Salvaged Moments

From the beginning, I knew I really really wanted to incorporate some element of locally sourced, vintage or salvaged materials in my new build.  Saving something (anything!) from a landfill would make the house just a little more earth-friendly.  Hopefully it would add a bit of charm and character to the new house as well so it didn’t look so, well, new.  The contractor nixed my idea of using salvaged doors (too much work to retrofit an irregular old door into the perfectly squared new door frames).  I also didn’t want to go too crazy ’cause that’s too taste-specific and I want to sell this puppy someday.  So, perhaps creative tile design in the spare bath?  A lighting fixture?  A random fabulous find?  That sounded perfect.  Here are a few salvaged moments in the new house:

1)  Spare Bath:  Tile Surround 

There is a building salvage and surplus material store in Pittsburgh called Construction Junction ( ).  For months I’d been eyeing this giant box of yellow tile that apparently no one else wanted.




I was in love with this gorgeous shade of yellow, but had no use for it until my new build — I needed tile for the second bath and this was gonna be it.  It’s actually funny – the boxes were all in Italian, but I’m pretty sure “ceramica” means “ceramic” and they were all irregular – definitely not an even 6×6.  My design idea was to marry this simple classic yellow tile with a hipper, younger version:  the small square glass tile.  This old/new juxtaposition works well as a general design principle, I think.  So I bought new gray glass tiles as an accent, used gray grout, and here is how it turned out:



Add crisp white shower curtain and fresh yellow flowers to make a clean, happy place for guests to get ready in every morning!






2)  Kitchen:  Vintage Light Fixture

Anyone who has flipped through a builder’s options for light fixtures realizes that this is where they skimp.  Perfect excuse to forego the builder option and go huntin’ for a unique, personalized find.  I wanted a fabulous light fixture for the kitchen island, especially ’cause it’s one of the first things you see in the open floor plan.  I found mine at a local lighting store called Typhoon  ( ).  They have a great selection of refurbished vintage fixtures as well as new ones.

My find is a vintage fixture from the 1970s – I love that it’s not frilly, it’s perfectly gender-neutral, and I’ve never seen anything like it.  I also love how the round globes break up the square angles of the space in general.



3)  Kitchen Island:  Door Slab

I totally lucked out on this one and found a flat door slab made of walnut veneer – the color and beautiful walnut grain were perfect!  (Rather, I could foresee its perfection under layers of dust while it was sitting at Construction Junction).  A light sanding and couple of coats of polyurethane later and it was ready for some legs, which I got at IKEA.


I later found vintage door hardware to install over that hole in its side, too bad I didn’t snap a pic of it!

And this is how the old and the new came together:



4)  Master Bath Storage:  Vintage Bar Cart

This is one my favorite finds.  Not from an aesthetic standpoint, but from a functional standpoint.  I needed storage in the master bath, and it needed to be open or glass front storage (anything that wasn’t would be too bulky for the small space).  Browsing around one afternoon at a vintage store right down the street (Who New Retro Mod Decor, I found this bar cart:


This bar cart has a fabulous feature:  the entire top is an appetizer warmer that heats up!!  So, guess what I use it as?  A towel warmer!!  Not only does it store linens, but it gets towels nice and warm very quickly.  Just turn it on, hop in the shower, and end with a warm toasty towel 🙂


In the Neighborhood: Morningside

Pittsburgh is a city that exists as a collection of neighborhoods… these neighborhoods are so much a part of Pittsburgh’s charm!  This house happens to be located in one such neighborhood called Morningside.

Map of Pittsburgh Neighborhoods.

Map of Pittsburgh Neighborhoods. Source:

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Morningside when I found the vacant lot.  Morningside is like the middle child between Highland Park and Lawrenceville.  Highland Park is very much the oldest — authoritative, well-established, sophisticated.  It’s comprised of large, stately homes with well-manicured lawns.  Lawrenceville, on the other hand, is very much the baby  – unconventional, free-spirited, and gets all the attention; it attracts artists and hipsters and has recently experienced a renaissance.  Morningside is, well, a bit invisible between the two.  So, I began exploring – driving the streets, getting a feel for this neighborhood that I’ve come to really, really appreciate.

Morningside sign

A bit of factual info:  Morningside was a farming community in the late1800’s-early 1900s, with few ways to get to it until 1905.  The Chislett street Trolley line was completed in 1905, and allowed people access to Morningside besides from Butler Street.  This spurred residential development.  Morningside gets its name because it extends from the southeast to the northwest and gets sun nearly all day long.  According to Zillow, it is only 0.5 sq miles in area.

A couple of highlights from my self-tour:

View of Allegheny River from corner of Morningside Avenue and Baker Street

View of Allegheny River from corner of Morningside Avenue and Baker Street

Mural located at corner of Chislett Street and Greenwood.  Artist:   Jeff Schreckengost  Funding:  Sprout Fund

Mural located at corner of Chislett Street and Greenwood. Artist: Jeff Schreckengost Funding: Sprout Fund

For me, the major appeal of Morningside is its location — the homes off Butler Street have clear views of the river, it’s an easy and quick drive to major highways and bridges, and a stone’s throw away from the hubs of Lawrenceville, Highland Park, and East Liberty.  Of course, a neighborhood isn’t just its landscape and architecture but also the people who live there.  Morningside is very much a “neighborhood” —  neighbors talk to each other, homeowners are here to stay for a while, and everyone loves “their street”.

Just like people have personalities, I happen to believe that places/neighborhoods with a rich history also have one that they retain throughout the years.  An article on Morningside as published in The Pittsburgh Leader in 1905.  I thought it was wild how it was described:  “Morningside is in a Picturesque Valley” and “this sequestered spot is unknown to ninety-nine out of a hundred Pittsburgers” and “easy direct route to the popular zoo.”  Fast-forward over a century later and one would still describe Morningside the same way 🙂