Growing up in Magnolia in South Jersey, Adrian Rowan had always wanted a Victorian home.
“It was the ornate details,” she says, “the history, the character of the older homes.”
It was not a wish that came true quickly.
Over a decade ago in the Air Force and Air National Guard, where she learned her trade; over three years as a civilian photographer at Pentagon and Dover Air Base; then four more years operating his own photography studio in Haddonfield while living in Palmyra.
But with COVID-19 making business harder – and with encouragement from her grandfather, a retired accountant “who always encourages me to make my dream come true,” – she took the plunge last July.
She bought an 1888 Queen Anne in Merchantville. It’s on a corner lot zoned for residential and commercial use, and “the ride is easier: just down the stairs”.
Rowan, 40, describes his business as “luxury boudoir photography”.
Which basically means … well, let his website explain it:
“Boudoir photography is above all about empowering you! Show you another side of yourself, your inner self, the self you want to manifest. … We have created a zone of positive, non-judgmental bodily self-esteem in which you can explore your different sides. We offer a full service boudoir experience tailored to the individual.
Rowan believes that Victorian architecture and his business are well suited to each other as both emphasize ornate details.
Meanwhile, back to the construction area …
Rowan and his contractors raised the five-inch foundation, ripped up the wallpaper, and installed water-resistant bamboo flooring.
»READ MORE: Restoration of a Victorian house in one of the first planned suburbs of Philadelphia
Priorities have been set – the attic and basement remain unfinished for the time being. And she installed a modern, decidedly non-Victorian kitchen and air conditioning. The windows are coming next summer.
Her 20-month-old son Parker has his own bedroom with toys that migrated to what was a second-floor living room over a century ago.
In total, the home is 2,700 square feet, three bedrooms, and 1 ½ bath and is decorated in a mix of historic and funky. The first floor wall decorations vary from old photos of the house to an ironic portly Mona Lisa by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
The blanket on her bed has a Victorian feel on her IKEA skeleton. Other articles have come from Facebook Marketplace or from the family: Lincoln’s carved wooden bust at the foot of his grandfather’s stairwell and his late grandmother’s antique decor and lamps.
In some cases, his research continues. The top of the stairwell still has holes where Newell’s posts should be because she has simply been unable to find historically accurate replacements.
And in other cases, Rowan cannot determine what was original in the house and what went to multiple owners.
Victorian homes placed great emphasis on entryways, and Rowan’s is no exception, with stained glass windows in the hall and front door.
Its activity is concentrated in two rooms on the first floor, including the photo studio.
READ MORE: An 1860 Victorian nestled among the revitalization of Fishtown
The renovation was not easy. With COVID, she says, “it’s just harder to get people out. “
The wrought iron fence surrounding the property had to be carefully repainted and a space filled in where a car once crossed it. The yard itself has small garden plots with echinacea, blueberries, roses, irises, poppies, columbine, and ferns.
And there’s a wrought-iron board with a table and chairs, which Rowan says was designed specifically for Halloween characters. Merchantville, she says, goes “a lot into Halloween,” with signs saying “Welcome to Monsterville.”
The next months ? Mostly downtime, but when the contractor’s hours open, it will need to replace three deteriorating porches and balcony. “I’ve always wanted a porch,” she says. “Now I have four. “
With a house like Rowan’s, the work will continue, even after all the repairs. For example, “birds love Victorians” for nesting, she says, and that brings its own set of challenges.
When people ask her what she has done with the house, she replies: “rather, it is what I did not do”.
Have you solved a decorating, remodeling or remodeling challenge in your home? Tell us your story via email (and send some digital photographs) to [email protected].