Of the dozens of houses Karen and Kirby Krieger looked at online, the kitchen set this one apart.
"It was incredibly charming but awfully laid out," she said. "It was a one-cook kitchen."
The couple lived with it for eight years before finally getting what they really wanted: a charming kitchen that works for them.
"The best part is that it functions for two people," said Mrs. Krieger.
The Shadyside kitchen was a finalist in the 2012-13 Renovation Inspiration Contest, which is sponsored by Dollar Bank and judged by the Post-Gazette, Design Center and Construction Junction. Competing in the large (over $50,000) category against much larger projects, theirs didn't win. But the kitchen makeover and a bathroom renovated around the same time are excellent examples of what can be accomplished while staying within the footprint of a 125-year-old house.
Their original kitchen was a dark, high-ceilinged space with one large cabinet, slate counter tops and a 1934 Peerless stove in the corner. Mrs. Krieger drew a better layout on graph paper and turned it over to Joel Farkas of Farkas Associates, Architects.
"I gave him a drawing, and Joel made it work," she said.
Its centerpiece is a hutch that frames the Dacor gas stove in the center of one wall. With its open shelving, exposed brick, lightly stained beadboard and original pine floors, the kitchen has a warm country feel. "I'm a farm girl," said Mrs. Krieger, a native of Waynesboro, Va.
Mr. Farkas tweaked the design only slightly. He was responsible for an ingenious little bump-out on the dark PaperStone counter top that retained the full depth and sightlines of an old window.
Mr. Krieger, a photographer who grew up in Shadyside, modified the hutch's decorative corbels and made a tabletop from old floorboards. It was his idea to have contractor John Runski leave about 2 feet of brick exposed above the beadboard on one wall. Mr. Runski rose to the challenges of installing footed cabinets on uneven floors and creating neat corners in a room where "nothing is square," Mr. Krieger said. "There are a lot of little details," he said.
Other inspired design elements include a simple cherry wood-topped island and pendant lights suspended from pulleys. Mrs. Krieger found the French-made lighting online. The Internet is also where she found a Moravian star light fixture for the upstairs bathroom.
Like the kitchen, the bath blends modern fixtures and period materials. White painted beadboard and molding works well with three types of marble tile in shades of gray and white. Removing a linen closet created more room for a console sink and recessed shelves set beneath the stairs offer extra storage. In the glassed shower that replaced an old tub, contractor Mike Soltez maintained the bath's soothing palette by removing every black tile in the webbing for the hexagonal tile floor.
And the bidet? Now there's something you don't see in many Pittsburgh bathrooms. A friend gave it to the Kriegers.
Close collaboration and creative ideas helped keep both the kitchen and bath renovation projects close to budget. Mrs. Krieger, who acknowledges that she can be "a tough client," credited the extra care of designers and craftsmen, including her husband. She said it's the main reason the kitchen is both charming and functional.
"This was a very carefully crafted project between the builder, Kirby and the architect," she said.
Kevin Kirkland: email@example.com or 412-263-1978.