This residential up-cycle employs a subtractive design process that emphasizes the elemental quality of space and light over excessive details.
A close collaboration with engaged and design-savvy clients, the modest post-war brick house, located in a beloved Pittsburgh borough, lacked the movement, light, and clarity that the owners desired. The process: a simple removal, refinish, and reduction, distills the space to its essence and provides the young couple and their three children a thoughtful and distinctive home.
The overall organization of the home was re-used, while the spaces were opened up through the removal of all extraneous interior walls. The existing kitchen, new bathrooms, and consolidated storage spaces are condensed into compact service walls to create the clean living spaces.
The desire for abundant natural daylight within the existing boxy structure translated into the introduction of strategic “voids” along the roof ridge, down the stair, and across the living room. These cuts through the attic and exterior reveal the natural structures of the home, and provide dramatic indirect light, while managing privacy.
New casement windows, improved exterior and attic insulation increase the passive efficiency of the structure, while operable skylights at the ridge cuts draw cool air up through the new lightwells to naturally ventilate the home. The low ceilings at the second floor were strategically raised to the top of the existing attic framing, providing both height and the organic texture of salvaged-in-place rafters.
All existing trim at doors, windows, and walls were removed to leave a natural palette of white painted plaster, clay coated plaster, denizen floors, ceramic floors, and wood rafters. On the second floor, existing damaged wood floors were salvaged and painted in keeping with the neutral composition. The curated furnishings are authentic and natural, providing the desired wabi-sabi that subtly activates the light-filled rooms.
The glass bay at the opened living room creates a deep inside/outside window seat under the existing tree canopy. The reconfigured stair opens up the remaining interior walls to form a framed entry view through the dining space. This modified space – the central element where people and daylight reflect and flow through the home – is a modern and restrained update to this traditional brick home.