Photo by Erika Fleegle
The above living space, belonging to Jerin and Megan Miller, was one of many rooms displayed on the 11th annual Brighton Heights House and Garden tour on Sunday, June 14, 2015.
by Erika Fleegle
The Brighton Heights Citizens Federation hosted its annual house tour Sunday, June 14, welcoming area visitors to a variety of neighborhood homes and gardens. In its 11th year, the house tour showcased seven homes, which were all purchased and renovated by the owners within the last 10 years, as well as four gardens. In keeping with tradition, each stop along the way offered a variety of chocolate treats for visitors.
The tour began at Brighton Heights Lutheran church, where guest could check in, purchase tickets, and enter to win a variety of raffle prizes. From there, the self-guided tour took visitors across several blocks of streets – from Winhurst Street to Cooper Avenue and between McClure and Termon Avenues. The first stop on the list was the home of Sharon White, a longtime resident of Brighton Heights. After acquiring the house in 2014, White made a few changes, installing new flooring, painting and updating the utilities. Several elements of the house stuck around, including the unique tiled ceiling, and family heirloom furniture and memorabilia made the house feel more like a home.
Just a short walk away, homeowners Geoff and Erin Smith opened the doors of their Four Square-style home on Northminster Street. Though neither of the owners are from the Pittsburgh area –Erin’s from New York and Geoff’s from Los Angeles– they are thrilled to be able to call Brighton Heights home. Guests were able to explore the first floor and back garden of the residence, moving through a spacious living area and an airy dining room, admiring the high ceilings and double-sided fireplaces in between.
A jewel-toned teal door greeted visitors to the home of Pete and Angie Allen on Kleber Street. Since purchasing the home from Synergy Capital in March 2014, the pair has made minor changes, turning the formerly dull interior into a warm, welcoming space. For Angie, the best space in the house is the finished basement, though she loves the living room as well.
“It’s great for relaxing and reading,” she said.
The next home in line belonged to newlyweds Joe and Allison Laneve. The 1922 Four Square house was decorated to reflect everything the couple loved, from an antique microscope to references to Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”
“We didn’t want something that was cookie-cutter,” Allison, a Brighton Heights native, noted. “We fell in love with the different rooms, the history, the character, all the little ‘secrets’ of the house, as we like to call them.”
One of the best “secrets” the house boasts is the “ghost door” in the second floor guest room. If you look close enough, you’ll notice that the doorframe and the door itself are sloped downward at the top. Allison explained that this was all intended to keep out evil spirits.
Moving on to Morrell Street, tour-goers entered the home of Tim College and Becky Spevack, a Victorian home that had been restored to its original single-family glory from its previous conversions into a boarding house and apartments. The couple kept the original charm of the parquet flooring and massive stained glass windows on the first floor while creating creative spaces on the second floor for each of their three children. Just across the street, renovation was the name of the game for Benjamin Rocke, owner of a charming early 20th century Craftsman-style home. Since purchasing the home in 2013, Rocke had undertaken the task of restoring the ceiling to its original height, rewiring the house, and replacing windows and roofing. Throughout the first floor, unique woodwork and cabinetry were major draws to the living spaces, which were accented by lush, cool and inviting tones of green. A deck and backyard landscaping are next on his list.
The final stop on the tour took visitors to the Termon Avenue home of Jerin and Megan Miller. Making the Queen Anne-style home a place of their own didn’t come without its challenges. While Megan wanted an older style and Jerin favored new, the couple struck a compromise with this renovation, retaining the original character inherent in the original flooring, four fireplaces and built-ins while embracing the new with an open floor plan and creating the ultimate master suite by repurposing one of six total bedrooms into a closet and impeccable master bath, complete with a fireplace and his-and-hers sinks. Aside from the character and original elements of their home, Megan noted that she loves the convenience of the neighborhood and the many active neighbors on her street working to make the neighborhood a better place.
In addition to all the inviting homes featured on the tour, several Brighton Heights residents opened up their gardens as well. At the intersection of California and Benton Avenues, Matthew Yurkovich created a plan for a revitalized vacant space to showcase plants native to Pennsylvania. Pea gravel crunched underfoot as guests wound their way through the dogwood trees and fruit bushes, and, if they were attentive, they could catch a glimpse of the garden’s Little Free Library, an enclosed shelf where visitors can take and donate books at their leisure.
At the home of Jim and Susan Lowe, guests enjoyed fresh chocolate-covered strawberries while exploring the bright, intimate garden. While the couple was met with challenges working around the addition built to accommodate their daughter, Jen, they “find a new sense of adventure” every year, learning about new varieties of plants and creating the various pieces of art that make the garden so lively.
Susan Banks, gardening editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recalled looking out the back window of her property on Kleber Street and staring at the backyard, envisioning the garden she would create.
“I said, ‘This is what I want,’” Banks told visitors.
And what she wanted was what she got. Through 10 years of cultivation, the garden now boasts vibrant variegated blooms and hardy hostas, as well as several potted plants and “Raven’s Wing,” a stunning black variety of Queen Anne’s Lace. Banks likes to keep her garden fresh every year by reworking and editing several beds.
The final featured garden belonged to Bob and Louise Reed of Viruth Street. Visitors entered the back garden flanked on either side by rows of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and basil, and found refuge under the purple wisteria-blanketed pergola attached to the back of the house.
For more information on upcoming events or the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation, visit the website.