Monday, June 20, 2011

New Life, Old House

While in Pittsburgh this past weekend, I was able to tour a beautiful old house in one of my favorite neighborhoods and see the process of reinvention.

Sitting on a large lot in a mature neighborhood, the house clearly has good bones but was beginning to look a little tired. The roof is currently covered in flat clay tiles, but during the renovation slate tiles will be used (you can see the roofing work on the left hand wing).

The houses in the neighborhood all are stately but their presence belies their relatively small footprint. They may be mansions but they're not mcmansion size: rather they are human scale.

The brickwork was amazing. A watertable lies under the first floor and the windows have brick casing. This window goes into the beautiful paneled library below.

Who doesn't want a room like this in their house? It's no surprise it is the only room to go through the renovation untouched.

Double doors lead you from the entry hall into the room.

This jib, or hidden, door leads back to the butler's pantry and kitchens.

The old doors found through out the house are beautiful painted wood, raised-panel doors with a very elegant design that I haven't come across very often in my work or studies.

Many old houses don't have the insulation required for modern mechanical units so the walls throughout the house are being built-in (see the 2x4 wall construction mounted on the old plaster walls). I loved finding remnants of original wallpaper throughout the house.

This old iron light fixture was found on the ceiling of the screen porch on the back.

In the screen porch you see all of the elements coming together; beautiful old wooden screen doors, interesting wood windows, beautiful brickwork and terracotta clay tiles. In this age of the tear-down and rebuild, it is refreshing to see someone working with what they have.


Mark D. Ruffner said...

Hi, Stefan - I'm trying to place this neighborhood. Is it Shadyside, or near there? It's so good to see a place with character saved — I hope we can eventually get an update ...

Karena said...

Stefan how wonderful to see this home being renovated. That library is gorgeous. I adore the light fixture on the sun porch!

Art by Karena

Last day to enter my exciting Giveaway from the Artisans at Novica!

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

& thank god for the human scale. lovely tour Stefan! pgt

5 said...

hi stefan
really enjoyed this tour of human scale homes/neighborhood.
so much to love here; the brickwork, old wallpaper, library, ceiling fixture.....wish that could be reproduced.....enjoyable, thank you

Kerry said...

I would have loved to buy an old gem like this to renovate, just not in Pittsburgh. Is that Squirrel Hill or Fox Chapel, perhaps?

The Devoted Classicist said...

Hmmm, curio shelves set into the chimney breast panelling; that is a new one on me! The tile roof really emphasized the Arts & Crafts quality of the original design. I hope the intent is not to Colonialize it.

theduchessofH said...

I love the brickwork on this beautiful old house, and it's so nice to see old houses lovingly restored.

I myself have been accused of building a McMansion, and my take on the termMcMansion refers to a house that is built on a site that is dwarfed by the house.
Our lot is 108 acres, and I feel our house size is appropriate to the property.

Our architect, Thomas Moore in Toronto, really tried to marry the house with the site, footprint wise.

I'm asking this question in all seriousness, and not in the least confrontational, as I really don't know what McMansion means.
How do you define the term McMansion?
Here in Toronto it means a large house that takes up the the whole lot, and is usually inappropriate to the neighbourhood.

I'm sincerely curious to hear how your other readers interpret it, and is it a strictly North American term?


H A R R Y G O A Z said...

The paneling is INCREDIBLE !

Have a super week.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

The door was fantastic...was the hardware great too?

It was so amazing to see how a simple globe fixture was elevated to art with the ironwork details...loved that so much!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Devoted - the house had an arts and crafts sort of feel to it actually. I had never seen curio shelves like that either but they make a lot of sense -usually that is wasted space and it's a good spot to show your meissen or what have you.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Duchess - Hm, in my opinion (as an architect) the word refers to the quality of the house more than the lot size (although that is a factor most definitely -although these large old city houses also had very small lots).
So often the quality of construction of a house is sacrificed for size. The floors might warp, the wood may be fake, the windows might be plastic and the walls might be paper thin -but they'll have 2 story 'great rooms', entry halls, enormous (unfurnishable) rooms and more space than you can shake a stick at.
Great OLD mansions and palaces always had human scale to them. Look at Versailles. It has the hall of mirrors and the grand public spaces (but keep in mind this was a royal court -not an accountant in the suburbs -does he need that?) but each bedroom had a small boudoir, offices and dens where the people who lived there actually spent time.
You know what I mean because think how hard it is to furnish a LARGE room -it's difficult! What do you do with all that extra space?
So in summary -I think a mcmansion is just an overblown sized house of poor quality.

theduchessofH said...

Thanks AD, in some ways my house does qualify! lol. Some of the workmanship we have experienced has been poor quality, and we have needed to find someone qualified to re-do things.
It's getting harder and harder to find trades that do excellent work.


Foodie said...

A truly lovely, elegant house that needs some love....and a great decorator to re-imagine the interiors. Such potential!!!
Thanks for an inspiring post!