After serious doubts, Mt. Lebanon man renovates vintage home


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In every home renovation there comes a time when the homeowner has doubts. In Richard Wizig's case, the doubts came before the renovation. It sounded more like buyer's remorse.

"The first couple weeks I thought: 'Oh my God! What did I do? This house needs so much!"

Luckily, he got through it, and turned a nondescript 1960s house with a few nice features into a comfortable, contemporary-style home with many unique features and one of the most beautiful bathrooms you've ever seen.

Howard Hanna Mt. Lebanon House Tour

When: 9:30 a.m. to noon today.

Luncheon: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Bower Hill Community Church, 70 Moffett St.

Tickets: Tour & luncheon, $25; lunch only $8, two for $15, available at Howard Hanna's Mt. Lebanon office, 607 Washington Road.

As a matter of fact, you can see it, today, as part of the 24th annual Mt. Lebanon House Tour sponsored by Howard Hanna Real Estate. Eight renovated houses will be open from 9:30 a.m. to noon with proceeds going to the Children's Hospital Free Care Fund.

When Mr. Wizig moved here four years ago, he had lived in newer houses in his native Texas, Santa Clara, Calif., and a Minneapolis suburb. He'd made an offer on a Mt. Lebanon house similar to this one and was disappointed when the owner decided not to sell. But this house was actually less expensive and on a private road, so he was pleased with his purchase -- for a while.

"I was in denial," he said.

He could count at least five additions or previous renovations, including a garage turned into a large den and a brick wood-burning fireplace in the living room that had been painted white. Making it even worse, someone had covered the fireplace wall with rough, exterior plywood and painted it white, too. He also didn't like the flat hollow doors or tiny 3-inch-high baseboards "and every single door knob was different," he said.

Although the most recent owners had nicely updated the kitchen with light-stained maple cabinetry and gray granite countertops, their new tile floor abruptly changed to worn parquet in a prominent seam that was obvious almost from the moment you walked in the door. And the upstairs bathroom? Mr. Wizig said he couldn't even fit in the plastic tub/shower unit.

He started renovation in the living room, the first room off the entry, to the right of a unique curved staircase that is original. He replaced the painted plywood on the fireplace wall with stacked faux stone and the parquet floor with hand-scraped engineered wood flooring that was extended into the kitchen, unifying the two spaces.

It took him two tries to get the right color in the large den, which is now light and bright, lit by a 5-by-3-foot skylight and triangular and clerestory windows. He found small modern track uplighting to replace giant can lights that were thrown away "with great prejudice," Mr. Wizig said. He was so pleased with the result that he put his desk near one of the large windows, a perfect workplace for a logistics engineering consultant who works from home.

Outside, he replaced a cracked concrete patio and crumbling built-in planters with a new, larger, pressure-treated wood deck that is shaded by a large Japanese maple and other mature trees.

The last and biggest project on his to-do list was the master bath and bedroom. Working with architect Tom Pierce and contractor Mac Grant, Mr. Wizig created two beautiful spaces that once had been cramped, dark and forgettable.

Let's start with the bathroom, which is so large that it couldn't be captured in one photograph. The centerpiece is one long tiled room with what Mr. Wizig calls "the world's most expensive tub" at one end and a steam shower at the other. A rainhead is supplemented by five body jets and two hand-held units with a third by the tub. Because the whole space is closed in by double glass doors, a bather can enjoy steam in the tub or in the shower.

"I said, 'Let's do something over the top.' I enjoy it, use it almost every day. In the winter, it's great," Mr. Wizig said.

To make sure he never runs out of hot water, he replaced the half-inch waterline outside with a 1-inch line and an old water heater with a new tankless one by Bradford White that heats 258 gallons an hour.

The bath is beautiful, too, with tan, stone-like ceramic tile that changes subtly from large to smaller tiles as it goes up the wall, with glass tile inset at eye level. "I saw that in a magazine," Mr. Wizig said, noting that Bill Moore did the expert installation.

The adjacent master bedroom is equally spacious, thanks to an addition and design visualized by Mr. Wizig and Mr. Pierce.

"It was my layout and idea," the homeowner said. "He made it work structurally."

The ceiling was raised from 8 to 12 feet and three of the four walls were moved. The front wall now is lined with closets and a custom-made cherry cabinet that matches the Ronbow vanities in the bathroom. The back wall was moved out 5 feet and gained a steel support beam and three casement windows overlooking the backyard. A new round window in the side wall "lets the moon shine in my eyes," Mr. Wizig said. A flat TV on the opposite wall "is the cheapest thing in this room," he joked.

On either side of the bedroom suite he brought from Minnesota are lamps made from antique Chinese vases. As a child, he remembers his parents arguing over the cost of the vases, he said.

The entire upstairs project took about five months. But it was well worth it, Mr. Wizig said.

"I call this house an endless opportunity to spend."

homes

Kevin Kirkland: kkirkland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1978. First Published November 10, 2012 5:00 AM


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