Franklin Park home a unique entry in fall tours

| Monday, Sept. 20, 2010

Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
This 2,400-square-foot home in Franklin Park was designed and built by architect and homeowner Matthew Schlueb.

Pittsburgh architect Matthew Schlueb wants to challenge people's perceptions about what a house can and should look like.

His amazing Franklin Park circular home, Villa Vuoto, will do just that when Wesley Spectrum Services holds its first North Hills Tour of Homes on Oct. 10. The organization, which provides educational, mental health and social services programs to children and families in Western Pennsylvania, has hosted a South Hills tour for 20 years. The South Hills tour will occur the same day.

Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
"We wanted something playful, for the kids, and we wanted something livable that was 'out there.' If life's not fun, what's the point?" architect and owner Matthew Schlueb says.

"Wesley Spectrum has 11 locations across Southwestern Pennsylvania, and we wanted to expand the event into areas other than the South Hills to greater represent the areas of the city where we have a presence," says Jennifer Kostolansky, communications manager. "Since this is our 20th annual tour, our goal is to raise $20,000 in the South Hills tour, and $20,000 for the North Hills tour."

Schlueb's unique, 2,400-square-foot design, which sits on four acres of wooded land in the Franklin Meadows neighborhood, is the kind of structure that elicits gasps from visitors. It is a brightly colored house without angles, with no beginning and no end, one that must be seen in person to be believed. Schlueb is a residential architect with more than 20 years of experience.

"I designed and built this primarily for two reasons," says Schlueb, who lives with his wife, Julianne, and their two young boys, Oskar and Olin. It took two years, from 2002 to '04, to build the house. "We wanted something playful, for the kids, and we wanted something livable that was 'out there.' If life's not fun, what's the point?

"A house should enrich and inspire you," he says. "Part of the fun was that it was a learning process to build this. My wife is Italian, so I was trying to put a Mediterranean feel to it."

Color and feel are two important considerations for Schlueb when he designs a house, and his own home was no exception. The inside walls boast Venetian plaster, from the lavender shade in the front hall to the fern green plaster in Oskar's room, and the mauve walls in Olin's bedroom. The master bedroom is a dusky shade of blue, and all of the house's round windows don't have curtains because, Schlueb says, they're surrounded by woods.

"Having no curtains brings the outside in," he says. "All the walls upstairs lean out, so you don't feel weighted down. The downstairs walls lean in, to be more comforting."

The open, airy kitchen has a concrete floor, with the counters made up of russet flooring tiles. The circular staircase to the second floor features a custom-built iron railing by John Walter of Iron Eden in Bloomfield. But the one-of-a-kind master bathroom is Schlueb's pride and joy.

"Julianne and I honeymooned on the Isle of Capri, and we wanted to re-create the Blue Grotto," says Schlueb of his award-winning masterpiece.

Inlaid mosaic tiles of royal blue, aqua, periwinkle, cream and yellow create the magical scene that awaits visitors. The hand-laid tiles cover the entire floor and much of the walls, as well as the enormous walk-in shower. Two tile workers from the North Side, Sarah Miller and Matthew Grebner, made all of the tiles, broke them, and laid them. Sunlight pours in from the skylights, illuminating the oversized Jacuzzi tub.

"The bathroom took almost three years to do, but we didn't want to rush it," he says. "It's our sanctuary."

This is the Schluebs' first time on a house tour, and they're both looking forward to it, he says. A Realtor friend told Wesley Spectrum Services about his house, and the organization contacted him a few months ago.

"It's a great charity, and I'm real excited about the tour," he says. "I bring people through here a lot, so I'm happy to help out."

Additional Information:

Wesley Spectrum Tour of Homes

When: Noon-5 p.m. Oct. 10

Admission: $25 per person for South Hills; $30 for North Hills

Where: Separate tours in the South Hills and the North Hills

Details: 412-347-3219 or website

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