In Lawrenceville, new URA director, wife did it 'backward' but right
The Stephanys' house, which will be on the Lawrenceville House tour, has floors of cherry hardwood from the Allegheny National Forest in the dining room. It took Rob and Molly Stephany four months to strip the spindled staircase.
Pittsburgh's new URA director Rob Stephany and his wife, Molly, holding Eliott, 2 (left), and Oliver, 4, on the porch of their Lawrenceville home.
The kitchen's defining feature is a large island with a concrete countertop
The master bath features a slate shower with a giant mosaic flower by tiler Jeff Kunst copied from the base of the vanity as a surprise for Mrs. Stephany.
A small second-floor bedroom became a sitting room that leads to a deck.
Molly and Rob Stephany with their boys at their house, which will be on the Lawrenceville House tour, "Snapshots Through Time."
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Rob Stephany rolls his eyes when he recalls the long and sometimes bumpy road he and wife Molly traveled in bringing their 119-year-old home in Lawrenceville back to life.
"We did everything backwards," he confesses.
Rather than focus on one floor at a time -- which would have allowed them to live there the whole time -- the couple renovated the first floor while the second and third were still gutted. As a result, they had to crash at his mother's North Hills basement for six months.
"I know," says Mr. Stephany, 42, who worked as a commercial real estate specialist for East Liberty Development Inc. before he was named last month as executive director of Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority. "I should know what I should do, and shouldn't do."
Historic House Tour
- When: 5-9 p.m. today and noon-5 p.m. tomorrow.
- Tickets: $15 for one day, $20 for both days, at Teamsters Temple, 4701 Butler St. Trolley service will be available.
- Information: lawrencevillehousetour.org
Today, their Fisk Avenue house is one of 18 homes on the Lawrenceville Historic House Tour.
Carved into three apartments and in "deplorable" condition when Mr. Stephany purchased it for about $47,000 in 1998, the house is best described as cutting-edge urban. It still has architectural details that speak to its history, including a spindled staircase the couple spent more than four months stripping, original slate fireplaces, reclaimed doors and a gorgeous stained-glass transom above a set of windows in the living room.
The Stephanys installed cherry hardwood floors from the Allegheny National Forest on the first floor. Then they added contemporary elements. The eat-in gourmet kitchen has an enormous concrete countertop cast by Chris Rhodes of Outlaw Studios and sumptuous Shaker-style cherry cabinetry from W.T. Leggett Kitchens.
The master bath features a multicolored slate floor with a "rug" design that Mr. Stephany created by handcutting slate tiles. There is also a slate shower with a giant mosaic flower that tiler Jeff Kunst copied from the base of the vanity as a surprise for Mrs. Stephany.
In honor of the city's 250th birthday, the self-guided "Snapshots Through Time" walking tour includes so many homes that it stretches over two days: seven homes on tonight's Candlelight Tour and 11 more tomorrow afternoon. (The Stephanys' house is on Sunday's tour.)
The Stephanys' house was built in 1889 by Charles Naser, who owned a tavern/hotel at 41st and Butler streets known as Our House. The house -- which has Second Empire and Queen Anne architectural features -- was divided into three apartments in 1920.
It had accumulated a laundry list of problems inside and out -- bricked-up windows and faux-paneled walls, dropped ceilings in every room, outdated electric and plumbing, bricked-in porch walls. Even so, "I liked the feel of this block," he recalls.
Mrs. Stephany was a bit more cautious. A child of the suburbs, she found looking out the window and seeing another house less than 10 feet away claustrophobic. Once the wall that separated the main living area into two small rooms came down, giving the house more space and light, that all changed.
The couple transformed an ugly bathroom off the kitchen into a charming powder room with a vanity made from an old desk discovered at the Meadows antique fair. They also rebuilt the front porch, added a second-floor laundry next to a remodeled main bath and took out a wall to open up the staircase.
On the second floor, they turned a small bedroom into a cozy sitting room. It opens onto a long covered deck built by Mr. Stephany. Although the deck has lovely city views, the best panorama shot may be from 4-year-old Oliver's bedroom window. At night, Mr. Stephany says, the steeples atop St. Augustine Church on nearby 36th Street twinkle like Christmas trees.
"We listen to the trains, and say good night to Troy Hill ... and then Lawrenceville even louder," he says with a smile.
First Published October 4, 2008 12:00 am