The Martins’ new home is visible from the parking lot behind Weavers Way Co-Op.

by Brendan Sample

Passersby of 8421 Shawnee St. might have noticed a large, modern home being built in what appears to be the rear yards of homes on the block.

The property, however, is not a large backyard but a sizeable parcel that contained an old barn and stables that date back to when the site was farmland. In 2014, Hillers Catherine and Richard Martin purchased the parcel to build a new home.

The couple expect it to be complete by May this year.

Levy DiCarlo Partners and McCoubrey/Overholser, a local design and construction firm, respectively, are both overseeing the project. Architect Peter DiCarlo has been involved since the Martins purchased the property, while McCoubrey/Overholser joined in 2017 as the contractor to oversee construction. While there have not been any issues with gaining the necessary permits, the house’s construction has still posed a new challenge for the companies.

The 3,200-square-foot house is being put together using a European technique in which parts that have been pre-manufactured in Austria are shipped overseas are assembled and finished in the U.S. Though the firms have worked with a variety of different construction methods in the past, this method has still proven to be an interesting challenge.

“We do lots of different things, but this is definitely really different for us,” McCoubrey/Overholser President John McCoubrey said. “One might think that having the parts pre-made would make the construction easier, but because it’s not typical of the way we do things here it can make it a bit confusing in some ways. We were told it should take about three weeks to put the pieces up, but it took us more like six weeks.”

McCoubrey also said that the company that makes the parts, Binderholz, claims that its products have a total carbon footprint of zero. Its manufacturing techniques include growing trees locally, using low-grade lumber, cutting it with a computerized machine and utilizing the waste. With the products shipping overseas, however, McCoubrey felt that this claim could only refer solely to the manufacturing process and not what happens afterwards.

The Martins are no strangers to Chestnut Hill. Catherine told the Local she grew up in the neighborhood and moved back with her husband in 2014. For her, the move to Shawnee Street is particularly nostalgic. The new house will be adjacent to her own childhood home.

“The property came on the market just after we moved back to Philadelphia, and I always had a fondness for it,” she said. “I played there as a child when it was cared for but not inhabited by the previous owner.”

As they wait on the final stages of their house’s construction, Catherine said she is looking forward to the convenient location of the new home and adding plenty of greenery.

“We love that the property is tucked away but at the same time close to shops and other amenities,” Catherine said.

“We look forward to working with Catherine’s father, Denis Lucey of Denis Lucey Garden Design, to plant some interesting trees, shrubs and a big vegetable garden,” Richard said.

Brendan Sample can be reached at 215-248-8819 or