A Matter of Time: A Grand Victorian Duplex Is Restored To New Glory
Long intrigued by an aging Victorian in Sewickley, the Izydores, with help from Wildman Chalmers Design, restored the century-old duplex to its former glory, while adding seamless modern touches.
It was like the house had stood all those years just waiting for them.
Built in 1895, the grand Victorian duplex on Broad Street in Sewickley was there when the family of Mark Izydore’s grandmother settled in the area and started a nursery and grass-cutting service that kept the village’s lawns green and manicured.
It was there as Heather Wildman grew up at one end of Broad Street in the 1980s and ’90s, and it was there when she moved back to the other end after 13 years away.
It was there when Marta Izydore stood at the corner of Beaver and Broad streets feeling like she belonged somewhere for the first time since her childhood in Poland.
The three of them finally converged on the property in 2018, when the Izydores purchased it and enlisted Wildman, an architectural designer and co-owner of Pittsburgh-based Wildman Chalmers Design, to bring it back to life.
Wildman was an obvious choice. She had previously renovated the right side of the duplex, so she was familiar with the building. Her love of historical architecture and position as chair of the Sewickley Historic Review Commission also gave her a unique view of the home’s possibilities.
“I like to think holistically, inside and outside — what is it we have to save and what is it that works?,” Wildman says. “It’s a win when you can preserve the character of the home and modernize the spaces.”
The ensuing infrastructure-to-interior design and renovation on all four stories of the home took more than two years, and involved hundreds of tiny decisions (which happened mostly long distance as the Izydores resided in Florida), but the house on Broad Street is now the perfect blend of style and history.
“There’s a charm Heather was able to extract,” Marta says. “Her taste is flawless, and she let us think and dream big. It was just a blank canvas when we started.”
Mark chortles at that. “It was something,” he says.
Like so many old Pittsburgh homes before it, this one had been split into multiple apartments. (If you count all of the former residents who have stopped to chat with Marta, “It seems like the whole town lived here at one time,” she says.) Still, it was in good condition and many of the original, Victorian characteristics were worth saving, including leaded glass windows, pocket doors and ornate trim and carvings.
What couldn’t be saved had to be ordered — the mantels were shipped in from the United Kingdom — or built. Ted Stevenson, who creates custom woodwork, ended up leaving his mark in nearly every room in the house, including building the bright white kitchen cabinets, the bathroom vanities, the dining room built-ins, coffered ceilings and the office paneling.
But, for Wildman, there is a fine line between honoring the home’s historical character and replicating it, and Stevenson and contractor Rody Nash — who Wildman says carefully develops historical projects around Sewickley, including this one — walked that line with practiced ease.
“I don’t want it to be mock historic,” she says. “I want there to be a marriage of old and new.”
Perhaps nowhere is that better represented than in the kitchen. The open kitchen and family room combo are housed in a square, 22-foot addition that could have read too modern and blocky against the original architecture, if not for the skylight Wildman placed above the massive quartzite island. It’s a cathedral-style window, with angled glass and geometric trim, that lends the space a bit of character and charm.
Elsewhere, more subtle touches nod to the past. Basketweave-inspired tile floors adorn the four bathrooms, vintage maps and photographs hang on the study walls, gas lights burn on the porch, Mark’s grandfather’s clock sits atop a mantel, and a Murphy bed is tucked into the wall of the basement playroom.
The couple purchased classic art and furnishings locally from the Sewickley Antiquarian Shop, the Sewickley Gallery and Frame Shop and Cuttings Flower and Garden Market, giving the home a cohesive finish. Wildman Chalmers designer Sara Coax also assisted the Izydores in selecting furnishings such as lighting, furniture and hardware.
Of course, it is 2022 and the Izydores have two young daughters, so modern amenities were also a must. An elevator runs between the basement and the third-floor master bedroom — a feature Mark insisted upon with his aging mother in mind but became equally useful when Marta injured her knee over the summer.
Mark also fought for a sound-proofed stereo room where he can play his vinyl records through state-of-the-art speakers. Marta originally questioned the need for such an indulgence, but the sound has launched many an impromptu dance party, and even made one guest cry in delight. (When Mark spins Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move,” you can almost imagine her piano is right there in the room.)
No matter where they begin their days in the four-bedroom house, the family inevitably ends them on the side porch. Located just off the family room, the porch becomes a part of the home’s interior with just a few flips and switches. The glass doors fold open and vinyl panels descend from the roof, creating a seal against the winter chill and summer heat.
“At night, with the crickets, it’s like a symphony,” Mark says. “We spend 90% of our time out here.”
And, when guests arrive, it’s a quick duck into the bourbon room for refreshments. Located just off the kitchen, the room’s floor-to-ceiling cabinets are stocked with hundreds of amber bottles in all sizes and shapes, as much art installation as bar storage.
“And we don’t even drink bourbon,” Mark admits with a chuckle.
It’s that kind of detail that the Izydores insisted upon that makes this home a standout in Wildman’s eyes.
“Their commitment to this project was so great,” Wildman says. “We have a lot of wonderful, educated clients, but we don’t get a lot of clients with that type of commitment to the vision.”