Cory Cope and Jennifer Owen spent 10 years renovating a former power station on the North Side into their dream home.
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Room to Entertain.
The sleek and modern kitchen, which has concrete floors the couple poured and then covered with a white epoxy paint, features floor-to-ceiling maple cabinets, stained a dark grey smoke color, for ample storage space. There’s also a wine cooler and built-in coffee maker for the self-confessed caffeine addicts.
The giant, white quartz island has a five-burner cooktop and a retractable down draft hood centered in it. There's also a speed oven and a steam oven located next to a convection oven, all by German brand Miele, placed in the walls. There’s a built-in refrigerator and freezer that spans 6 feet across and two dishwashers. All of the sleek black matte brass fixtures are by Brizo.
Above the island, where a hole in the roof once was, is a lengthy clerestory. Light also filters through the kitchen via LED lighting placed above translucent plastic sheets that most often are found in greenhouses.
Cope and Owen, who both have degrees from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama — Cope’s in technical direction and Owen’s in production management — built the lighting themselves.
“Coming from a theater background, we’re often making things look like other things, and I think that’s part of the reason why where, if we couldn’t find the light fixture we wanted, we built it,” says Cope.
“We got a lot of quizzical looks at Home Depot,” Owen adds.
Although they’re hard-pressed to pick a favorite room, the couple say they particularly love the kitchen.
“It’s where we spend most of our time,” Cope says. “We both love to cook and bake, and we love to entertain in the kitchen. That’s how I was raised. We would cook all day and hang out in the kitchen, so we knew exactly how we wanted our kitchen to be.”
Room with a View.
Upstairs, the expansive hallway, which leads into the home office and library, features oexposed ductwork and giant chestnut ceiling joists, which Cope sanded by hand. The overhead lighting is strips of LED lights in different lengths, again built by the couple.
The upstairs den, which Owen calls their comfy, cozy TV room, has a view of Downtown — although that wasn’t always the case.
When the couple bought the property, there were several neighboring derelict buildings, some of which burned down in 2010. Although the fires were enough to send the couple, worried their home would catch fire as well, into a panic, the aftermath revealed a stunning view of Pittsburgh’s buildings.
Now, the room’s design makes the most of the vista. A series of small, square windows, designed by architect and CMU professor Jason Morris, draws the eye to different views of Downtown. Where two walls meet, there is a cornerless glass window.
“We tried to make everything point toward the city to capture this incredible view we have from up on the hill,” Owen says.
The floors, which look like wood, are actually cork, and the walls, which look remarkably like cork, are OSB wood, which typically is used as an underlayment for walls and roofs.
“It’s like a substructure, but we liked the pattern that you could get from it,” Cope says. “We installed and sanded it by hand for about three days.”
The upstairs also features a second bedroom, as well as a guest bathroom that is just as luxurious as its master counterpart. In fact, Owen and Cope joke family members have asked if they can vacation in the spa-like space.
“We didn’t want to feel like we didn’t do the same level of finish on the guest bathroom as we would have done on our bathroom, so we put the same level of design into it,” Owen says.
That bathroom, which had only a single moldering toilet, features a spacious walk-in shower with built-in stainless steel canisters for shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
There’s also a deep, stand-alone tub. Both the floors and the walls, as well as a door designed by Cope, are covered with dense Ipe hardwood, which usually is used for decking and is resistant to rot and mildew.
“I know everyone says we’re crazy for putting wood in a bathroom, and we may be in five years,” Cope says. “For now, it’s holding up pretty well.”
After 10 years of work, and three hundred thousands of dollars on top of their original $60,000 investment, the couple can hardly believe most days that they’re living in their dream home — and that it’s complete. It’s only in the last six months that Cope and Owen began finishing rooms and moving in their furniture.
“It’s just unreal,” Cope says. “Looking back on it now, it makes any frustrations or delays or years of work pale in comparison to what we got.”
And while the couple is done with their house, they aren’t done with their plans.
They’ve embraced living on the North Side, which, on nice days, is within walking distance to their office in the Cultural District. Early on in the renovation process, they became involved with the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council. “We wanted to make sure that we knew who our neighborhood committee was and that we were working with them to make sure we were doing everything properly,” Owen says.
The couple also has purchased 16 plots of lands adjacent to their property that once held homes that either burned or were torn down. There still is one building left, which the couple hopes to turn into a rental unit.
As for the rest of the open space, the couple is making plans for an urban farm.
“Our goal is to work with the groups to do an urban orchard that the whole community can be part of,” Owen says. “If you need an apple, come grab and apple. It would be a community space that we would help maintain and manage.”
Kitchen Cabinet and Tile Installation: Pittsburgh Remodeling Co.
Kitchen and Laundry Appliances: Don’s Appliances
HVAC: Trigate Mechanical
Gas: Bartolomeo Plumbing
Lighting fixtures: Cardello Electric Supply & Lighting
Excavating: Mullen Excavating
Roofing: JL Robinson, Inc.
Landscaping: Lawn Sense
Concrete: Pittsburgh Mobile Concrete