Colonial aficionado enjoys Craftsman fling
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Don Horn says the secret to success in building houses is “to pay attention to details.”
That dedication shows up in the hand-crafted bricks he is using at a new house in Marshall as well as the Colonial accuracy in his own new home in Pine.
Such attention to detail is what has made him well known for building historically in-tune Williamsburg homes and also is showing up in the house in Marshall, which is in the Craftsman style. In it, woodwork surrounds doorways while glass doors leading to the rear entrance are framed in stylistic mullions.
Both places are featured in open houses today, the Marshall home for potential buyers and the Horn home for those curious about the Colonial home in a contemporary setting.
Jim Herbert from J.J. Herbert and Sons in Franklin Park says he is impressed with the Craftsman-style home, which is a large step away from Horn's Colonial work.
“It is really a beautiful house,” he says, “and right now much more popular than the Colonial style.”
The Herbert company and Heurich Homes from Wexford are developing the site of the Craftsman home, called the Summit with 27 lots on and around a hill Herbert believes in one of the highest in Allegheny County.
It is a different bit of work for Horn, who is enjoying the change, but has no regret about his nearly 30-year focus on Colonial design.
“I sure do like doing it,” he says.
A different approach
When he was brought into the Summit to build a home, Horn says, he decided he wanted to do “something small but nice.”
Small can be a relative term. The house is about 3,000 square feet, he says, one of less-dramatic homes in the development. It is selling for $980,000, “one of the cheaper ones,” he adds.
Along with its style, it is filled with design that is practical and attractive.
A mudroom between the three-car garage and kitchen, for instance, is lined with benches that have deep storage areas under the seats. In a similar use of in-between space, hefty walk-in closets are on each side of the area between the master bedroom and its bath.
Space in that bath is conserved by use of pocket doors.
On the first floor, oak floors match the wood around the doorways. Large pieces of it frame the door leading to the rear patio, which is topped by more of the same from a Mercer County timber mill.
“What we tried to do is make it look like there was some thought to it,” he says.
One of the most striking parts of the home is the fireplace in the center of the great room. It was designed for be in the rear corner of the room, against the outside hall, but Horn changed the plans to make it the center focus of the room.
That placement also puts the chimney in the middle of the upward-slanting ceiling and makes the rear bricks of the chimney a wall in front of the staircase. It becomes a spot where the irregularities of the hand-crafted bricks stand out.
Horn works from architectural plans he purchases, making changes he sees desirable or necessary.
“I'm just a bricklayer, basically,” he says.
Taking advantage of drawbacks
He recently built another home, too, that he rather proudly says is “engineered not to sell.”
It is his own home in Pine, a re-creation of the Tayloe home in Colonial Willlamsburg in Virginia.
He and his wife, Sally, were living at the other end of Pine when a parent interested in moving into the Pine-Richland School District asked if they were interested in selling their home.
Their adult children were gone, it was time to downsize a bit and the price was right, so the Horns did.
“We were basically left without a place to go,” Horn says.
They rented a ranch home in Franklin Park and tried to decide what to do.
Sally, a retired teacher who had spent her career in the North Side, did not want to take a common downsizing route of moving Downtown.
“The city was just too full for me,” she says. “We wanted to stay out here.”
The result was the Tayloe replica, which is a little less attractive because it sits on a hilly site of 1.3 acres, with only a little of the land usable. A small patch of grass stands at the top of a hillside that could be used to add a gazebo or other landscaping, Horn says, but he does not want to get involved in such a project.
A slope runs down behind the home, with a drain to catch runoff halfway up. The Horns are planning a patio with some trees to block the view of the hill.
“You can see why no one would want this,” he says.
But the home is a classic Horn Colonial, with no doorbell — because they didn't exist then — wooden floors and rooms that use the modern but look old. Horn's office, for instance, has his computer tucked away in an armoire so it is not seen. The kitchen is in country colors with Colonial closets, but with modern appliances, granite counter tops and an island.
Surrounded by contemporary homes, their house was the object of curiosity from neighbors.
“They couldn't figure out what was going up here,” he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
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