Morosco Residence
Pittsburgh, PA

Built upon a modest 18 foot wide by 60 foot deep city lot in Pittsburgh's historic South Side neighborhood, this single family row house was constructed upon the vestiges of a circa 1840 timber frame structure, which is believed to have been moved to the site in 1882. The exterior of the house as seen from the street is an accurate restoration of the original, although the turned wood half spinkle between the pari of front windows at the first floor is the only original building material exposed.

The owners' collection of vintage '50s furniture was to be incorporated into the design of the house. Given its size and significance, the dining room ensemble, by mid-century modern designer T.H. Robbsjon Gibbings, became the principal focus of the first floor, and the inspiration for a design motif incorporated into the casework throughout. Confined within the 16-foot wide space occupied by the original dwelling, the house and its furnisheings were designed to be integral parts of one another.

The plan of the first floor is one continuous open space, incorporating subtle shifts in the walls and engaged casework to distinguish the various "rooms." Contributing to the sense of expansive space is a limited palette of natural materials, which remains consistent throughout the house. White maple with Danish oil finish forms integrated casework and cabinetry, trims out the base of the walls, and defines cased openings. Cork tiles finished with carnauba wax cover the floors, including the bathrooms.

The steel trowel plaster walls were stained using an early 20th century recipe of Frank Lloyd Wright's. Bleded of beeswax dissolved into turpentine and boiled linseed oil, yellow ochre pigment was added to achieve the same color as the fall foliage of the gigko trees lining a nearby street. The beeswax seemingly telegraphs natural light coming in the windows from one end of the house to the other, and the walls "hum" with a soft golden glow under even the lowest levels of artificial light.

The second floor is but an elaborated variation of the theme expressed on the first. The stairwell ceiling opens to reveal a skylight framed by a plant shelf whose ofrm were utilized to economize space and contribute to the sense of openess. The master dressing room and bedroom are one, distinguished only by changes in the soffit-floor below and cathedral ceiling above are continuous.