Buying Here: Fixer-upper turns into DIY dream house – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

August 26, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

Buying Here: Fixer-upper turns into DIY dream house

August 26, 2016 8:20 AM

First-time homeowners Erin and Richard Kelly did what many Pittsburgh transplants do when they decide to start a family: They come home.

“We came back from Chicago,” Mrs. Kelly said. “Both of my grandparents grew up in Forest Hills and we started looking for a house here.”

She’s a photographer and he’s an illustrator. They were looking for a home they could fix up. What they found at 107 Fairfax Road fit the bill.

“It had really awesome bones but hadn’t been updated for quite some time,” she said.

Dark interiors and old lighting was the norm. They went to work and after a three-year remodel, their chic design style was featured in Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy and  Country Living magazine. It’s also to appear in an upcoming issue of “This Old House” magazine.

Ready for another project and looking to move closer to family in Oakmont, the couple have put their home three-bedroom, 1 ½-bath home on the market for $169,900 (MLS No. 1239136) with Tim Gyves of Coldwell Banker Real Estate (412-366-9928 or It is under agreement.

The house in the Edgewood Acres neighborhood blends elements of cottage and modern design. On the outside, it hasn’t changed much — red shutters, red brick and the original slate roof.

“Someone clearly loved the spaces. We landscaped the lot and tamed everything back out there,” Mrs. Kelly said.

Brightening the interior started with lots of white paint.

“All of the walls in the first floor had heavy, dark paneling and no lighting. We wanted to just light every space.”

To the right of the entry is a 23-by-13-foot living room that features an original fireplace mantel and one of many built-ins. Hardwood floors were exposed and heavy wood paneling deglossed, sanded, primed and painted in a Benjamin Moore white called Putty.

“We wanted to create a Modern Colonial feel to the house,” Mrs. Kelly said.

They added new pendant lighting and furnished the space as a combination of dining/living room. The paneling adds a rustic element and accentuates the floor’s beauty. Nine-foot ceilings and a wall of windows make it a modern retreat.

A curved archway leads back to the entry and a quick left leads to a charming 8- by 8-foot breakfast nook with IKEA lighting.

“You couldn’t really see the interesting architectural details,” Mrs. Kelly said. “It was all so dark.”

The 15-by- 8-foot kitchen was a little harder. Dark wood cabinets, laminate counters and worn floors made the narrow space gloomy. And the fluorescent lights didn’t help much.

They began by removing the cabinet doors, deglossing and repainting with a product called Cabinet Coat. The new warm brass hardware was inspired by the original brass hardware on the windows. The laminate counter tops were replaced with butcher block, which adds a warm wood touch. The white subway tile backsplash is enhanced by a neutral greige grout. Some cabinets were removed and replaced with open shelving from Anthropologie and a seat nook was added.

The 10-by- 8-foot den got a paint makeover and a built-in bookcase was revived with cornflower blue paint. “It is so gorgeous and the windows in the room look out into the side yard and the front of the house.”

The pantry was turned into a powder room and laundry with laminate floors and a utility sink.

Upstairs, the 13-by-12-foot master bedroom was whitewashed to allow the solid wood windows to shine. But the star of the show is the 10-by- 8-foot nursery.  An oval crib by Oeuf further enhances the small room.

A 12-by-11-foot bedroom was turned into a cool playroom for the couple’s 16-month-old. A set of half-paneled French doors open to allow views of the back. A large window opens halfway and is secured by a wrought-iron guard.

“It is painted red to match the shutters,” Mrs. Kelly said.

The main bath, which had a corner standing shower when they moved in, was updated. The couple installed a standard tub and herringbone white subway tile, new sink and toilet. The floor and original built-in cabinets were left intact.

“They go back 3 feet,” she said. “The smaller cabinet opens to the closet in the hallway. It is very convenient to reach across there for something.”

The large deck and backyard can be accessed from the kitchen or living room. A partial gazebo offers shade and built-in seating adds charm.

“There is a really beautiful pathway from the deck that takes you to a second private sitting area among the garden beds,” Mrs. Kelly said.

The property’s county assessed value is $125,000 (

Over the last three years, 10 properties have sold on Fairfax Road for prices ranging from $22,913 in August 2012 to $139,500 in April 2015 (

The home has central air-conditioning and forced-air heat. There is a two-car garage.

Though the Kellys love this house, they’re looking forward to their next project.

“We are completely addicted,” she said.

Rosa Colucci,; Twitter, PGRosa_Colucci



Forest Hills at a glance


Inside out: Forest Hills has sought to maintain its natural assets and to that end has dedicated almost one-fourth of its 1.5 square miles to parks and public green space. The National Arbor Day Foundation has designated the borough as a Tree City USA Community for two decades. 

Greensburg Pike was a main traveling route in the early 1800s and carried more than 5,800 covered wagons, coaches and stages yearly in this area. From 1937 to 2015, The borough was home to a Van de Graaff generator, more widely known as the Westinghouse Atom Smasher. It was instrumental in the development of nuclear science for energy production.

Today, almost 6,500 people call the borough home.

Schools: Woodland Hills (

Enrollment: 3,828

Average SAT scores: Reading, 449; Math, 450; Writing, 439 (Woodland Hills High School)

Annual taxes per $100,000 of assessment: $3,428 (median property value is $100,000)

Borough: $800 (8.00 mills)

School: $2,240 (22.40 mills)

County: $388 (4.73 mills)*

Earned income tax: 1 percent

*Includes the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion, which reduces the assessed value of a primary residence by $18,000.

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