Sally Friedman, For The Inquirer
POSTED: Friday, March 19, 2010, 2:06 AM
The Home of Regina and Leon Huff
One neat arrangement
Music producer Leon Huff's Moorestown home is a serene, orderly getaway. The Sound of Philadelphia? "I'm a guy who really needs quiet."
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The desk is huge, handsome, and perfectly, absolutely clear. Not a single stray paper, not a file, not even a pen rests on it. Yet this desk is in the working home office of an extremely busy man.
Leon Huff admits it - he's a neat freak, and it shows in his elegant Moorestown home, a place so immaculate it's hard to imagine anyone even lives in it.
The music producer and his wife, Regina, have created a world of striking furnishings, color schemes that blend as harmoniously as the undertones of mellow jazz, offering serene order.
"I love privacy and quiet, and we've found it here," says Leon Huff, who created a music empire with his partner, Kenneth Gamble, when they formed Philadelphia International Records in 1971. Credited with establishing "The Sound of Philadelphia," the company worked with artists like Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, Chubby Checker, Michael Jackson, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
Recently, a fire swept through the company's Philadelphia headquarters, causing extensive damage and corresponding heartache, and making the Huffs even more grateful for their home, which, they both suggest, is their sanctuary.
"It's not just the look and feel of this house, but also its peace and privacy," says Regina, a Camden native who also lived in Delran.
"I'm a guy who really needs quiet. I do like to get away from the world sometimes," says Leon, who describes himself as ". . . very happy with solitude."
The Huffs first saw the home they now own several years ago, when it belonged to former Eagles Football player Lito Sheppard and his wife, Nicki. As social guests of the Sheppards', the couple recall being smitten.
"I loved it the minute I stepped inside," says Regina, who felt comfortable with the open flow, the private yard, and the expansive feel.
When Sheppard was leaving the area, the Huffs signed on the dotted line, leaving behind a home in Washington Township, Gloucester County, decorated in muted beiges. They were ready for a bit more sparkle.
With the assistance of designer Georgio Savva of Moorestown, they set out to create their vision. Because Savva also had worked with the Sheppards, he knew the home well and could guide them.
"I've always liked Moorestown. I used to ride my bike here when I lived in Cherry Hill," says Leon, who was born in Camden and lived in a modest rowhouse with small rooms, with his father's barbershop in the basement. "I'm not spoiled, and neither is Regina. We both feel very fortunate to live in this beautiful place."
The couple, relative newlyweds, married in 2005 after their earlier marriages ended in divorce. And there's no mistaking that their taste for glamour came to the fore when they moved into the property in April.
The living room is a study in art deco with walls in sea-mist blue with a cocoa glaze, the handiwork of Lillian's Paintbrush in Moorestown, a company owned by Lillian Beretta that specializes in custom paint finishes. The company did all of the customized walls.
In the living room, accessories in metallic tones complement the walls, and a lush curved sofa is done in raw silk. The curvy motif is repeated in an area rug over the lacquered mahogany wood floor. Art by the Phoenix Art Group, a collective of Arizona artists who will custom-match any palette in original artwork, unifies the room, which might easily be a 1950s Hollywood mogul's lair.
The foyer boasts a remarkable sculpture of a joined male and female in silver and bronze, and a three-dimensional wall piece of gleaming acrylics and stainless steel. Across from the foyer is the large dining room. Ultramodern chairs with flashes of silver and high-gloss Italian lacquer anchor the collection of Murano glass that Regina has been collecting, in her word, "forever." Murano pieces crop up in other spaces, but the dining room is the showcase.
From the contemporary kitchen, with wood cabinetry with raised panels, a Murano light fixture, and granite counters, there are spectacular views of woods and trees, and of a deck, with restaurant-style grill, that is custom-made for parties.
"But we still order in a lot of pizza," confesses Regina, who patronizes a popular spot on Main Street.
Leon's home office with its pristine desk holds treasured photographs, including one of Michael Jackson as a preteen that is "a cherished possession," he said.
A family room with soaring ceiling and double-paddle fans is spare in furnishings, and blends chocolates, cocoas, and beiges for sophistication and serenity. This is a room to kick back in and chill, but one that can also put on company manners for Sunday sports or family gatherings.
Upstairs, a master bedroom in pale beiges has as its centerpiece a four-poster bed that looks straight out of a European castle. In a home full of showstopping art, furniture, and accessories, this suite is still one of Regina's favorite spots, and another haven for her Murano glass.
