"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Anthropologie: The Mother Ship

 On a recent excursion to Philadelphia, I wasn't sure if I would get over to see the Liberty Bell (I did!) -but I knew nothing would stop me from making a pilgrimage to Anthropologie's Flagship store. I was not disappointed.

Housed in a 19th century Beaux-Arts mansion once owned by Sarah ("Sallie")  Drexel-Fell, the fourth daughter of the founder of nearby Drexel University and the widow of a Philadelphia coal magnate, the home must have been a showcase in its day. Sallie moved into her dream house in 1898 with her second husband, Alexander Van Renssalaer. It remains fabulous, and the best part -we get to go inside.

 Located at 1801 Walnut Street, in the trendy (and historic!) heart of Rittenhouse Square, the building faces an expansive park circled with restaurants, shops and cafes. Inside, the period design details of the mansion hold their own against the unbridled creativity of the Anthropologie display artists.

One parlor-level room featured not only an amazing tiled fireplace (see first photo above), massive windows and elaborate moldings, but also a ceiling completely covered with the gilt-framed portaits of Italian princes. Ever get that feeling you're being watched...? 

The scale of the home -which was also once an athletic club --lends itself to dramatic, sweeping displays such as the garlands soaring from vaulted ceilings above the cash register area.

A grand, 3-story spiral staircase is the centerpiece of the structure and the display team took full advantage of its potential for drama. White cups were suspended from a stained glass domed window and appeared to float like a coffee cup cloud over the kitchen wares.

Although the manse was gutted in 1974, the facade and several period details were left in place.

Here is a romantic detail of cherubs from an elaborate mantle piece that sits on one of the staircase landings.

If only these walls could talk!

The photo (second image from top) of the exterior of the Anthropologie flagship store is by Kate Young from the Chronicles of A Country Girl Blog. She has an amazing site and warm, friendly voice. I am now a follower myself!

As usual, the rest of the photos are by yours truly, but I must have been so swept up in the moment I wasn't thinking straight and actually forgot to take a few key images...oh well, next time! I'll be back...


  1. Anthropologie's visual team is A.MAZ.ING! I have taken photos & pinned on my boards several of their displays from Olde Town Alexandria, VA as well as Tysons II Gallery in McLean, VA - just gorgeous. I had never seen this flagship space - thank you for sharing.

  2. Glad you liked it, Rita! Seeing the displays is a big part of the fun - I love checking out the Anthropologie artists in different cities! There's a new location opening in Pasadena, CA -I am looking forward to checking it out soon! Thanks for commenting! -b


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