Designers renovated a 27-room mansion in Wilkinsburg. Here are our favorite spaces.

The trans­for­ma­tion from the di­lap­i­dated Yin­gling man­sion in Wilkins­burg to the 2018 Junior League of Pitts­burgh Show House is im­pres­sive. Lo­cal de­sign­ers tack­led a dozen spaces in the 27-room house, in­clud­ing its grand foyer, a base­ment speak­easy, the kitchen, a par­lor, din­ing and fam­ily rooms, stud­ies, sev­eral bath­rooms and bed­rooms. The last Junior League Show House was in 2007, so those who jumped in to re­fur­bish the Gothic Re­vival-style house at 1300 Wood St. were also re­ig­nit­ing a tra­di­tion. The show house will be open for tours through May 20 and tick­ets are $30 each. Here are a few of the spaces that stood out


The Fam­ily Room

Designers Evelyn Wedner and James Checkeye of Evelyn James Interiors, Inc. in the family room they designed.
(Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)

Bright fuschia wall­pa­per with hum­ming­birds is framed in deep white win­dow cas­ing in this room by Eve­lyn James In­te­ri­ors.

“We wanted to bring this in­ti­mate room more into the mil­len­nium and it was the wall­pa­per by Zoffiny that was the source of our in­spi­ra­tion, as a nod to the early 1900s,” said Eve­lyn Wed­ner.

She and de­sign part­ner James Check­eye mixed old and new, us­ing a con­tem­po­rary cof­fee ta­ble by Van­guard, a sec­tional and two clear acrylic chairs with an an­tiqued glass mir­ror over the fire­place. The chan­de­lier in the room is from Reve­la­tions.

“The wall­pa­per is made up of four silk­screens and the back­grounds change, but the hum­ming­bird col­or­ation never does,” she said.


Rooms with a view: First Side condo puts a couple on top of a thriving city

By Kevin Kirkland / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Everyone loves the views from Debbie and Rick Peterson's condo in 151 First Side, especially their young grandsons visiting from North Carolina.

"When they leave, every window has fingerprints and nose prints on it," she said, laughing.

That's understandable. On one side, their double unit on the 18th floor offers views up and down the Monongahela River, including a half-dozen bridges, the Gateway Clipper fleet, Highmark Stadium and Station Square across the river. On the city side, you can see PPG Place, Market Square, even fireworks over by PNC Park on the North Side.

The bird's-eye vantage point has given the Petersons a new appreciation for Downtown buildings.

"You can really see the architecture from up here, the top parts of buildings you can't see from the ground," Ms. Peterson said.

And the views inside aren't bad either. Modern furniture and a neutral color palette make for a sleek, comfortable living space that complements rather than competes with the panoramic views on three sides. It's hard to believe it was just raw space when the couple bought the two units less than three years ago. Originally from Corry, Pa., they rented an apartment on the North Shore for 2 1/2 years after Mr. Peterson opened an office in the North Hills to run businesses here and in Erie.

"I grew up in the country," his wife said. "I wanted to be a city slicker."

Developer Ralph Falbo, a friend, convinced them to take a look at his condominiums on Fort Pitt Boulevard. It was love at First Side, er sight.

"We wanted balconies. We wanted to be able to grill," Ms. Peterson said.

They got both. They call their balcony overlooking the Mon the front terrace.

"We love the balcony. Every nice night we sit out there. We have dinner at a high table," she said.

Tall planters hold a changing array of colorful flowers planted and tended by neighbor Libby Milsak. Recently, it was yellow begonias, purple salvia, pansies, yellow acorus grass and redtwig dogwoods. Orange lilies and hellebores had just finished blooming. Ms. Milsak comes up with new combinations for summer and fall.

Informal hedges fill the planters on the back terrace, which gets morning sun and has a larger table. The city side terrace is easily accessed from a guest bedroom and the family room, where Ms. Peterson displays signed memorabilia from the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. She loves being able to walk to home games for all three teams, and to restaurants and stores Downtown.

The condo has four bedrooms, three full baths and about 3,200 square feet of space. Mystic Construction did the original floorplan, which Mr. Peterson then tweaked to maximize views and space. The Petersons chose some of the furniture -- they're particularly proud of the leather Ekornes Stressless chairs in the living room and the expandable Airport dining table by Calligaris, all from Perlora.

Evelyn James Interiors chose most of the other furnishings, the LED light fixtures, area rugs and the unique glass, wood and ceramic tile that covers the kitchen backsplash and surrounds the gas fireplace in the adjacent living room.

North Shore Kitchens made the maple cabinetry in the kitchen and master bedroom. Evelyn James principals Evelyn Wedner and James Checkeye would have chosen artwork, too, but the Petersons had other ideas.

They found a metal bridge wall sculpture at Levin Furniture and a large painting in the living room online. Its title is "Building Bridges."

