Two “Makers at Heart” Fill Their Almost 100-Year-Old Home With Smart & Savvy DIY Projects

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The first project tackled after buying the house was the addition of french doors in the dining room, which brighten the room tremendously. (Image credit: Submitted by Heather )

Name: Heather, Jeff and their son, Reeve
Location: Point Breeze —Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The basics: Owned — 1,693 square feet

Heather and her husband have created an utterly enchanting, totally individual space. Heather purchased the home in her 20s and has since made updates to turn the space into a creative and colorful home for a family of three.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I bought this house when I was 27 (ah, 27…) after moving to Pittsburgh from my hometown of San Francisco. I had fallen in love with the neighborhood, Point Breeze, and was fortunate enough to find a house in a section of the neighborhood adjacent to Frick Park. At the time, the blend of rural and urban elements was unfamiliar to me and it was an experience to sit on my front porch and watch wild turkeys (which I now know are not buzzards) roam the street while city busses went by.

The house itself is a 1926 red-brick American Foursquare. I mention red-brick because until I had it power-washed I thought the house was black. As it turns out, that was just soot. Years of coal ash from Pittsburgh’s former self had settled into the ridges of the bricks and hidden their red color. It was a perfect introduction to the many surprises that would come from owning a near hundred year old house.

Fast forward to present day and I’m no longer 27 (boo) and share the house with my husband, Jeff, and our son, Reeve. I wouldn’t even say share. Most of the rooms are designated hockey, wrestling or attack-you-with-a-pool-noodle zones, so I really only get a small bit of it. Jeff designs websites for a living and until recently I worked in education, so house projects and other creative endeavors happen in our spare time. We’re both makers at heart though and really enjoy working with wood, so many of the items in our house have been made by one or both of us. On the whole, we’ve made lots of updates to the house. We’ve removed walls, added windows, built cabinets and laid flooring. Since the house is small, and space and storage is limited, a lot of our design decisions have been based on the solutions they provide. We also try to repurpose everything we remove from the house, and have had a lot of fun thinking of ways to reuse things.

What is your favorite room and why? I think the dining room because it’s the closest to being “finished.” Each room in the house has its own to-do list that I mostly ignore—a section of missing quarter round, holes in the plaster wall (anchor issues)—until of course we’re expecting company, then I freak out and try to tackle them all. The to-do lists, not the company, if that wasn’t clear.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? My house always smells like my two roomies buried themselves in dirt and then rolled around in the grass for hours. I’d really like to change that. But if that’s not possible, it would be great if our attic was openly accessible. It’s a captive attic, which means you have to go through another room (the master bedroom) to access it. It would be a great guest room if it wasn’t captive.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Every time we take a trip together or go somewhere special as a family, we bring back a trinket that commemorates the experience. The chosen item has to be fairly small because it goes on display in an old grate we removed from the dining room that now hangs on our wall. And so far, all the trinkets we’ve selected to bring back are ridiculous. I giggle just thinking about them being on display. People must think we’re nuts. Anyway, to answer the question, we just took a family camping trip and brought home a …

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Our home is so specific to us that I think it would have an adverse effect on anyone else. Although kids seem to love our house because of all the games and other items we make, so I’ll think of a child. One who likes to do home renovation projects, woodworking, and invent games. I can actually think of one! Andy (or Terry) from the 13-Story Treehouse book series. I realize that only a subset of people (parents who love Australian humor and mostly don’t mind what their child is reading as long as they’re reading) know what I’m referencing but trust me, Andy and Terry would love it here.

Heather’s words of wisdom: The design elements I tend to like most are the ones with meaning or purpose. If it means something to you (a vacation trinket) or its purpose solves a problem (a specific basket shelf for avocados to separate them from bananas—shout out to Kitchn for teaching me about that), you’ll appreciate it daily.

Thanks, Heather!

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