Pittsburgh Symphony fundraiser visits 8 timeless homes
The arrangement of carnation-red hydrangeas as a centerpiece gives a burst of color to the ornately decorated dining room table set for 10.
Guests who visit the house will notice those fresh flowers — grown and nurtured in the homeowner's garden — throughout this home in Virginia Manor in Mt. Lebanon, all aglow for the Symphony Splendor Holiday Home Tour. The tour of eight art- and antique-laden homes in the neighborhood — all open for the first time — benefit the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Adding to the yuletide spirit, musicians from the symphony will be entertaining in each home.
“This holiday fanfare tour, presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony Association, has become the gold standard event of the season,” says Cathy Trombetta, formerly of Mt. Lebanon who lives in Peters and is co-chairing the event with Diane Unkovic.
In its fourth year, the event has raised $240,000 for the Pittsburgh Symphony.
“I love the symphony,” says the homeowner, who requested her name not be used. “This is our way of showing appreciation for the symphony.”
Virginia Manor was developed in sections, and this house was built in 1942, during one of the last expansions. It has had two significant remodeling efforts in 1989 and 2012, as well as a new bathroom in 1984 — all designed by former Virginia Manor resident Richard Hayes of United Concepts.
“Richard is wonderful and made sure to think of every detail,” the homeowner says. “He understands how these houses were made because he lived here. He is remarkable.”
The formal dining area is just the beginning of a festively fashioned space. A few steps away is the living room, which is lit up by a Christmas tree with gold trimmings — one of many trees throughout the house from 6-feet-tall greens to glass mercury trees and mini-colorful trees. There is fresh holly and a wall display of red, yellow, green and silver ornaments, giving this area a burst of color.
As you enter the kitchen, you'll notice six sparkling holiday-themed teapots perched in the middle of the island — just a few from the homeowner's collection. The table and chairs are fashioned by artist Lyle Clevenger of Mt. Lebanon from an old oak tree in the family's yard.
Clevenger's masterpieces can be found throughout pretty much every room on the first floor, including a reindeer of copper and cherry wood adorning the kitchen wall. He also crafted a hand-carved wooden wizard who stands tall in the yard. He is wearing a red-and-white Santa hat.
“I thought the Santa hat would be fun,” the homeowner says.
In the den awaits the grandchildren's tree, which has lots of fun non-breakable ornaments made by the homeowner, who also fashions quilts, including the one with reindeer sitting on a nearby couch.
The tour welcomes 1,000 guests each year who walk or ride one of Molly's Trolleys to and from each stop. Docents will talk about the history of each home.
“It is so much fun because each home's decorations reflect the homeowner,” says Trombetta, of the tour which is 100 percent a volunteer effort. “I met with some of the homeowners and the docents and by the end of the meeting there was such a sense of camaraderie.
“Last year, I talked with guests about what they like and what they would like to have changed. One told me the tour was a kick off to her family's holiday season. Another said she enjoyed seeing the houses and getting tips for decorating her own home. To go inside these homes is like opening a package. I see awe in people's eyes. People love to see inside other people's homes. And we have such an amazing tour of houses this year — with beautiful decorations and a festive atmosphere.”