It's beautiful but can't compete with the real thing across the room. Ms. Peterson admits to a fleeting worry that their home had too many windows on the first sunny day.

"What was I thinking? All of these windows -- Holy smoke!" she said.

Motorized shades were installed and she's never worried since. A few nose prints are a small price to pay for the reality show playing out below.

"Our grandsons spend hours watching the traffic," she said.

Kevin Kirkland: 412-263-1978 or


A Tale of Two Spaces

By Jean Horne

Monday, July 25, 2005


What makes a house a home• Personal taste -- those unique touches and influences that reflect one's personality. For some, it's over-the-top opulence. For others, elegant simplicity. We traveled to the homes of designers Evelyn Wedner and James Checkeye, whose spaces are as personal -- and as diverse -- as they come.

For 14 years, Evelyn and Jim worked side by side at Arthur Moser Interiors. When the venerable Squirrel Hill firm closed, the young, innovative team moved lock, stock and swatches across the street to Evelyn James Interiors, a charming studio on Forbes. And their clients followed.

Evelyn and her husband, Bill (owner of the popular Smallman Street Deli) raised their three children in Squirrel Hill. "There was nothing fun about this house," Evelyn allowed about the Arts and Crafts abode. "I felt I had to introduce it to a new life."

With glam and elan, she wrapped the living room walls in a bold animal print, then created symmetry where there was none. She balanced the off-center fireplace by placing an oversized burled wood cocktail table off-center in the long, narrow space that's anchored at one end with a contemporary sofa and at the other by a pair of Henredon chairs and an ottoman. A sleek dolphin chair, lacquered in a malachite finish, catches the sunlight streaming through a woven Roman shade that unifies a wall of windows.

Rooms embrace color, texture and pattern in an exuberant mix of periods and wonderful family treasures. An early 19th-century American, marble-topped washstand is now an end table in the living room, while a 1920s gas lamp was converted into a chandelier for the dining room. "Life is too serious. We all need a little levity in our lives," she smiled as we entered the dining room that's lined with palm trees dancing ona black-matte wall covering. Above a splendid 18th-century Spanish polychrome sideboard is a pair of carved hands framing a Gorman print.

Rich terra cotta is the dominant color in the well lived-in family room that was added in 1989. And it's contrasted by the teal blue leather sectional sofa and the carved-and-tufted cocoa leather chairs whose backs she upholstered in Southwest tapestries. Kilim rugs were lashed together with leather bindings to fashion a pair of ottomans and, for pizzazz, she added a framed Gucci silk animal print scarf above the sofa.

After removing the paved patch that covered the original garden, Bill and his son dug up the floors of his restaurant. They used the slabs of limestone and slate to construct a charming urban oasis with an Asian arbor, blooming containers, raised flower beds and trees that attract a chorus of singing birds.

There's also space in the entryway for Napoleon, a black miniature poodle, to run circles when they come home at night. "Never name your pet after a dictator," Evelyn warns. "They rule the roost."

Decorating, like love, can be a long-term commitment. Such is the case for Jim Checkeye and clients with whom he has worked for many years and whose interiors have been featured in Architectural Digest. "Often when I revisit a client, the furniture and accessories are exactly as I left them 10 years earlier," he says.

Jim brought a decidedly uptown gloss to his Edgewood condominium. He used an elegant neutral palette in the entry, living room and dining area "where I wanted the walls and carpet to read the same ... and the grass-cloth-covered walls are great at hiding nail holes." That's a good thing, since the entire apartment is a showcase for his striking collection of contemporary art. To name but a few, canvases by Michael Lotenero and Burton Morris share wall space with works by Alex Katz, Gene Davis and Mark Mentzer.

"The Puppy," a whimsical white porcelain sculpture by Jeff Koons, stands in stark contrast to the chocolate velvet drapery panel that separates the entry from the living room and frames the view.

The Italian modern sofa is covered in soft chenille, and the Art Deco-style side chairs are upholstered in taupe. Being in this room is like visiting a three-dimensional painting. An oversized glass-topped cocktail table with a woven leather base by Henredon and end tables illuminated by Frederick Cooper lamps are merely pedestals for a Murano glass sculpture, an acrylic cube by Vasarely and other treasures. Then, there's his vast collection of crystal objects gleaming from a breakfront.

You should also know that the glorious bouquets in both homes were done by Carmel Vandale of Mt. Lebanon Floral.

"Crash," a large canvas by Vito Acconci, dominates the dining area with its glass-topped Baker table and E.J. Victor rattan chairs cushioned in mohair. In one corner rests a large DayGlo wheel form, a flea-market find, and in another is nestled a small brass cricket for luck. Art-filled countertops in the galley kitchen even hold an Andy Warhol soup tureen.

The appeal of these inviting bachelor digs is that one wishes to linger and examine absolutely everything. But there's more to come because, as Jim sighs, "it's a work in progress."

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