But the crown jewel is the gigantic lower level, a kind of playground for all seasons. Every recreational toy is in this space, from a massive pool table and customized game table to a bar, full movie theater, and lounging area.
The feature the Huffs love most is one of the few that remain from the Sheppard era. Seems Sheppard and his wife commissioned a jazz mural, also from Lillian's Paintbrush, that stretches across two walls of the lower level. "When I saw that, I really had a feeling that we were meant to be in this house," Regina Huff says. "The music theme of that mural made it seem like an almost magical match."
Also displayed on the lower-level walls are the gold and platinum records won by Gamble & Huff's performers. The late Teddy Pendergrass, who was extremely close to Huff, has a wall of his own.
There's a far less public room on that lower level that is one of the most precious to Leon. While it's basically a storeroom, in it are the many honors, awards and memorabilia of a full life in the music industry. But even in this home, there just aren't quite enough walls to display it all.
Those cherished reminders of Philadelphia International Records have taken on even greater significance since the Feb. 21 fire that destroyed some of that glorious past.
Finally, tucked away in a corner of the expanse is a simple room "decorated" with basically just one piece of furniture: a barber chair.
That chair is not just a successful entrepreneur's reward - a place for the luxury of home haircuts - it's also a nod to Leon's past.
"My father was very important in my life. And our Camden home had that basement barbershop," Leon says. "So when I come in here, I'm reminded of that other life, one that taught me a lot that's important."
Leon gets a bit nostalgic for that life sometimes. "Those were happy days back in Camden, and I don't ever want to forget my roots," he says. "Roots matter."
By Sally Friedman, For The Inquirer
POSTED: December 15, 2013
The Home of Kathy and George Sideris
Haven: A 33-year work in progress
Back in 1978, newlyweds Kathy and George Sideris didn't start married life in a cute, little cottage or apartment. Instead, they lived for two years in an expanded suite at the former Landmark Hotel in Maple Shade, where George was involved in operating the property.
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"It was a little strange, but we got used to it," explains Kathy, noting that the couple even had a small kitchen, which helped maintain some semblance of home life.
But moving into a more conventional home was definitely a priority, and the Siderises got lucky: In Medford, they found a Tudor home that the builder of the surrounding cluster of custom homes had intended to occupy. When the builder's plans changed, Kathy and George bought the house in 1980, even though the Tudor, with lots of dark wood and heavily textured interior walls, was not exactly their style.
Ever since, the Sideris home has been a work in progress.
One of the first changes was an "in-law apartment" addition for Kathy's parents, who had been living in retirement in their native country of Cyprus.
Back then, that apartment allowed the young Siderises to balance parenting their son and daughter and pursuing their careers. George, 65, has recently retired as a restaurateur, and Kathy, 59, continues to be a systems engineer manager for BAE Systems in Mount Laurel.
But there was always that yearning to make the Medford house more consistent with their tastes.
"We definitely loved and wanted more light," Kathy says. The once-dark Tudor now is splashed with light, particularly in the solarium. An outdoor patio was expanded and enclosed, overlooking the home's expansive grounds, which back up to Little Mill Golf Course.
"Best views in the place," George says.
The home's shag carpet was replaced by elegant wood floors. Walls throughout the house were either lightened with a palette of mellow paints or customized with classic wallpapers.
Working with the Siderises was designer and close friend Georgio Savva of Moorestown's Georgio Savva Interior Designs.
"We needed somebody who understood our traditions and heritage from Cyprus and Greece," Kathy says. "It's always with us, and very important to us."
While there is a beautifully appointed living room with brick fireplace and a mix of contemporary and traditional furniture, the home's true centerpiece is a nod to the owners' focus on family and entertaining - a combined great room/family room/music room.
A grand piano and a player-style piano with piano rolls offer the musical component. George, an avid collector of old jukeboxes and other offbeat antiques, now has a home for many of his "toys."
"I tinker with all the things I collect," says George, who, in several cases, has rewired and reconditioned the machines.
He is especially proud of an early slot machine and late 1800s Mutoscope, an early motion-picture device driven by a hand crank and typically showing individual images of the era's equivalent of "pin-up" girls - quite modest by modern standards.
The mirror behind the bar came from New Jersey's first Howard Johnson's, in Woodbridge. Still on it is a painted menu of HoJo specials.
On another wall hang some of George's spot-on charcoal sketches of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson, James Dean and W.C. Fields.
And in this era of smartphones, the room has another reminder of how much things have changed: It features a working pay phone as a quirky accessory.
