Each artwork on display had a function. Some held records and CDs, while others served as coffee tables, chairs and bread knives. After all, this art was also furniture.
Made by three local furniture designers -- Day Shift, Cenzo and Bones & All -- the pieces are part of the Home Grown exhibition, which opened Thursday at Townhouse, a short-term furniture shop in East Liberty.
Located on Penn Avenue in a formerly vacant storefront, next to a vacant movie theater and across the street from a CVS pharmacy, Townhouse was started in May by Pittsburgh entrepreneur Michael McAllister as a way to bring high-quality furniture at an affordable price to the neighborhood. Prices are capped at $400.
The shop will close at the end of December as most of the block will soon be redeveloped by East Liberty Development and Blasier Urban into the Odeon building, which will house a new restaurant, movie theater and apartment units.
For now, the exterior retains its old red-brick facade with wide windows that reveal a ceiling of exposed wooden beams and furniture pieces of different shapes and sizes lining the white walls. In the back, atop a wooden cabinet, stands a light-up sign that spells the word "Whiskey."
Until now, most of the furniture has come from Weisshouse, a high-end furniture design store on Highland Avenue and The Shop in East Liberty, a lifestyle store. Mr. McAllister said numerous customers have asked him if the products Townhouse carries are made locally -- they were not. This spurred him to find designers who were working and designing in Pittsburgh.
"The assumption was that since we're a boutiquey kind of a store, that everything that's there we're making. But I'm not a furniture maker," he said.
Selling locally made products correlates with the aim of his company, Epic Developments. He founded the company after he moved back to Pittsburgh from Washington, D.C., at the start of 2012. Mr. McAllister, 27, said he wanted to create projects that "highlight neighborhoods or re-energize them."
To that end, he launched the Urbanist Pittsburgh in February, a franchise of licensed guides that highlights independent artists and entrepreneurs contributing to the local cultural scene.
Other Epic projects have included a series of pop-up beer gardens called Trapped that took place in parking lots and abandoned lots last summer and this summer, complete with food trucks and family games.
"They're a way to bring something kind of life-like to a space that wouldn't otherwise see it," he said.
When he noticed Pittsburgh's dearth of boutique furniture shops, the kinds he'd been exposed to in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, he decided to make furniture the next project for Epic despite having no prior experience.
"Other than turning to the Internet, there's not that many [furniture] options in Pittsburgh," he said. "This was an opportunity for me to use this space in East Liberty that is poised for redevelopment and activate it for the last little stretch of its life."
The designers featured in the show rely primarily on reclaimed or found materials for their pieces. Zak Kruszynski, who founded Bones & All one year ago, said he finds materials anywhere from a yard sale to a dumpster on trash day. And when he crafts something, he does not like anything to go to waste.
"I love the idea of trying to use every piece of everything," said Mr. Kruszynski, 29, of Friendship. "I think about the way the American Indians used buffalo. ... I try to take the raw materials and get absolutely everything out of them."
Some who were in attendance at the show's opening Thursday expressed enthusiasm at a kind of event not typically seen in the city.
"You're producing this innovative culture right here in Pittsburgh," said Dianne Weaver, 27, of Robinson. "You're not importing it from a New York or a Chicago or an L.A."
Other visitors agreed, but noted that such events could become more rare once the property is redeveloped.
"These pop-up things won't happen if the real estate prices aren't low," said Martin Aurand, 57, of East Liberty. "We don't want to see overgentrification happen."
Home Grown runs at Townhouse through Aug. 22 at 6016 Penn Ave. Store hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, until 7 p.m. Fridays with a complimentary in-store happy hour.
Jacob Axelrad: email@example.com or 412-263-1634. On Twitter: @jakeaxelrad.