Photo by Dalton Amato
James Hoy designed his Central Northside home inspired by the Steampunk genre, which is currently for sale.
By Abbey Reighard
A science fiction subgenre is no longer confined to the imagination, thanks to one developer on the Northside.
James Hoy can be spotted riding his custom chopper, probably covered in some fresh spatters of paint from a long day’s work, to his newly finished Steampunk themed property, 400 Alpine Ave., which is currently up for grabs.
Steampunk is a science fiction subgenre that often incorporates elements of steam-powered machinery and the Old West.
“Steampunk is Jules Verne and H.G. Wells,” Hoy said.
Hoy also compared Steampunk to the television show, The Wild Wild West, which aired in the 1960s.
Hoy said the idea for the Steampunk project struck him in the first five minutes when he walked through the door of the house on Alpine. Hoy’s artistic talent seems to have been inherited by his two children. His daughter illustrates children’s book and his son works as an architect.
Edison bulbs give the house a soft golden glow – which Hoy said looks “really magnificent” in the evening – and industrial windows give the house a sleek metal look.
The house includes a piano room – which Hoy will occasional play for guests – a kitchen, two bathrooms, a study and a master bedroom with a view of downtown. A spiral staircase connects the two floors.
Hoy incorporated objects, such as old doors, Singer sewing machines, bricks from abandoned buildings, reused granite, wood, slate and other materials.
“Why tear up the sides of mountains for that [slate]?” Hoy said.
Hoy also decorated the house with paintings from local artist, Brandon Jennings.
Hoy found a lot of the materials used in the renovation from junk yards, old buildings and from locals selling their antique furniture. He frequents a local junkyard owned by the Warhola family, relatives of contemporary artist Andy Warhol, according to Hoy.
Hoy said the junkyard workers often give Hoy a call when they find something they think might interest him for one of his projects.
The sinks in both the bathrooms are supported with old Singer Sewing Machine stands. The bed in the master bedroom has a reused antique-looking door that serves as a headboard. Hoy said he thought of the idea right before people arrived for the open house and simply screwed the old door right into the wall.
Hoy and his crew built a pizza oven in the kitchen, built of bricks from the old Paramount Studio Film Vault, 1727 Boulevard of the Allies.
Hoy appreciates the historical value of the old pieces he incorporated into his house.
The study room on the second floor has a row of seats that had once sat in an old Catholic church that was closed down. The section, which includes three seats, still has the old metal numbers on their backs.
“Those seats are over 100 years old,” Hoy said. “Think about all the people who’ve sat in those seats.”
Hoy said the renovation of the house took him and his crew about six months, but Hoy joked that the project felt like it took “all of [his] adult life” to complete.
David Dean, Howard Hanna realtor, started showing the property to perspective buyers at the beginning of the month. Dean said the price for the house is set at $259,000.
“One person remarked it was a clash of Frank Lloyd Wright and Bauhaus,” Dean said.
Dean said the people who viewed the house were most impressed by the Juliet balcony in the master bedroom and the repurposed doors.
“Everyone who came to the open house said it was the most daring and innovative use of space they’ve ever seen on the War Streets,” Dean said.
Hoy took advantage of every nook and cranny to make the home as spacious as possible for the future home owners. He came up with the idea to keep the fridge in a pantry just outside of the kitchen, to create more space for cooking and entertaining in the kitchen area. Hoy calls the area a “cold pantry.”
Hoy constructed the doors with repurposed wood and all the doors in the house are sliding instead of traditional hinge doors. The doors slide back and forth to open and close doorways along metal beams that run the distance of walkways.
“Closing rooms off makes the place looks smaller,” Hoy said.
Hoy also included storage space above many of the doors in the house, which include boxes he constructed from recycled wood.
The master bedroom, which Hoy added a Juliet balcony to maximize the view of the city, has what Hoy calls an urban green space. Hoy said the vines planted in the green space will grow down from the master bedroom wall to the mesh roof of the front door porch below. Hoy said the vines will grow through the roof to create a green canopy over the porch.
Hoy is currently working on a second Steampunk house in the Deutschtown neighborhood, 406 Middle St.
Like the finished house on Alpine Avenue, the property Hoy is currently renovating will be filled with Steampunk themed features.
The second house will be setup with an open-loft and will include dumbwaiter and fans on a wire running the length of the house. The house’s shower will be built with a skylight.
“The skylight will be pretty cool,” Hoy said. “As long as [the owners] aren’t afraid of birds.”
Similar to the house on Alpine, the new house also includes a spiral staircase connecting the first floor and the loft. Just like his first Steampunk house, Hoy wants to recycle as much material as he can for his latest housing project. Hoy and his team have gutted the house but are keeping most of the scraps in the backyard so they can be reused.
Hoy said once he finishes his second Steampunk house, he may create more in the same style, but will have to wait and see. The Steampunk look allows Hoy to give new life to old materials and appreciate them for their vintage style and worn looks.
“It’s a really hip way to recycle,” Hoy said. “It makes recycling cool.”