When Ken Schapira and Red Oak Development Group bought adjoining plots of land in East Kensington, they planned to renovate one lot and build on the other. Plans changed when they got inside.

"After doing some interior demolition, we found that the house was in very poor condition structurally and wasn't salvageable," Schapira said.

Jordan Baumgarten

Instead, they decided to build two houses as a pair they refer to as Jack and Jill. Their design was driven by a desire to maximize living spaces available in narrow, 12-foot-wide lots.

"Our inspiration was more about what we didn't want to build rather than starting with a concept and adapting it to the site," Schapira said.

The result is a non-conventional layout with stairs toward the front of the home and an open floor plan behind them.

"A pleasant byproduct of this layout was that it created these large landings on the second and third floors, which can be used for a home office or reading nook," Schapira said.

He said the layout allowed for a skylight that provides light throughout the home.

"We also gained the ability to let a lot of natural light into the center of the house which is fairly uncommon in row houses."

The first of the two homes to be finished — 1905 versus 1903 East Arizona — features three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a stunning rooftop deck.

Among the many standout features is an exterior made of corten steel. Schapira said Red Oak used the unusual surface product on another project nearby, and they loved it.

"While it doesn't suit everyone's taste, it is extremely durable and completely maintenance-free," he said.

The steel will change color over time as environmental factors—sun, acidity in the rain—affect it, Schapira said.

"Most facades are static, and the fact that this material will constantly modulate just adds to its cool factor," he said.

The companion home to 1905 E. Arizona should be joining the market soon and will be a mirror image of its neighbor but with unique finishes in the bathrooms and kitchen. Schapira said he expected buyers to be attracted for many of the same reasons he wanted to develop the properties.

"The initial draw for me personally was proximity to the El, as well as easy access to 95 and Center City," he said.

The home is listed by Deborah Solo of Solo Realty for $395,000.

Jordan Baumgarten