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Annual Friendship House Tour features vivid and fragrant Colonial Revival

Saturday, September 18, 1999

By Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

To get some idea of Gary Carlough's love of color, look no further than the outside of his Friendship home. Instead of the muted whites and creams typically associated with Colonial Revival homes, the trim on Carlough's 1902 red brick house offers a bold combination of purple and orange on the trim.

Gary Carlough's home in Friendship, has bright purple and orange trim on the exterior to catch the eye of passers-by. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette) 

"I wanted bright highlights," he explains with a smile. "Something to catch the eye."

Beyond that bit of whimsy, the home's exterior doesn't look much different from the other faithfully restored Victorians on the Friendship House Tour tomorrow. But step inside, and Carlough's color celebration kicks into high gear. While the original architectural details -- thick stained-glass windows, tile fireplaces, an intricately carved window seat and 1890s chandelier -- catch the eye, they play second fiddle to Carlough's carefully thought-out explosion of saturated color on the walls throughout three floors.

An unconventional expanse of mint-green walls and orange-tinted Lincrusta, for example, welcomes visitors in the front hall and as they head up the ornate oak staircase. In the living room, purple and pale lavender walls, a kidney-shaped Noguchi "bone table" and a Man Ray nude photograph stand in stark contrast to the beveled-glass transoms above the picture window and a pair of heavy mahogany pocket doors.

    A variety of architecture opens doors on home tours


Then there's the dining room. Most homeowners would team a collection of antiques and period wallpaper with the boxed ceiling beams and walnut wainscoting. Carlough chose bright canary-yellow and light-pink walls, contemporary furnishings and artwork. On one side sit a giant, stainless-steel-and-frosted-glass table and Bertoia wire chairs. On the other, "The Red Couch Series," a collection of nine portraits taken of Carlough of Friendship residents sitting on the same red couch, hang above two giant "nose zoetropes" designed by Pittsburgh artist Hyla Willis.

The zoetrope was a 19th-century optical toy in which a series of images revolved inside a cylinder. When a viewer peered through slits in the side, the figures in the images appeared to move. But when a visitor steps on the foot pedal for Willis' zoetrope, vials arranged around the cylinder release a variety of fragrances.

The cacophony of fragrances nearly match the variety of color in the house on South Atlantic Avenue. In all, it features 24 different shades, making visitors feel as if they've walked right into a 3-D abstract painting.

"The intention was to achieve the mood of what happens in the room," says Carlough, a principal with EDGE Architecture in Friendship.

As for the non-traditional artwork and furniture, "I really wanted to twist the idea of this being an old house, to emphasize the relationship between old and new."

Carlough's house is one of eight homes and three neighborhood landmarks featured in the sixth annual Friendship House Tour. The goal of the tour, which last year drew more than 400 people, is to raise money for Friendship Development Associates and its sister organization, Friendship Preservation Group. Organized as a nonprofit group in 1989, FDA strives to improve the quality of life in the city neighborhood through strategically planned, affordable housing rehabilitation. It also aims to maintain Friendship's social and economic diversity, distinctive architectural character and livability by encouraging responsible private development.

Like many of his neighbors, Carlough was drawn to the neighborhood two years ago because of its many large, high-ceilinged houses. Though he'd been considering a loft conversion, he decided it might be fun to rehabilitate an older home, provided he could find one that hadn't been too badly abused over the years.

The bedroom mood is serene with blue walls and purple trim. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette) 

What sealed his decision to make Friendship his home -- other than its bargain prices -- was the neighborhood's strong sense of community and overwhelming diversity, he says.

"There are people of all different lifestyles, culturally and economically."

After buying the house in November 1997, Carlough decided that instead of restoring the structure to its original glory he would make it "all about contrast and juxtaposition."

"I wanted it to be eclectic, not in the sense of combining different styles of furniture but mixing current or modern pieces of furniture with turn-of-the-century architecture."

To that end, he planned to simply remove the decades-old wallpaper and leave the bare gray plaster walls, which in close to 100 years had not been painted.

Then Hollywood came calling.

Around Christmas last year, a property scout knocked on Carlough's door and asked if he'd considering allowing Paramount Picture's to use his home as the principal set for the upcoming movie "Wonder Boys," starring Michael Douglas, Frances McDormand and Robert Downey Jr.

The movie company was searching for a house that had a second-floor library with a fireplace and built-in bookcases that also happened to look onto twin houses with turrets. Carlough's home fit the bill.

For the next five months, Carlough watched as workers turned his relatively well-preserved house into Hollywood's version of a decaying abode. Walls were painted tan and sprayed with dirt; switchplates were faux finished to look as if they hadn't cleaned in years. The outside was hosed down with an India ink to resemble water stains.

"They did their best to make the house look like a wreck," says Carlough.

But because movie producers had promised to return everything to normal, he didn't worry.

To create a feeling of warmth, the walls of Carlough's computer room, were painted orange with hot pink trim. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette) 

"I had just moved in, so it wasn't as if they were undoing a lot of things," he says.

That is until workers painted those carefully preserved bare plaster walls.

"So I thought, 'What can I do now?'" Carlough recalls with a chuckle. "I know -- paint!"

While the main floor is bright with color, it's the second and third floors that, depending on your point of view, delight the senses or make you wince.

The computer room, for instance, sports bright orange walls and hot-pink "objects," or woodwork. The master bedroom features cobalt-blue walls and ceiling and deep purple mantle and window.

Across the hall, the television room glows like a TV, with shades of chartreuse and raspberry. The adjoining library -- where "Wonder Boys" actor Michael Douglas contemplates his career as a writer -- soothes the soul with mulberry-colored paint.

"This is a calm space," explains Carlough, pointing out a turn-of-the-century Remington typewriter in the bay window and a Vietnamese basket and hat left behind by the previous owner. "I didn't want it to have the same emotional excitement as the other rooms."

True, some of the colors clash, but that's the idea.

"That's what activates the spaces," he says, as well as help visitors "feel the space beyond the space you're in."

In addition to Carlough's house, the tour includes stops at an Arts and Crafts home on South Evaline Avenue, a Colonial Revival on Roup Avenue that was featured in WQED's "Houses Around Here" and used as a set for the NBC miniseries "The Temptations," and Wisteria Hall, a "Painted Lady" on South Evaline Street.

Visitors also will be able to tour the Showroom Building on Penn Avenue, which was originally a Studebaker car dealership and is now home to seven new loft apartments; a private developer's project with two loft apartments on Penn Avenue; and the recently renovated Friendship Playpark at Friendship Academy on South Graham Street.

For the first time, visitors will have the option of taking the tour either on foot or via a narrated trolley. Costumed docents will be on board to answer questions, talk about the neighborhood's history and dole out bits of trivia.

(Question: Why is this neighborhood called Friendship?

Answer: A descendent of William Penn, a Quaker member of the Society of Friends, gave the name "Friendship" to a homestead that once stood at the corner of present-day Friendship Avenue and Roup Street.)

The Sixth Annual Friendship House Tour runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow. The self-guided tour begins at Fourth Presbyterian Church at the corner of Roup and Friendship avenues and takes about three hours; visitors may hop on the narrated trolley at any point along the tour route.

Tickets cost $15 on the day of the tour or $12 in advance ($11 for groups of 10 or more) at the following locations: Allure, 4730 Penn Ave.; Bloomfield Artworks, 4533 Liberty Ave.; Leone's Floral Shop, 5504 Centre Ave.; or Friendship Development Associates, 5530 Penn Ave. For more information, call 412-441-6147.

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