When Esther Recio and her husband, Maximiliano Visconti, decided to downsize, they looked toward the sky. Last year, the couple sold their three-story Victorian in University City and put down stakes in a high-rise flat at Cityview Condominiums in the Art Museum area.
The couple loved their century-old home, which they’d owned for 13 years, but it had become too much house.
“We had completely gutted and rehabbed it. But we had one floor that we never even used,” says Recio, 49.
The couple also grew weary of homeowner tasks, such as raking leaves and shoveling snow. They desired an “easier life,” so a condo made the most sense.
Recio, who is from Salamanca, Spain, met Visconti, 45, who hails from Cordoba, Argentina, when the two were undergraduates at St. Joseph’s University. They married 16 years ago.
After touring several buildings, they settled on Cityview, which, besides being pet-friendly — a must-have for Electric, their 4-year-old bichon frise/shih tzu mix — boasts other amenities: a 24-hour doorman, an outdoor pool, a gym, and an on-call maintenance team.
Also appealing to them was the on-site parking garage, perfect for Visconti, who drives daily to Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co. in Northeast Philly, where he’s a sales director.
But the real hook was the recent renovation of the 1,465-square-foot unit they had their eyes on, which had transformed it into a sleek snapshot of urban minimalism.
“Max said he wasn’t going to move into a place if he had to so much as put a nail in a wall,” quips Recio, who teaches Spanish at St. Joseph’s University.
One of the couple’s biggest modifications for condo living was paring down their belongings. Although they were ready to make the move, such items as their big Amish curio were not.
But it was important to them to incorporate the old with the new when they decorated. They ended up keeping their most cherished antiques, artwork, and some pieces from their native countries. The rest of their belongings were transported to a house they share with Recio’s family in Arribes Del Duero Natural Park in Spain.
Just off the condo’s entry, undraped windows give way to fabulous city views. One of the couple’s only add-ons was putting black power shades on all the windows.
The kitchen, a crisp, sleek space, has white quartz countertops, a big island, stainless steel appliances, and plenty of black cabinetry. Miniature black stones line the backsplash, the same stones that fully cover two floor-to-ceiling structural columns in the living space, keeping the look tailored.
Anchoring the sitting area is an espresso leather sectional and a wooden coffee table on wheels, both brought from their previous home. A gray chaise faces a wall-mounted fireplace.
In the dining area, brown leather chairs surround an industrialized table with a galvanized metal top from Crate and Barrel. A matching credenza showcases a Parisian-style lamp, apothecary jars from Spain, and several calabash gourds used for brewing yerba mate, a traditional drink from South America.
Recio points to a yellow-and-gray coffeepot and cups on the credenza. “These are very special to me,” she says of the surprise gift from her students during a school trip to Cuba.
Other accents around the condo include salt-glazed pottery from Bucks County; a watercolor street scene of Uruguay; and two industrial wall pieces by Canadian-born artist Parvez Taj, who is known for using reclaimed materials.
Shiny white 18-by-18-inch ceramic tile flooring adds some drama throughout the main living spaces.
The master bedroom lends a balance between raw and refined, with hardwood floors and soft gray coverlets. The master bath has black-veined gray tile, white cabinets, and an oversized shower with a river-rock floor. An all-in-one washer/dryer combo is tucked into a corner.
Another bedroom, with a black pull-out sofa, doubles as a guest room and an office.
Hosting and entertaining family and friends in their adopted city are important to Recio and Visconti. They often serve large platefuls of paella, tortilla de batata (eggs and potatoes), and Spanish almond cake.
Indeed, on this summer day, Recio’s sister and her children were visiting from Spain, as well as another nephew who lives in University City.
“We love it here,” Recio says. “We still have the walking lifestyle we like — going to restaurants, and the stores are all nearby. At least once a month we walk over to the Barnes Museum. It’s been a great change.”