be settled in here for a while,” said Boyers, who shares their progress with more than 12,000 followers of “thisyunkyhouse” on Instagram.

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