City Style, Simplified
Rittenhouse Home, located in the heart of Newtown, offers interior decorating, design and furnishings that capture the style and sophistication of the city but without city prices
by Sharon A. Shaw

Jennifer Poe has always had an eye for design. “I saw things in blueprint and understood what the right colors and textures would be,” she says. Starting out as a housewife and mother, this skill afforded her the ability to remodel and decorate each home her family lived in. Her peers would often compliment her sense of style and sophistication, and advising on their interiors and kitchen designs became a regular request. It was at this time that she recognized the area had a need for a sophisticated designer and luxury furniture supply without the cost and need to travel to New York or Philadelphia.

Determined to provide this, Poe returned to school and attended The Art Institute of Philadelphia to gain the requisite formal education before launching her own interior design company. Her business continued to grow from word of mouth, and kitchen designs and cabinets became a regular request in the ensuing four years. Finally, in the spring of 2014 she opened Rittenhouse Home, Newtown’s first luxury furniture, cabinet and interior design retail store.  

As the name implies, Rittenhouse Home provides homeowners with the service, knowledge and comforts they need to appoint their home with the class and sophistication of the historic Center City enclave, and thanks to its convenient location—20 minutes from Princeton and 30 minutes from the Main Line or Philadelphia—they are no longer required to fight city traffic or travel to different suppliers throughout the region for each of their design needs. This location also allows Rittenhouse Home to boast “city style without city prices.”

The full-service store combines the talent of an interior design firm with the affordability of a luxury furniture retailer, providing clients with the option to “look and touch” the stylish options in the showroom. From custom kitchen designs with Rutt brand cabinets, to luxury furniture brands such as Ralph Lauren Home, customers can now work with a designer from start to finish without the added cost. Unlike a traditional interior design firm, the retainer paid by design clients is applied 100 percent to their furniture purchases from Rittenhouse Home.

“Most interior designers are not also furniture wholesalers and don’t have the access to the lower price the wholesale furniture store has,” Poe explains. “With our approach, the design becomes complimentary and clients avoid paying an hourly fee for the service.”

The firm’s showroom, located at 17 State Street, offers 4,000 square feet of beautiful room displays, including a working kitchen. A smaller space just a few doors down houses the firm’s many resources and fabric samples. Rittenhouse Home carries products comprehensive of an entire home design project—lighting, flooring, rugs and furniture—from a whopping 108 approved brands, including such renowned names as American Leather, Bernhardt, Curations, E.J. Victor and Ralph Lauren Home. “I always look for quality,” Poe says. “We have high-end products but also value price points. Other stores who hit those price points may not be offering good quality; it will not last. What I have, I am comfortable putting my name behind.”

Thanks to its unique mix of retail and design, Rittenhouse Home appeals to a wide range of clients. “Because I have a showroom, I have people who want to buy a sofa and others who want to redo a whole house,” Poe says. “Sometimes they have been thinking about a project—and asking, ‘Should we? Shouldn’t we?’—but not wanting to get involved in the steps. When they find out about us, the project moves forward. We can get involved from the get-go and help them get a room plan or draft an architectural plan.”

Rittenhouse Home also works closely with home remodelers, builders and architects to assist clients with this first step in a major project or smaller ones as needed. “We can hold their hand through the whole process,” Poe says, “from building or remodeling to helping with the decision of what color to use on a wall or what furniture to purchase.”

Larger plans are done using blueprints, while smaller projects involve reviewing photographs with clients and then, if needed, coming out to measure the space. Either way, it is important for Poe and her fellow designers to understand what the client wants so that they can manage expectations to create a home that is both beautiful and functional. With this information they then construct a prospective computer model of the room to help the owner visualize the designer’s suggestions for colors, furniture and fabrics to achieve their goals—and sometimes to steer them clear of mistakes. “Our computer program allows us to show you your room and what works in the space,” Poe says.

The Poes’ most recent home is one they built in Upper Makefield, where they live with their three children, ages 3 to 10. Needless to say, this means Poe understands the requirements of designing for young families. She recommends durable fabrics such as Crypton and Sunbrella. These heavy-duty, “kid-proof” textiles are durable enough to be used outdoors and come in a wide selection of colors and prints so an interior can still look sophisticated with small children running around.

Living spaces, such as the kitchen, have evolved over recent years. As a result, these spaces have to be functional and versatile. Poe recommends using large islands with plenty of seating and “lots of trash cans.” She also suggests creating living space in the kitchen, such as a cozy reading chair. “These days, the kitchen is less of a ‘kitchen’ and more of a living space and the center social area,” Poe says. “Wall-to-wall cabinetry is more deconstructed nowadays to look like furniture.” One example in her showroom is a refrigerator that was designed to look like an armoire.

The Rittenhouse Home team includes Gayla Olson—an interior designer and kitchen specialist with more than 30 years of experience, who Poe refers to as her “creative engineer”—and Marlene Freeman, another kitchen specialist. Poe, Olson and Freeman all have project-management skills, as well as custom-house development experience. The firm also has a relationship with an appliance specialist who can explain each item’s features and make practical recommendations. While Rittenhouse Home is often called on to assist with the design of a family’s kitchen, their work frequently spreads to other rooms of the home. “Bedrooms are hot,” says Poe, noting that her firm receives many requests to redo these sanctuaries of daily life. The firm also does custom window treatments and has a wide selection of lighting fixtures, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the area.

While the needs of each of Rittenhouse Home client are unique, Poe has seen a rise in the use of the color gray. “It is the new neutral,” she says. “Homeowners can introduce it to what they already have; it goes nicely with brown tones and other neutrals.” Rather than using color on the wall, she often suggests using “pops” of color to accent a room.  

Her best advice for clients, though, is to do their homework. “Look at magazines and photos to illustrate what you like and then listen to a designer,” she says. She draws a comparison to one’s hairdresser, noting that while a style may look beautiful on a model, the look may not work for everyone. “Sometimes things don’t work,” she says. “Be open. You may be thinking ‘XYZ’ and come out with something completely different but still amazing.”

Rittenhouse Home
17 N. State Street
Newtown, PA 18940
215-579-0400 |

Photograph by Allure West Studios