Charm and elegance emerge after lengthy renovation of 19th-century Lawrenceville home


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When Terry Hritz bought a two-story Lawrenceville house in October of 2001, he considered himself lucky because it was double the more typical 20-foot-width of a property in that neighborhood.

Home to generations of the same family for 80 years, the 38th Street house was a time capsule of dated orange and brown carpet, seven layers of wallpaper, dropped ceilings in every room, a captive second-floor bedroom, and a back staircase that had been closed off. Hours of sweat equity, expended over the past dozen years, erased all of these less-than-desirable features.

Lawrenceville Hospitality House Tour

When: Noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $18 on tour day at tour's starting point, entrance of Allegheny Cemetery, 4734 Butler St., 15201.

Information: www.lawrencevillehousetour.org.

What remains is a home that retains its 1870 exterior while its interior is a set of comfortable rooms painted in fresh colors. It's one of 11 properties showcased from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday during the Lawrenceville Hospitality House Tour. Tickets are available tomorrow for $15 at the Butler Street entrance of Allegheny Cemetery.

Low-key and detail-oriented, Mr. Hritz was a bachelor when he began doing demolition. He camped out on the first floor, keeping all of his belongings in one room and sleeping on a twin bed. On the same day he closed on the house, he landed a job running the wood shop at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art.

Now 45, Mr. Hritz can see the fruits of his labor in every inch of this three-bedroom, one-bath home. He removed plaster from many brick walls, then cleaned and repointed the bricks. Using old bricks scavenged from the back yard, he rebuilt portions of some of the brick walls.

"I had to rebuild that whole fireplace," he said, gesturing toward the living room's hearth, which features its original, gun-metal gray, cast iron liner.

"After 12 years, I'm tired," said Mr. Hritz, who added that friends helped him with demolition, moving furniture and cleaning bricks. One friend helped him demolish the kitchen and install drywall.

Mr. Hritz also fabricated all of the baseboard moldings and the trim for doors and windows, all of which are painted white. Every time he removed a dropped ceiling, coal dust and flakes of plaster rained down, turning him into an urban coal miner.

Fortunately, those days are over. In 2009, he married Keri Conley, a Web content manager for Development Dimensions International in Bridgeville. They are the parents of Charlotte, a serious contender for the title of cutest 2-year-old in Lawrenceville.

The home's central staircase is a detailed show piece with its glowing pumpkin pine treads, glossy pine banister, and spindles painted in white and maroon. Bamboo flooring trims the two pillars Mr. Hritz installed on either side of the staircase to brace the second floor landing.

Throughout the home, Mr. Hritz created 11 alcoves, set into wall studs, that hold decorative objects, such as vases or plants. A 1996 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Mr. Hritz earned his master's in furniture design. He grew up in the Lawrence County community of New Castle and received a bachelor's of architecture degree from Kent State University in 1991.

To the right of the central staircase is a dining room with pumpkin hardwood floors, a decorative fireplace and an exposed wooden ceiling. Mr. Hritz widened and raised the doorway that leads from the dining room to the kitchen.

The original kitchen had plaster walls, a red brick fireplace with a wooden mantel, a dropped ceiling, a white, apron style, cast-iron sink and a tan linoleum floor. Now, it's a well-organized space with black IKEA cabinets trimmed in frosted glass, white quartz counters, a swath of exposed red brick and lemon-lime walls that warm the room. The black and white floor is Marmoleum, which Mr. Hritz said was easy to install because it comes in 1 foot by 3 foot panels that click together. He found it at Artemis, a Lawrenceville business that sells sustainable building products.

The first floor contains two fine examples of Mr. Hritz's furniture designs. A whimsical table made of puzzle pieces stands near the central staircase. He made it in graduate school as part of his furniture design thesis.

In the dining room stands a clock that he welded out of steel. Mr. Hritz calls it a father clock. When he was 7, his father, Joseph, an administrator for Blair Strip Steel, died at age 45 in 1976. His wrist watch stopped at 11:35 p.m., the time of his death. Now, that wristwatch hangs inside the heart of the clock and can be seen through a glass opening. Mr. Hritz calls the piece "Father Time Goes On."

On the second floor, a newly configured bathroom is painted a restful shade of robin's egg blue, while the floor is lined in brown porcelain tile purchased at Accent on Tile in Lawrenceville.

The original closets were about a foot deep, the same depth as the six decorative fireplaces. So, Mr. Hritz built a new long closet along one wall of the second floor and made it about 2 feet deep. White, bi-fold doors trimmed in tan fabric enclose the closet.

The restful master bedroom, so crisp and neat that it resembles a catalog ad, features a white decorative fireplace and white ceiling joists, which set off the rich blue walls and sleek chocolate brown furniture.

A long backyard, accessed from a small porch, offers enough room for vegetable and flower gardens. It's often lit by two steel torchieres that hold tea lights. Mr. Hritz welded them out of steel.

One side of the yard is edged with red twig dogwood bushes. A burning bush has been shaped into the form of a small tree. He also laid a portion of the red brick patio in a herringbone pattern.

The home's location, Mr. Hritz said, is ideal.

"I love being close to the Strip District because I go there just about every Sunday to get my produce. That's a tradition. It's close to the highways. I'm close to CMU, so I can catch a bus."

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Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648. First Published October 5, 2013 4:00 AM


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