Buying Here: Mount Washington


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To most people in Pittsburgh, it's the Smart House. But to the thousands of people who have attended benefits and fundraisers in its spectacular spaces, it's the Party House.

Now 207 Bailey Ave., Mount Washington, is for sale, for $4.2 million through Tom Yargo of Coldwell Banker Real Estate (412-363-4000, ext. 202 or www.coldwellbanker.com).

The 12,000-square-foot contemporary-style house (MLS No. 933614) was the talk of the neighborhood when it was built in 2003. Shortly after Peter Karlovich and Steve Herforth moved in, some teenagers knocked on the front door late one night to ask if it was the set for an MTV reality show -- and could they come in to see it?

The owners answered "no" to both questions but decided to let 1,000 people come through for the Mount Washington House Tour that summer. One tour-goer asked: Would you host a benefit for our arts group?

"We'd never thought about that," Mr. Karlovich said. "We support the arts, so we figured why not?"

Ten years and about 300 parties later, the hosts are heading for the door. When gala guests start asking why you designed your house for parties, it's time to move on, Mr. Herforth joked.

He and his partner didn't design it for parties, of course. They designed it for themselves and their large extended families (Mr. Karlovich is from Mt. Lebanon, Mr. Herforth from South Park). Before they found a place to build, they created some basic computer-assisted drawings of a horseshoe-shaped house with a total living space of 5,000 or 6,000 square feet. They weren't even looking to build on Mount Washington until they stumbled upon an empty lot with an incredible view of Downtown.

Instead of townhouses, the one-third of an acre lot became home to a three-level hillside complex with eight bathrooms, seven skylights, four bedrooms, four fireplaces, three dryers, two washers, two kitchens, a sauna, steam room, dance floor, DJ booth, 1,800-bottle wine cellar and vanishing-edge, in-ground pool with hot tub.

Architects Paul Smith of of Research Art Architecture accommodated every request, warning that the additions would double the amount of square footage the two men initially wanted.

"He said, 'You can always take away,' but we didn't," Mr. Herforth said, laughing.

PG graphic: Mount Washington
(Click image for larger version)

Mr. Karlovich sold his portion of a California software company at just the right time and began planning this house. Their comfort with technology led to discussions with MGM Automation, which installed eight video/touchscreens that allow occupants to see views from four cameras throughout the house and to control a whole-house stereo system, security system, HVAC, lights and floor-to-ceiling blinds.

The house is so smart that it knows to lower the blinds in the master bedroom a half an hour before sunrise, so the rising sun won't wake anyone. When the doorbell rings, video screens show who's at the door and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" plays (other songs are available).

The house's public face on Bailey Avenue is modest and contemporary, artfully combining concrete, fiberglass, aluminum and stucco. Interior spaces are tall, open and filled with natural light, but not coldly modern. Lots of warm wood takes care of that, on the surfaces and in the furniture Mr. Karlovich, Mr. Herforth and Jon Withrow of Kolano Design chose from Chicago, Perlora and Weisshouse.

"Ninety percent of this house was locally built or bought," Mr. Karlovich said proudly.

He calls the house a collaboration and remembers naysayers who told them: "You can't do that in Pittsburgh."

"I like when people say, 'I didn't think I liked contemporary, but I like this!'"

Mr. Herforth's brother, Patrick, is responsible for much of that friendly contemporary feeling. He worked for a full year to build much of the woodwork and cabinetry. His crowning achievement is the dining table and 12 chairs made of curly maple and cherry.

"We asked for a mix of Frank Lloyd Wright and contemporary and he took off with it," Mr. Herforth said.

To make sure the chairs were comfortable, his siblings, parents, nieces and nephews tested an adjustable prototype and gave feedback. Their families often gather at the house for holidays, birthdays and pool parties, and the house has hosted one wedding each year the men have lived here. In addition to all the fundraisers, corporate parties and other events -- about 30 a year -- it's been used in one movie, "Bridge to Nowhere," in which a lead character "died" in the pool, and commercials for Heinz and IC Light.

Party guests have included Meadville native Sharon Stone, who jumped on the bed in the master bedroom with the homeowners saying, "C'mon guys, let's give them something for the Internet!"

With a 2013 assessed value of $2.38 million and annual taxes of nearly $53,000, this is a house few can afford. But can you really put a price on million-dollar views of Downtown from every room in the house?

Someday soon, Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Herforth will show someone else how to operate all the gadgets and turn out the lights at the Party House. But they're not going far.

"We love Pittsburgh," Mr. Karlovich said. "We're staying right here."

Maybe not in Mount Washington, they said, but somewhere in the city where they can find a lot to build again.

"And this time we'll stick to around 5,000 square feet," Mr. Herforth said, looking at his partner.


SALES SNAPSHOT


16TH WARD/SOUTH SIDE


2011

2012

SALES

132

188

MEDIAN PRICE

$58,200

$50,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$500,000

$500,000



17TH WARD/SOUTH SIDE


2011

2012

SALES

129

187

MEDIAN PRICE

$138,000

$134,900

HIGHEST PRICE

$786,500

$600,000



18TH WARD/MT. WASHINGTON


2011

2012

SALES

112

136

MEDIAN PRICE

$13,000

$12,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$650,000

$620,000



19TH WARD/BROOKLINE


2011

2012

SALES

416

520

MEDIAN PRICE

$69,000

$72,601

HIGHEST PRICE

$1,100,000

$1,100,000



20TH WARD/WEST END


2011

2012

SALES

200

237

MEDIAN PRICE

$28,000

$30,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$225,000

$255,000



29TH WARD/CARRICK


2011

2012

SALES

138

196

MEDIAN PRICE

$45,000

$39,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$162,400

$205,000

30TH WARD/KNOXVILLE


2011

2012

SALES

53

87

MEDIAN PRICE

$12,000

$13,747

HIGHEST PRICE

$61,000

$240,000



31ST WARD/LINCOLN PLACE


2011

2012

SALES

55

64

MEDIAN PRICE

$55,000

$55,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$144,900

$170,000



32ND WARD/OVERBROOK


2011

2012

SALES

79

103

MEDIAN PRICE

$65,000

$67,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$239,315

$170,000



MOUNT OLIVER


2011

2012

SALES

52

76

MEDIAN PRICE

$17,500

$18,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$119,000

$119,000



WEST HOMESTEAD


2011

2012

SALES

15

38

MEDIAN PRICE

$93,500

$47,000

HIGHEST PRICE

$176,000

$180,000


homes

Kevin Kirkland: kkirkland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1978. First Published April 13, 2013 4:00 AM


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