At Home with Pittsburgh's Style Setters
Take a peek inside the stylish homes of some of the city's most well-known home-decor boutique owners.
When your passion is purveying a city with covetable home goods and decor, bringing work home is inevitable.
“That’s how I always make my best decisions on products we buy. The rule of thumb is: Would I buy it for my house? Would I like it here?” says Shawn Aversa, who owns of Von Walter & Funk in Lawrenceville with husband Jamie McAdams. “Sometimes, it doesn’t make it to the shop,” he adds with a laugh.
Aversa is not alone. Owners of a few of Pittsburgh’s most popular design and decor boutiques mix professional expertise and personal taste to steep their own homes in enviable style.
Danielle Franks and Kristin Bordeau, friends and owners of House15143 in Sewickley, carry over the lived-in farmhouse charm of their store to their own homes, both just a few streets away from the shop.
Franks has filled the 1920s home she shares with husband, Brian, daughter, Ella, 13, and son, Dylan, 10, with a curated mix of the old and new, a style honed in her role as main buyer for the store. She devotes frequent weekends to flea market excursions and also loves scouting new vendors.
“Most everything in the store I either own or have at one point owned one of,” she says. “Sometimes when I go to fairs especially, I have to make those hard decisions. It’s like, ‘I really love this. Do I need it, or can I let someone else have it?’ You can only have so many things in your house, but I can buy it for the store and other people can enjoy it as well.”
Her home is full of eclectic groupings of glassware, books, plants and candles, as well as gallery walls featuring a mix of recent and vintage photos and items, plus a few art pieces created specifically for the family, including a rendering of their home and a sign depicting their name and address.
Franks also is fond of messaging, and nearly every room has one or more pieces telling visitors to “Count Your Blessings,” “Let Today Be the Day,” or simply, “Cheers!” either as framed artwork or simply scribed in chalk. These items are prevalent (and popular) in the shop as well.
The kitchen features another one of Franks’ staples: white subway tile. A mix of white and glass cabinetry, concrete countertops and stainless steel appliances complete the clean, yet inviting, look. A long wooden table with a burlap runner welcomes diners in the adjacent eat-in area.
The dining room in particular embodies the House15143 aesthetic, with an inviting table set for 12 complete with the Hester & Cook’s “Tropical Leaves” paper placemats and a “Classic Stripe” paper table runner, both sold at the store.
“It’s so easy for me to sell them to people because I use them for every holiday and occasion,” says Franks, who often hosts family gatherings. “They come in really fun, pretty patterns, and they’re easy cleanup because you just throw them away. They’re some of my favorite things in the store.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom invites repose with whitewashed wood coating the walls and ceiling, bringing a light, airy effect to the room. Dark hardwood floors let the white and grey bedding and decor pop.
On the other side of Sewickley Village, Bordeau’s home offers visitors hints of the shop before even entering. A printed pillow perched on a chair on her front porch reads “15143.” Inside, the rustic chic of the shop pairs with a touch of modern drama.
“I call myself, at my base, transitional,” says Bordeau, who lives with husband Dr. Kevin Bordeau, son Hudson, 14, and daughter Barrett, 12. “I like clean lines and twists on texture. I don’t like things to match or be too perfect.”
Deep indigo paint and thick-striped drapes add sophistication to the dining room. Delicate curves of the chandelier cascade down then swoop upward to hold bright round bulbs atop ivory sleeves.
Interesting overhead elements ranging from elegant to industrial can be found throughout the home. The renovated kitchen — a clean and classic sprawling expanse of white cabinetry and a mix of marble and concrete countertops — has two light fixtures. A glass rectangle surrounding Edison bulbs hangs above the eating area while a large recycled-metal chandelier is over a chef’s island.
A spherical polished chrome cage looms above the living room, where the soulful eyes of a horse depicted in a large piece of artwork watch over the room from its place mounted on the wall. The Western-meets-luxury look is completed with a round wooden coffee table, worn leather couch, woven rug and cowhide ottoman.
The farmhouse feel extends into the kitchen’s seating area, where a towering baker’s rack is packed with white dishes, copper bowls and wire baskets, while suspended wooden shelves above a nearby bar area boast a sign proclaiming, “We Do Loud, We Do Fun, We Do Awesome.”
Von Walter & FunK
shawn aversa & jamie mCadams
von walter & funk
The home shared by the owners of Von Walter & Funk is a collection of everything the couple loves. Aversa and McAdams, who live in a turn-of-the-century Queen Anne Victorian in Highland Park, enjoy entertaining, and when they do, there is no shortage of conversation pieces from a wide range of time periods.
“Everybody loves to poke at things and ask us questions about them,” says Aversa. “We like things that remind us of a time or of people in our lives. Everything has a story.”
From the piano stools serving as side tables in the living room to the vintage shaving brushes displayed in the upstairs bathroom, treasures fill the home. The mantel in the living room houses a duo of brass horns. One is an old Boy Scout bugle that was once displayed in the shop; it came home with Aversa to serve as a Christmas decoration and never left. They rest alongside a marble Victorian bust and an array of canine figurines. The couple, owners of four dogs, love things featuring animals — particularly dogs, horses, rabbits and birds — and glimpses of them can be found throughout the home.
