Looking sharp: They put gleam back into Alcoa-built townhouse
April 21, 2017 12:00 AM
Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette
Aluminum was used on the inside and outside of the townhouses in Foster Square, which was built for Alcoa executives in the late 1960s and '70s.
Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette
Cole and Kathy Mazur in his man cave on the first floor of their townhouse in Foster Square on the North Side.
By Kevin Kirkland / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Foster Square’s shiny past didn’t grab Cole and Kathy Mazur when they looked at this townhouse. They were more interested in its location and welcoming atmosphere.
“I liked the neighborhood and the park was right here,” she said. “The North Side made me feel like I was home.”
Nine years later, the Mazurs still feel at home in Foster Square, even more so now that they have renovated it to fit their lifestyle. Their 49-year-old townhouse was chosen as the runner-up in the younger category of the 2016-17 Renovation Inspiration Contest, which honors well-done rehabs of older homes and businesses in Western Pennsylvania. Judges from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Design Center added the younger category several years ago to include projects less than 50 years old in the contest.
Foster Square was cutting-edge in the late 1960s and ’70s when its 50 units were built for Alcoa executives, but the gleam was gone when the Mazurs visited in 2008. The original exterior panels and some aluminum interior elements were intact along with a stark white kitchen, boring brick fireplace in the living room and bathrooms with gaudy pink, turquoise and bright blue tile.
“It needed everything,” Mrs. Mazur said.
Replacing out-of-date finishes was a good start, but what really set this project apart was the removal of one long wall that cut up the second floor into small rooms and a long hallway. Now, visitors find a large, bright space that encompasses the living room, dining room and a new, functional kitchen.
“Kathy likes color,” Mr. Mazur said. “I don’t have the vision.”
Contractor Vince Ventura of Irwin was called in to remove the wall and reroute all of the plumbing and wiring it contained. The gutted dining room got an accent wall and new light fixtures inspired by a visit to Mexico. The Mazurs found artisan Beyvan Schantz at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
“I described the light we saw in Mexico and she asked about colors,” Mrs. Mazur said.
The result is two delicate pieces, one above the stair landing and the other floating on thin cables above the copper-topped table from Room Concepts. Mr. Mazur installed five recessed LED lights to illuminate it.
In the kitchen, Mr. Ventura installed the new maple cabinets and granite counter tops. The wraparound cabinetry and bar were designed by Premier Kitchens, but Mrs. Mazur, a retired web designer who has taken up painting, chose all of the colors.
Mr. Mazur, a retired IT consultant, installed rustic faux stone and a new wood fireplace mantel over the blank red-brick wall and hearth in the living room. The fireplace is flanked by new bookshelves built by Jack Little of Ellicottville, N.Y., who also came up with a unique way to fill the gap left in the dining room’s hardwood floor when the wall was removed. He milled a butternut log then laid it in the floor, creating a design element.
On the third floor, the Mazurs revamped the small master bath, linen closet and guest bathroom. They borrowed space from the linen closet and guest bath to create a luxurious master bath with a unique corner jetted tub and glass-enclosed shower. The guest bathroom is now smaller than the master.
“You don’t want your guests to be too comfortable,” Mr. Mazur joked.
The empty-nesters said the biggest shock in moving to the city was downsizing from a five-bedroom house in Murrysville to a 2,100-square-foot townhouse with two bedrooms, two full baths and two powder rooms.
“In this house, everything must serve multiple purposes,” he said.
The couple plan to add a balcony off the living room that overlooks West Park in Allegheny Commons. Most of the other units in Foster Square have similar balconies added by the owners. The Mazurs enjoy their home’s proximity to the park, the National Aviary and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. They note that Foster Square is one of only three co-op complexes in Pittsburgh. He has served on the co-op board and she helped create its website, www.fostersquare.com.
Mrs. Mazur said they love living within walking distance of so many attractions yet surrounded by greenery.
“Our backyard is the park, and we don’t have to cut the grass!”
Kevin Kirkland: email@example.com or 412-263-1978.
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