The family Christmas tree, which goes up just before Thanksgiving, occupies a corner of the solarium, and is visible from other rooms, including the recently redone kitchen.
The kitchen project had been on the to-do list since the Siderises first moved in. Kathy was never fond of the space, and last year, it was expanded and redesigned into a totally functional, "heart-of-the home" gathering place, with a 10-foot island counter fashioned from a single slab of granite.
And with all the kitchen's state-of-the-art appliances, what particularly delights Kathy is a coffee maker programmed for each family member's taste. "I adore it!" she says, "And it was one of the first items built into the kitchen plans."
Another exceptional feature of the house, especially at holiday time, is the dining room. It glows under a European-style chandelier with crystal swags and is the repository for beloved family antiques and glassware, displayed in a handsome wall unit with glass doors. The table is set in advance with Kathy's late parents' wedding china.
"This whole house holds so many memories," Kathy says. "Our hope is that when it just gets too big for us, one of the kids can take it over. A lot of all of us lives in these walls."
By Sally Friedman, for The Inquirer
POSTED: December 03, 2009
The Home of Dimitra and Georgio Savva
Set back from the road, the Savva home, with its brick exterior, looks cozy and solid, a felicitous blend of farmhouse and New England Cape Cod, with a bit of Europe mixed in.
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But step inside, and space opens into more space, with unexpected bends and turns that reveal the Moorestown home's unending charm. For Georgio and Dimitra Savva, who purchased the home in 2002 just after they'd almost settled on a characterless townhouse, the home presented a blank canvas. Because both love design, it let them express their creativity and their love for their Greek heritage.
During holiday season, the 4,400-square-foot home, built in 1942, takes on a luminous quality that made it a highlight of the 2006 edition of Moorestown's annual Cook's Tour of very special houses, with proceeds benefiting South Jersey's Virtua Health Systems.
But it wasn't always so appealing. Just ask Dimitra.
"The first thing my wife said when she saw the house seven years ago was, 'I'm not living here!' " Georgio recalls. Occupied by renters, the place was furnished in "early chaos," without charm or style. Georgio's father, who spent his youth in Greece, likened it to "a barn where you could keep horses."
Georgio, an interior designer, was undaunted. He instantly saw the home's potential and its good bones, and even imagined it as a holiday home for his large family.
Dimitra, whose background is in textiles and who currently works in fashion, did come around. And today, Georgio's parents occupy a large suite in the back of the home.
Visitors enter by the main door into a hallway; next to it is a small room that takes on significance at Christmas. The Icon Room, as it is known, holds the couple's religious treasures, including photos and statuary representing saints. The couple began their collection on their honeymoon in Greece 10 years ago, and it now fills multiple shelves. Included in the unusual collection, in a heart-shaped holder, are the stefana, the silver and pearl crowns the couple wore during their traditional Greek wedding ceremony in 1999. Candles illuminate the pieces at night.
Beyond the intimate room, the home rambles on, with its center core comprising a formal living room, dining room, kitchen, and family room. While each space is unique, there is a unity to the look and feel of a home that combines European formality with country charm. The balance never tips in one direction or the other, because that blend is exactly what the Savvas wanted.
Holiday central is the dining room, with its massive E.J. Victor dining table with mahogany inlaid top and apron of French appliques. A hand-painted ceiling sets off a distressed plaster finish on the butterscotch walls, a color and texture Georgio chose because the result is mellow enough to be discreet, but interesting enough to make an impression.
"On Christmas Day, after morning services, everybody comes back here to spend the holiday," Dimitra says. "We're a big family - siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins - and this house is large enough to accommodate everyone and their pets."
The Savvas keep the food coming, from appetizers like the traditional avgolemono soup (Greek chicken soup with rice and lemon) to the stuffed grape leaves and homemade Greek breads and, ultimately, a full sit-down dinner for 37 people, served family style.
In the formal living room, with pale silk sofas flanking the fireplace, European bombe chest, and Oriental carpeting, Dimitra and Georgio set up small golden tinsel trees of various heights, originally store props. The living room showstopper tree has as its motif birds and flowers in gold, bronze, sage, and coral tones, swathed in French silk.
Dimitra's favorite room is the tearoom that overlooks the yard. The tea fancier created a charming nook where teatime is set against a backdrop of teapots from around the world. At Christmas, the tearoom's golden tree sparkles with Swarovski and Waterford ornaments.
"This is a home where we've mixed European sophistication and drama with a country comfort feel," Georgio says. "We love it all the time, but in the holiday season, it reminds us of just how wonderful and important heritage, home, and family can be."