The dining room mantel showcases several top hats of silk and beaver fur, one of which belonged to McAdams’ great-grandfather. This room also is home to several bar carts — one a Sorrento Italian-style inlaid serving cart and another a repurposed pastry cart — as well as an antique radio.
The tops of several doorways are adorned with arches of old keys suspended by nails, an homage to Aversa’s grandmother, Janet Irene Von Walter (the shop’s namesake, along with McAdams’ grandmother Harriet Pauline Funk) who collected them and displayed them in a similar fashion. An old yoke hangs above the doorway of the butler’s pantry — another idea borrowed from Von Walter — near a wall covered in Currier & Ives prints.
While much of what they own has sentimental value, Aversa and McAdams believe in living among their things, not around them. Most everything is untethered and able to be touched. Not much is encased, save some select china pieces.
“That’s our rule: It has to be an accent piece that is accenting without being a burden, and it has to be usable,” Aversa says. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be used for what it was originally intended, but otherwise, it’s just junk behind a glass wall unless you pull it out and use it.”
Aversa also is a devotee of wallpaper and often injects accent walls in innovative ways. The living room features the Vincent Van Gogh Wallpaper Collection’s “Almond Blossom” in yellow serving as backdrop for the mantel. Rifle Paper Co.’s “Peonies (Yellow)” provides a pop of color in the butler’s pantry, and “Daydream” by Julia Rothman presents a serene pattern of birds in flight in the dressing room. The bold tomato and white pattern of flora and fauna depicted in Emily Isabella’s “Otomi” ascends the staircase.
From the carefully curated groupings where everything and nothing makes sense to the abundance of one-of-a-kind finds, the home is reflective of what the shop owners strive to offer their patrons.
“Our idea for the shop was really to bring in things we love and had a hard time finding around here,” Aversa says. “We were always good hunters for vintage and new things, but now, there’s so much more available to us. It does make its way in here.
“We like mixing things, as long as it all works together. We live in a big Victorian. Does everything have to be Victorian? No, as long as it works and isn’t blatantly out of place.”
OLD Meets NEW
Just as she’s done for many of her clients, Kym Pelcher carries a theme of balance and harmony throughout the Fox Chapel home where she lives with husband Chris, 18-year-old son Sam, and daughters Olivia, 13, and Jillian, 10.
The designer and owner of Splurge in Fox Chapel likes to merge modern and vintage items to create spaces where all elements work together to set a mood of casual elegance and calm.
“Friends who know my home and my store will say, ‘This feels like Splurge in here,’” she says.
Pelcher has one hard and fast rule when choosing pieces for her home: “You should love every single thing in your house.” Much of what she’s drawn to professionally becomes what she loves personally, though she says when selecting store inventory, she tries to appeal to everyone while still maintaining a strong point of view.
“Once you find your niche of what your style is, you just gravitate toward the look,” she says. “But when I put on my other hat as a buyer and a merchandiser, I can’t have tunnel vision. Not every customer is me.”
Splurge selections accentuate most of the rooms of Pelcher’s home, from the reclaimed wood Lazy Susan in the dining room to the pharmacy reading lamp in the formal living room. Florals and sculptures abound, just as they do in Splurge, and sometimes, even elements of the store’s staging come home. Silvery grey draperies that formerly hung behind the cash register in Splurge’s first location, also in Fox Chapel, now serve as window treatments and wall accents in the living room.
Pelcher also has the luxury of having a husband whose hobby is custom cabinetry. Chris’ creations include a custom walnut cutting board in the kitchen, a reclaimed barnwood mantel in the family room and a sliding barn door for the hallway closet.
The modern/vintage motif manifests in inventive ways. In the kitchen, a classic white marble countertop is juxtaposed with industrial, metal stools. The Hollywood glam of the sparkly, tiled backsplash is offset by a galvanized steel tray and raw wood accents. In the family room, a contemporary leather sectional and raw edge wood table with a steel base sit atop a vintage Tibetan wool carpet.
Classic quatrefoil tile served as inspiration for design of the master bathroom upstairs, where marble countertops and vintage faucets mix with a modern vanity with contemporary hardware. The sweeping porcelain of the tub and soft white drapes allow the monochromatic palette to still feel soft and inviting.
Pelcher also relies on mixing materials and textures to add interest to neutral palettes. The greys and whites of the living room come to life through the mix of leather and wood furniture and shell and fur accent pillows.
Her favorite room in the house is also the most recent update — the first floor powder room where whimsy reigns. A wall of reflective antique tile serves as a mirror above a polished nickel vanity console with marble top and vintage faucet. A chandelier festooned with crystals, jewelry and a magnifying glass acts as a piece of functional artwork, and a Caribou skull, finished in Venetian plaster and mounted on reclaimed wood, rests on the wall.
This room is a testament to Pelcher’s key source of inspiration, both in her home life and at work — the process of creating itself.
“A new project is my best muse,” she says.