Major DIY Love Transforms a Neglected Pittsburgh Home

Bryan and Wendy Grasso went all in with their 112-year-old Pittsburgh home. They had a choice. The abandoned three-story home came with boarded windows and doors, a water-damaged exterior and a badly insulated, moldy and rotting interior. Bryan, an architect, and Wendy, an lawyer, dedicated their free time to get a year to gut, renovate and make a new open floor plan. They laid down tile, poured concrete countertops and made every detail.

at a Glance
Who lives here: Bryan and Wendy Grasso
Location: Regent Square neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Size: 1,830 square feet; two bedrooms, 11/2 bathrooms
Year constructed: 1901

Before Photo

Old siding, plywood-covered openings, poor insulation and water damage once defined this home.

Jason Snyder

AFTER: New vinyl siding and traditional scalloped shingles have replaced the damaged exterior. Bryan removed every interior wall on the first floor, which generated great cross venting. Operable casement windows flank the huge picture window.

Windows: Pella Pro-Line; siding: CertainTeed

Jason Snyder

The windows, newly configured and reframed for improved cross ventilation, are a combination of casement, awning, double-hung and fixed components. Bryan used narrow, slotted fixed windows on the other side, because they’re relatively inexpensive and can be arranged to fit inside the existing stud spacing. He framed Velux skylights into the new shingled roof.

Freshwater barrels link to the downspouts to help manage the water around the base.

Roof: Duration series, Owens Corning

Jason Snyder

Six-inch recessed can lights spaced equally in the suspended drywall ceiling help define the living and dining areas. Bryan created the columns to get structural assistance with lumber in the hardware store, which he glued, sanded, primed and painted.

A birch-veneer plywood ceiling and a exposed duct run above a slate tile entryway. Bryan’s former boss, Damian Velasquez, created the coffee table. Bryan and Wendy installed bamboo floor.

Sofa: Perlora; slate tile: Indian Multi Color, Daltile

Jason Snyder

Bryan made the railing system using threaded rods running between steel bars. “it is a little bit more of an industrial look than an airplane cable system,” he states. He sanded and stained lumber to form the handrail.

He purchased the art at a Phish concert.

Jason Snyder

“Ordinarily, we created a simple palette of base colors: gray, white and blonde-colored woods,” says Bryan. “Most of the color you see in our home comes in our furniture pieces, art and only a couple of paint accents” Many of the home’s walls are painted white, while the columns are done in bright hues.

Jason Snyder

The couple jots down favorite albums and what is next on the playlist with this chalkboard wall.

Kitchen dining table, chairs: Eames, Herman Miller

Jason Snyder

They installed Ikea cabinets and combined many different finishes, such as stainless steel fronts, birch veneer and frosted glass fronts.

Bryan used a standard concrete mix without added color for the countertops. He poured and glistening the countertops in the backyard in sections, which he then constructed like a jigsaw puzzle on top of the bottom cabinets.

Jason Snyder

The Grassos decided on a galley-style kitchen layout with a large island. Bryan created the butcher block bar counter with lumber from the hardware store. “It’s held up great, and I really enjoy it,” he states.

Because of the open floor plan, the couple used a suspended drywall ceiling to separate the dining and living area. The existing ceiling joists above the kitchen were left open, sanded, completely cleaned and painted gray.

Frosted pendants: Camille; heads: Sportster, equally by Tech-Lighting

Jason Snyder

Within this south-facing second-floor guest bedroom, Bryan installed a newly framed traditional double-hung window with timber trim. He eliminated a window on the wall facing a narrow, dark alley and replaced it with a tiny simple fixed window framed by drywall.

Mattress: Heimdal, Ikea; side table: Hemnes, Ikea; floors: birch-veneer plywood

Jason Snyder

From the home’s only full bathroom, the floor proceeds up the side of the bathtub.

Vanity: Ikea; bathtub: Air Bath, Kohler; flooring and apron tile: Concrete Connection, Steel Construction, Daltile; shower-tub wall tile: Modern Dimensions in matte white, matte biscuit and matte desert gray, Daltile

Jason Snyder

Damian Velasquez created the brushed-steel, clear-powder-coated mattress. The nightstands will be the same red color used on the first-floor columns.

Comforter, cushions: Anthropologie

Jason Snyder

Bryan made the two doors leading into the primary bedroom. The first is that a clear acrylic that he sanded to create translucent. The acrylic is put into lumber that he clear-coated with polyurethane. The next doorway is an oversize black stained sliding barn door.

Bryan found the teal vest in a thrift store; he repainted it and added new drawer pulls.

Floors: birch-veneer plywood

Jason Snyder

They opened the third-floor loft, removing interior walls to create an office space. The ceiling collar joists are painted with a accent color.

The floor is birch-veneer plywood sheets ripped into 12-inch-wide strips. Bryan routered the borders and staggered the boards. The chairs are restored antiques.

Jason Snyder

“Our finished loft is my favorite space in the home,” says Bryan. “It is so high up and so open that we get tons of natural lighting and great cross breezes. It is where we operate, listen to music, hang out and even Hula-Hoop.”

Jason Snyder

Wendy and Bryan, revealed here, created this office table with some leftover birch plywood and also a found dining table base.

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