Discover a rainbow within the pandemic

IIt didn’t start out as a pandemic project, but it became one.

After Shawn Aversa and Jamie McAdams, who run the lifestyle business Von Walter + funk | Owning BALLOON in Lawrenceville, living in their 120-year-old Victorian in Highland Park – jokingly called “McVersa Manor” – they decided their kitchen needed help.

Like most houses of the time, the house has high ceilings and historic charm, complemented by the carefully curated collection of vintage items and signature pops in bright colors. But while the home’s lack of an open floor plan has always been part of its appeal (“We love its original shape,” Aversa says), the kitchen’s cut off location wasn’t – especially for a couple who loved it to chat.

“They had no idea what was going on there,” says Aversa of the kitchen. “It was pretty painful when we had guests here.”

During the years that were spent at home, the couple learned what practical features they would like best in a new kitchen.

That list included low maintenance tile floors for their puppy tribe and raised cabinets to accommodate the couple’s size. Both Aversa and McAdams are well over 3 meters tall.

“We didn’t want to bend down to use the stove. We wanted everything to be at eye level, ”says Aversa. “That was one of the things we used to talk about in a task-oriented kitchen.”

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The pandemic effect

In the summer of 2019, Pittsburgh-based Century Interiors laid the foundation stone for the project which, in addition to kitchen renovations, included a two-story extension with a two-car garage on the lower level and a California room – on the first floor level of the house above .

As Aversa knew that the addition would never match the traditional features of the house, he – with the support of architect Jeff Wetzel from AE7 Pittsburgh – took a more modern approach and conjured up a light-flooded, airy room with many clear lines.

“There was a minute when we would really try to make that happen. I woke up one day and said, ‘Stop it, we’re not doing this,’ ”says Aversa. “It’s an obvious addition. Why are we trying to hide It’s almost an injustice to the house. I think you can bring these two elements together to complement each other. “

At the beginning of 2020 the annex, although not complete inside, was closed and airtight. Good, because in mid-March construction – and the world – came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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At this point the kitchen still had to be installed. Locked up in two tiny rooms on the first floor with their three dogs – and tired of takeaway food – the couple decided to take advantage of the unfinished addition and add some of their furniture.

“There was no heat,” recalls Aversa. “We had a hole in the floor and there was a huge extension cord that powered everything in this room, mostly space heaters.”

They also created a makeshift kitchen, added a freestanding hob, and bought what Aversa calls the “Cadillac of Toaster Ovens”.

As it turned out, the stay at home orders had a silver lining for the couple. As they enjoyed their new room overlooking the kitchen, they found that it was still cut off from the rest of the house. So they changed the design and demolished a large interior wall between the kitchen, butler’s pantry, and dining room – although this meant losing some of the home’s original features. Other original elements, such as built-ins and a pantry door, were reused elsewhere in the house.

“We made some sacrifices, but I think it was the right choice. We kept the charm, ”says Aversa now. “It really pulls the whole house together.”

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The completed project

The contractors returned in mid-May. The project was completed by July.

For the elegant and modern kitchen, Aversa and McAdams have teamed up with Jacob Evans Kitchen & Bath from the West End of Pittsburgh. Owner Michael Bonato called the project a lot of fun.

“It’s great to work with people who have an eye for design,” he says.

While Bonato says Pittsburgh is typically more of a traditional market style, Aversa and McAdams messed things up by choosing a highly textured wood-look laminate in beach-whitewash from Mouser’s Terra Collection for the furniture. Raised cabinets also include two pull-out drawers with built-in bins specifically designed for your pets’ dog food.

In another departure from tradition, the couple chose a dramatic black marble with white veins for the countertops with an unusual high-hone finish.

Aversa and Bonato agree that it took some experimentation to get the finish – which lowered the sheen of the marble – just right.

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“The problem with dark countertops is that if you remove part of the surface, you lose some of the paint. It looked gray, ”says Aversa of the marble, which comes from the Pittsburgh-based supplier Primo Marble & Granite. “The honed finish was the right color and texture for me.”

While Aversa chose the same marble slab for the backsplash, he deviates from the norm with a “half-splash” wall with a shelf on which he can display his kitchen items.

“Shawn was unique in that he liked his counter accessories,” says Bonato. Above the island hang the Aversa-made pendant lights that Aversa makes itself from mid-century globes and custom strings of color, with green stools that were ordered from the School House in Portland, Oregon after the East Liberty site closed. To add dimension to the room, one globe is 16 inches in diameter while the other is 12 inches and hung at a different height.

“It actually makes the room look bigger,” says Aversa.

For the floor, the couple chose a speckled white, matte tile from Del Conca, imported from Italy.

“It was the most important element in the room,” says Aversa. “It’s great for dog hair.”

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Find a rainbow

Aversa’s eclectic style carries over to the rectangular California room, which he renamed the Rainbow Room after affixing a vinyl rainbow decal that he himself affixed to one of the white walls.

A pair of vintage Bergere chairs from the 19th century, upholstered in light periwinkle cotton velvet and a retro gas Malm fireplace in a cheerful turquoise color, adding a Nordic feel to the room add more color. Under the TV, which has cleverly hidden the wires, sits a handcrafted wooden bench from Pittsburgh’s Urban Tree, which also adds an earthy touch to the room.

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Aversa says he and McAdams spent most of the monastery pandemic in the bright, airy new room, which is a way to lift their spirits.

“Thank god we have that now,” he says. “We’re like in this big bubble.”

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Flooring: Del Conca /; Style is Frammeti, color is Bianco Macro, 24 × 24 matte tile

Worktops: Primo Marble & Stone; Marble type is Nero Marquina in a highly polished finish

Pendant light: From Walter & Funk

Colour: Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore (walls, ceiling, moldings) and In the Pink by Sherwin Williams for the pantry door

Windows & Doors: Pella & Allegheny Millwork

Furniture construction: Mouser, Terra Collection, Color: Craft Elm and Door Style: Catalina; Hardware is Europe from Top Knobs

Architect: AE7, Jeff Wetzel

Kitchen: Jacob Evans kitchen & bathroom

Stack: ore

Bank: City tree

Contractor: Century Interiors

Domestic appliances: Don’s devices; Thermador Suite

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