Laurel Highlands Farmhouse Renovation
New addition keeps history alive
By Christina Kleiner | Photos by Craig Thompson
Westmoreland County has become a popular tourist destination for out-of-towners and Pittsburgh residents looking to get away for a little rest and relaxation. Known for its rich history and lush landscaping, the area is also dotted with some of the oldest farmhouses in the country.
In 1995, a couple with strong Pittsburgh roots became the third owners of a charming three bedroom and one bathroom farmhouse that dated back to 1862. “We had been looking for a farmhouse for two years when our realtor brought us here,” says the owner. “We walked through it one time and saw the potential. It had been updated enough that it was livable and we knew we could make it our own.”
Since then the farmhouse, which sits on ten private acres, has served as a second home for the couple, whose primary residence is in Houston, Texas. “We grew up in the area and went to school at IUP,” says the wife. “Work led us away, but we have a large extended family still living here, as well as a group of close friends from college. It just made sense for us to have a place here.”
In late 2010, after 15 years of summer vacations and weekend getaways with their children and family and friends, the couple decided it was time to update the house to fit their lifestyle. The previous owners had built a sunroom onto the back of the house, but it still lacked the indoor comfort and modern amenities available today. They turned to architect Tim Morgan to help them develop a plan. “Since they had spent so many years in the house, they knew what worked and what didn’t work. They had also collected a notebook filled with magazine clippings and photos of various products, materials and ideas,” he explains.
One of the biggest issues with the original house was the location of the kitchen. Positioned in the rear corner of the home, the kitchen was on the opposite side of the house from the detached garage. The kitchen and garage were so far apart that the owner wouldn’t use the driveway, opting instead to park in the grass near the side entrance of the home. “We decided that the best solution was to build an addition that would connect the original house with the detached garage,” Morgan says.
Morgan enlisted the help of Jeff Martin, owner of Primrose Homes, and interior designer Joann Fullen. “Our job was to successfully build an addition that created new living space while preserving the integrity of the original home,” Martin says. “This addition provides an extra 5,000 square feet of living space, but it fits perfectly with the original character of the farmhouse.”
The addition was set back from the home in order to maintain the prominence of the original front porch as the main entrance. It also features the same pale yellow façade with dark green trim. “It was important to match the paint so that the new portion of the home had a bit of historical value as well,” Fullen says.
The addition made way for an open floor plan complete with a new kitchen, wine lounge and sunroom on the first floor. The original sunroom was transformed into a two-story casual dining area adorned with dramatic windows flanked by bold red custom built-in cabinets and a connecting window seat. “It is refreshing to be able to stand in the kitchen and be a part of everything,” says the homeowner. “We can entertain a large group of people and have plenty of space, or it can be just the two of us sitting at the table in the wine lounge looking out over the pond behind the house.”
The first floor also holds a new master suite and laundry room. Two guest suites were added to the second floor, along with a comfortable sitting room. The lower level was transformed into an entertainment mecca. “We love to watch football, so we placed three televisions into the cabinet in the media room,” says the homeowner.
The lower level also incudes a billiard room, wine cellar and a yet-to-be-finished hobby room for the husband’s expansive train collection. “Now that we’re retired we spend more time here, and my husband is anxious to get the train room up and running.”
Attention to detail
Infusing a sense of history into the new living spaces was very important to the owners. The wide plank Carlisle Eastern White Pine floors throughout the first floor, as well as the random pattern slate flooring in the lower level, and elaborate molding and trim throughout the home keep that historic vibe alive.
Other materials such as the wood beams added to the dining area and master bedroom ceilings, the reclaimed brick pavers from Old Chicago Brick used on the floors of the wine cellar, entry and the kitchen backsplash and the eye-catching wainscoting in the master bathroom provide rich textures and details reminiscent of old country farmhouses.
Thanks to 51 interior paint colors, 48 different light fixture styles and a mixture of rich fabrics, each room has its own story to tell. Fullen relied on the Milk Paint chart to keep the look authentic to country living. Other than the master bathroom walls, which feature a light blue faux linen texture, the majority of the rooms have a soft paint palette. This allowed Fullen to introduce color through the various fabrics, rugs and custom built-ins, created by Pittsburgh-based Heart of the Home. “When you walk into the guest suite on the second floor, that blue bathroom vanity just pops and complements the entire color scheme,” says the homeowner. “It creates such a wonderful retreat.”
Leaving a mark
The homeowners are also proud of their dedication to American-made products and the ability to repurpose some of the items originally in the home. Instead of discarding the old kitchen cabinets, the owner plans to incorporate them into his train room. The kitchen countertops were also moved to the lower level and the old master bathroom vanity made its way outside to the grill area. “The majority of the furniture in the house was made in the USA,” the wife says. “It was something that was important to us and Joann was instrumental in helping us achieve that goal.”
Thanks to retirement, the homeowner says they now intend to spend even more time here in Laurel Highlands. “We loved it here before the renovation,” she adds. “We have so many memories already and now we’re excited to start creating new ones.”
Interior designer: Joann Fullen, ASID, Joann Fullen Interiors;
Architect: Timothy J. Morgan;
Builder: Jeff Martin, Primrose Homes, Inc.;
Cabinetry and built-ins: Heart of the Home;
Granite countertop supplier: Dente Classic & Exotic Stone;
Granite countertop fabricator: Apex Surfaces;
Plumbing fixtures: Crescent Supply;
Stained glass: Rex Glass;
Appliances: Miele dishwasher; Sub-Zero refrigerator; Wolf range, microwave drawer and warming drawer, supplied by Don’s Appliances;
Lighting, furnishings and accessories: Joann Fullen Interiors;
Structural engineer: Capstone Structural Engineering; Mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering: BDA Engineering; Wood flooring: Carlisle Eastern White Pine, WTM Exotic Wood Flooring; Brick pavers: Old Chicago Brick, Gavin Historical Bricks; Bathroom floors and walls: Marble, The Tile Collection; Finish carpentry: Mark Miller; Granite countertop fabricator: Apex Surfaces; Carpet: Joann Fullen Interiors; Stark Carpet; Landscaping: Blackwood & Associates; Paint: PPG Pittsburgh Paints; Sherwin-Williams; Benjamin Moore