Rowhomes: Housing Chameleons

How rowhomes can adapt to meet current preferences.

pennsylvania, philadelphia, walls, housing, architectural design, residential design, light


Gabriel Deck


Marguerite Anglin


Brittany Coyle

We would all love to have a home custom designed to our preferences. However, when it comes to dense urban environments, the size and shape or our houses are most often the product of very limited space constraints, zoning requirements, and property setbacks. To further complicate matters, the interior layout is usually heavily influenced by where natural light can be captured. The classic Philadelphia row home is a champion example of an urban design solution that maximizes low-rise density while providing natural light where it matters.

Today, an open plan layout has become the new standard for common spaces in row home design. By eliminating walls that might otherwise separate the living room, dining room, and kitchen, an abundance of natural light can reach deep into the long, narrow spaces of most row homes. This is an important goal when windows are often limited to the front or back of the house. With a bit of architectural creativity, even more natural light can be captured by way of skylights, tubular daylighting devices, and even central courtyards.

For more on Philadelphia row homes, see the Philadelphia City Planning Commission's Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual.