Century-old Polish Hill home takes on a new life with 'total gut job'
January 17, 2015 12:00 AM
The renovation of this home in Polish Hill added a full third story by raising the roof.
Large windows let light pour into the dining room.
The bathroom entrance in the Polish Hill home that had a top to bottom residential renovation done by Sipes and Son General Contractors. The architect was Will Hopkins. Interior design was done by Eva Mueller.
A steam shower was installed on the second floor.
The library, created in a former bedroom, has custom built-ins by Sipes and Son General Contractors.
The kitchen sports concrete counter tops.
Designer Eva Mueller chose the lighting fixture over the kitchen counter, which is topped by an L-shaped piece of concrete cast and finished by Brian Sieffert of Concrete Zero.
The kitchen of the Polish Hill row house features concrete counter tops, subway tile, an exposed brick chimney and copper details created by Sipes & Son General Contractors.
The kitchen of the Polish Hill row house is brightly lit.
By Kevin Kirkland / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Is Polish Hill the next Lawrenceville? If more old row houses looked like this one, it could be.
Sipes & Son General Contractors entered the three-story building in last year’s Renovation Inspiration Contest in the large (over $50,000) residential category. As this year’s entry deadline nears (Friday), we hope this renovation, chosen as a finalist last year, inspires others to enter the contest.
“This house was going to fall down in 20 years,” said Chad Sipes, who works with his father, Chester.
The owner, who asked not to be identified, bought the century-old house in July 2011 for $46,000. Chad Sipes said it required shoring up and a “total gut job.”
“My architect talked me into it,” the owner said, referring to architectural designer Will Hopkins.
He’s partially kidding. He knew the building was in bad shape but was drawn to its potential and the area.
“I really liked the neighborhood,” said the owner, who was then living in another part of the city.
He decided to go through with the project because he believed in his design/build team, which included Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Sipes and designer Eva Mueller. Mr. Hopkins said the collaboration could only work with an open-minded client.
“It’s so rare that a client will trust you and not micro-manage,” he said.
The biggest changes were the addition of a full bath with a steam shower on the second floor and raising the roof to create a full third story. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“We did a lot of structural modifications to maintain this openness,” Mr. Sipes said.
In addition to openness, the renovation’s blend of modern and rustic details gives this old house a timeless urban vibe. On the outside, bright blue corrugated steel siding immediately sets the house apart from its neighbors. Inside, a Jotul wood-burning stove in the living room and a huge airplane prop on the wall by the entry stairs make design statements. And in the kitchen, bright white subway tile and concrete counter tops mix well with exposed brick and nickel and copper details.
From start to finish, it took two years, including six months of construction, to create this 2,400-square-foot living space. Elements like the steam shower and the wood-burning fireplace were the owner’s idea. The stove was installed by Jim Hubenthal, owner of All Seasons Fireplace in Brentwood.
“The wood stove was your baby,” the owner’s girlfriend teased when contest judges from the Post-Gazette and Design Center visited last year.
But the element he is proudest of is the second-floor library, created in a former bedroom.
“I really wanted this,” the homeowner said, looking around the bright white space with open shelving for books he inherited from his parents and grandfather. “I feel like I built this house for the library.”
Team members contributed other ideas to the mix. Ms. Mueller chose the unique lighting fixture over the kitchen counter, which is topped by an L-shaped piece of concrete cast and finished by Brian Sieffert of Concrete Zen.
Ms. Mueller also chose the mint green paint for the kitchen and Winterwood gray, both from Benjamin Moore, for the dining room.
“Eva went far and above the call of duty on this project,” the owner said.
Mr. Sipes came up with the house’s copper elements, which include pipe handrails to the second floor and a flue cover, vent and trim in the kitchen. The warm metal complements the exposed brick chimney, which was gently pressure-cleaned with corn cob by Blastmaster of Butler.
The owner is delighted with the result, and with his investment in Polish Hill, where nearby houses have sold for three times what he paid. He hopes the sale prices don’t go as high as some in Lawrenceville.
“We want to do our best to make sure it remains affordable for everyone,” he said. “I hope to live here for a long time.”
Kevin Kirkland: 412-263-1978 or email@example.com.
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