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Mt. Lebanon remodeler takes the next step in renovating house

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
After fire damaged their Mt. Lebanon home, the McQuaide family decided to renovate for the future, remodeling to make it an “aging in place” abode. The living room was an addition.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
The McQuaide family, whose Mt. Lebanon home was damaged in a fire one year ago, rebuilt and remodeled their home, including the outside patio area.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Regis, Helene (right) and Elle McQuaide show the placard that states what became the theme of rebuilding their Mt. Lebanon home after it was damaged by fire a year ago.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
The McQuaide residence in Mt. Lebanon recently was rebuilt and remodeled after a fire broke out a year ago.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
A stained-glass window salvaged from the fire now sits in a remodeled and rebuilt portion of the McQuaides' home.

Fire destroyed the home of remodeler Regis McQuaide, but it lit the fuse for his thinking of recovery from the calamity.

Rather than simply repairing the house and restoring it as a place for him and his family, the owner of Master Remodelers in Castle Shannon decided to take a step ahead. Several steps, actually.

“We decided to make this our springboard into the future,” he says of work on the home that became a renovation rather than just a repair.

The result is a home that takes some of the thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright into a Mt. Lebanon neighborhood. Corner windows bring the outside into the living area next to the kitchen. The counter of the grilling area outside flows smoothly through the wall to a bar inside. Pocket doors and windows allow passage and communication without cluttering up the interior.

The hallways even have the narrowness Wright advocated because no one spends time in hallways, so why waste space there.

The real key to the design, though, is to make it an “aging in place” home, McQuaide says, where he and his wife, Helene, don't have to worry about the issues older joints create. In that way, he says, there are no thresholds anywhere in the house, even going into the showers.

The outside shares the drama of the home. A decorative waterfall trickles down the hilly backyard. A firepit is in the patio that emerged in place of the porch that was the center of the fire.

“I can never decide on where to sit,” says Helene, expressing excitement over the outcome of the restoration.

McQuaide admits he was a step ahead of most people in approaching this job. His education and his profession give him a great deal of knowledge about directions to go in a renewal. He knows many suppliers and dealers who could recommend items.

He also has a staff of professionals who can advise on what to do. He says Junko Higashibeppo, an architectural designer from his staff, did the overall design work, putting practicality into his ideas.

Those ideas came from other directions, as well. Interior designer Rachel B. Pavilack of Pavilack Design from Wheeling, W.Va., says when she began to work on the interior, she immediately thought the use of the same flooring throughout would create a cohesion that would define the place.

McQuaide says they chose to use porcelain tile, a durable but dignified surface with a stone-like appearance. But carpeting is added in areas “to make them pop” with contrast, he says. At the same time, he adds, he likes the “congruency” the use of the tile creates.

Pavilack says working with someone of McQuaide's knowledge and understanding gives some ease to this kind of job.

“With most people, you have to explain things and hope they understand,” she says. “But Regis knows this stuff, so it was easy to talk to him.”

Bill Rectenwald from Rex Glass & Mirror agrees that a customer has to “convey his ideas” properly to get the job done the right way. That company, with offices in Shadyside, McMurray and the Crafton area, was called in to do glass work in the showers in the house. McQuaide was able to tell Rectenwald about his Wright-influenced goals, and Rectenwald says that allowed him to think of the best way to use half-inch glass in the step-less, walk-in shower.

On the lower area, which Rectenwald jokes as having a “real man-cave feel,” he used the same kind of ultra-clear glass in a bathroom next to McQuaide's office. But he says he was careful to make sure the clothes hooks were higher to accommodate his 6-foot-5 client.

“Tall guy, tall hooks,” he says with a laugh.

There is a sense of practicality in that whole lower area, which flows from office space, to a workout area and laundry room to another living area and TV spot.

The McQuaide project was the result of a July 17, 2011, fire caused when a candle touched off flammables on the porch. He says structural fire damage went up to the attic, but smoke caused by burning insulation made the house unlivable.

Because of the work that had to be done, he says, they decided to redo the house in a way that would take care of what was needed, as well as create improvements.

McQuaide says they had been wanting to get rid of the small porch where the fire started, and the blaze presented the chance.

Removing it created space that now is shared by the patio and the living area adjacent to the kitchen.

Work began in October 2011 and went into November 2012. They had a “celebration” at the house June 27 to mark what they call their “successful return.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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