Best Renovated Home

Laken Design puts family — and lighting — first in a stunning home renovation.
Pittsburgh Wedding Photography 117


Like nearly all of the projects Laken Design has tackled in its 18 months of existence, the renovation of a 9,000-square-foot home on 52 acres in New Wilmington began with the lighting.

“Lighting isn’t just there to provide light,” says Laken Design co-founder Kate Tomalis. “For us, it’s a statement. We build off of it.”

For this home, with its expansive rooms and high ceilings, partners Tomalis and Lindsey Longacre went big. Twin, industrial-style pendants float above the kitchen island. A tiered, drum chandelier drops over the dining room table. A spidery, candle-style fixture looms over the sunroom.

And the pièce de résistance, a grand, beaded empire, hangs in the master bedroom, somehow managing to appear both dramatic and whimsical.

“It’s like a piece of art,” Longacre says.

Pittsburgh Wedding Photography 48

Only, at first, homeowner Tiffany Preston wasn’t certain this particular piece of art was her style. Was it too big? Too ostentatious? The trio discussed and debated the fixture’s merits. Ultimately, Preston relented, trusting her designers.

As it turns out, the chandelier has become one of Preston’s favorite pieces.

“Nothing makes us happier than when a client says, ‘I never would have picked it myself, but I love it,’” Longacre says with a smile.

Longacre and Tomalis’ work on the Preston family’s home also earned the approval of the Best of Design judges, who chose it as the winner in the Best Renovated Home category.

Pittsburgh Wedding Photography 170

“This home beautifully combines classic elements with more contemporary textures and colors,” says Crystal DeCastro Knapik, a project designer for Vocon in Cleveland. “The thoughtful curation of artwork, the precision of technical details, and the harmonious collection of interior finishes come together tastefully to create a familiar, yet unique, home experience.”

The renovation was a bit of an undertaking. The house was built in 2003, and its previous owners had clearly spent a lot of time on the design, but the earlier styling — think lots of wallpaper and ornate molding — wasn’t the best fit for an active young family. The Prestons have three children and currently foster one more.

So, in addition to updating the lighting, Longacre and Tomalis furnished and styled the entire home, remodeled the kitchen and powder room, replaced or refinished the flooring and repainted the walls, trim and ceilings, all with a deft hand that struck a balance between elegant and comfortable and reflected the way the Preston family lives.

Pittsburgh Wedding Photography 193

“They just heard me,” Preston says. “They heard what my needs were and what was important. They cared about the flow of our life.”

Understanding how clients live is at the heart of Laken Design’s work. Longacre and Tomalis prefer walking into a home that hasn’t been recently tidied in order to get a sense of the clients’ style and see how they use their space.

Is there a tangle of shoes at the back door? They’re going to find a storage solution. Are oil and vinegar always left on the counter? They’re going to buy beautiful vessels to hold and display it. Kids? They’re not even going to show materials that can’t be easily cleaned.

“You have to be able to live in your home,” Longacre says. “We want to clean it up and make it pretty without compromising their day-to-day life.”

For the Prestons, that meant a modern, casual and — mostly importantly — durable design.

To keep the living spaces looking comfortable and airy, they opted for a palette of milky whites, soothing grays, ocean blues and rusty golds. The upholstery is covered in perennial performance, indoor/outdoor fabric to withstand the wear and tear of little ones.

The windows were left largely uncovered to allow for natural light, which bathes the cavernous rooms and feeds the greenery that adorn open corners.

The kitchen got a total makeover, complete with new cabinets, countertops and an ultra-functional butler’s pantry.

Pittsburgh Wedding Photography 147

The sunroom, thanks to clever storage solutions including a coffee table with a series of drawers, pulls double duty as a kids’ playroom and adult hangout. The toys that litter the floor during the day are easily stashed away at night, when Preston settles down to read and relax.

But one of the home’s biggest transformation happened in the foyer. According to Preston, it felt too formal, a complete mismatch with her style and the rest of the design. So Longacre and Tomalis made a suggestion — a new front door. Because the original door matched the exterior and was in near-perfect condition, it hadn’t occurred to Preston to swap it out. But the simple update, along with fresh paint and a new staircase railing, made all the difference.

“They took something very formal and transformed it into something very beautiful and very functional,” she says.

“I felt like the house really came to life then,” Longacre adds. “You become overwhelmed by how much you really want to be in the space.”

Because Longacre and Tomalis have returned to the home to tackle the basement renovation and decorate it for the holidays, they’ve been able to see the way the Prestons are using the design, and they’re thrilled that their vision matched the family’s reality.

Even the decor has remained exactly as it was placed, which Longacre and Tomalis count as a victory. They styled the entire home using a collaborative process that only true friends and partners could accomplish.

“We’ll stare at a bookshelf the same way, head tilted the same way, for 10 minutes,” Longacre says, laughing. Then they debate: Is that book an inch too big? I think that frame should go one shelf down.

“If we go in and do trial and error and feel the space, it’s more thought through,” Tomalis says.

Apparently, the process is working. After completing the Prestons’ renovation, Laken has received mutiple referrals from family members and neighbors. Tomalis believes their success is as much rooted in their easygoing rapport with each other and their clients as it is in their design.

“We build really fun relationships with our clients,” Tomalis says. “People think when you work with a designer that everything’s going to be overdone and super formal, but it doesn’t have to be that. We try to really personalize every aspect of it.”

Preston, who had the duo return to design the home’s outdoor spaces, concurs.

“Originally, we were looking to build a house,” she says. “The best decision we made was to hire designers and renovate.”


  • Interior Design: Laken Design
  • Kitchen Design: Greyhouse
  • Electric: Gerry Senchak
  • Cabinetry: Schlebach
  • Hardware: Emtek and RH
  • Fixtures: SPLASH Kitchen Bath Home
  • Lighting: Circa and RH
  • Flooring: Buckeyes (Tile) and Jim Nicolson “The Wood Doctor” (Hardwood install and finishing)
  • Countertops: Primo
  • Windows and Doors: Dave Shoffstall Antique Mantels
  • Furnishings: Noir, Arhaus, RH, Fourhands, Loloi
  • Tile Installation: Terry Miles and Eddie Miles
  • Painters: Manos Painting and Dave Nicolson
  • Railing: Absolute Floors
Categories: Best of Design, HOME + Design