The interior designer Colleen Simonds from Shadyside, designed for her family, seems to radiate liveliness and joy. A turmoil of color, light, pattern and design envelops the residence, which used to be a traditional colonial era of 1911. The home is youthful and refined at the same time unabashedly personal.
“It’s kind of a family joke. When we bought the house we thought we just needed a new kitchen, ”laughs Simonds.
Simonds and her husband Henry, an artist, had been looking for an apartment for some time when they decided to move from New York. Both were born in Pittsburgh and wanted to be close to the family and enjoy a different lifestyle with two young sons.
“Finding a house was a challenge. We focused more on being in the city for easy going to school and the walkability was good. Coming from New York, that was what we were used to. But everything we looked at was 100 years old and took a lot of work. That was a bit sobering. I had no understanding of how much work this house took. “
Fortunately, Simonds was prepared for the upcoming project. As a former buyer of J. Crew, she was ready for a career change and enrolled in an associate degree program at the Parsons School of Design. She opened Colleen Simonds Design in 2011 and although she had worked part-time for several years when her children were born, she had never done a major renovation.
“What initially attracted me to the house was the high ceilings, and it was in good shape, it looked good, and it was very well maintained,” she says. “I could only see that it was an empty box and that it had the potential to transform into something else. You can’t turn a Tudor into anything else. Some houses will just be what they will be. But most of the bones were there and it had the potential to be something else. “
She also wanted something contemporary. The house was paneled with white siding, and one of the first steps was to replace many of the windows with larger, slimmer versions and cover the outside with dark Hardie plank that ran vertically. It’s easy to see how one project led to another. With the help of Moss Architects and contractor Jim Marshall, Simonds redesigned the conventional interior to suit a more modern use and opened up the house so that it flows almost seamlessly from one room to the next.
“We don’t have any unused rooms here. In a way, we have two rooms on the first floor, ”notes Simonds.
Although the middle hall still divides the space, walls have been removed to create two large rooms. One is essentially a living space, a combination of family and dining room. Across the hall is the new kitchen with a casual dining area. A long wind tunnel was built to connect the house to the new upper level of the garage which was added as a home office for Simonds.
“Things really started to snow and got a lot bigger than we expected. The old house had a detached garage downstairs and I thought I could put my office on the second floor above it. However, we weren’t able to get permission for the required height deviation and dug up. The whole excavation was a lot of work, time and money. We lived in a mud pit for a year and had to do all the stone work and it took forever! “
But the result was worth it. The Simonds office is a large, airy space, and the Brisenweg with its underfloor heating and large storage space is a well-used addition to the kitchen. The kitchen itself has been fundamentally redesigned. A huge new window over the sink opened a welcome view. Some existing windows near the neighbors have been covered, making room for a bar. Soapstone counters rest on custom-made cabinets by Larry Flock from Greensburg. Simonds didn’t want to paint everything white in an already bright kitchen. She loves navy and opted for Farrow & Ball’s Railings, a very dark, almost black blue, despite all the furniture that knew she wouldn’t get tired or find it trendy.
Next to the kitchen is just one example of the lush wallpaper that adds a playful tone throughout the house. The kids’ rooms feature a forest of birch, pinstripe, and blue camouflage, while the powder room features an abstract floral print from Hermes. The breakfast room ceiling is a wonderful surprise – it’s covered in a popular fig leaf pattern from Peter Dunham Textiles, in blue of course.
“As I looked at the whole room, I was thinking about where to add pattern and color. Ultimately, it was a chance to do something on the ceiling and it pulls your eye up. I’m always drawn to organic patterns with leaves, flowers, and birds, and this pattern feels like a more contemporary floral pattern. I knew it would be the right thing up there and connect with the darker blue of the closets and be fun.
“I try to do that for my customers. I think things can be subtle, but not boring and serious. Most of my clients are young families. We are a young family and I don’t want to live in a house where you can’t touch anything. The material had to work for the children. The ottoman is covered with a skin so that we can put our feet on it and the children jump over it. The sofas had to be comfortable. My husband is a person who lies down on couches and does not sit. Color helps my mood. It feels like a happy, fun and warm home. “