So, bad news first: The first season of Restored by the Fords officially wrapped last night. The good news is that the HGTV hit show has been renewed for a second season, meaning this isn’t the last we’ll see of brother-sister duo Steve and Leanne Ford. The even better news? We caught up with Leanne to get the inside scoop on the stunning home featured in the season one finale—and it’s definitely one for the Pinterest boards.
As with the other homes featured in the show, last night’s was an aging Pittsburgh house in dire need of some TLC. Situated in the North Side of the city, the traditional row house was dark, closed in, and wallpaper-heavy (and not in a good way).
“The previous owners had decorated it with dark red and green wallpapers and murals,” remembers Ford. “The homeowners loved the area, the bones of the home, and the history. The dark walls and wallpaper were really taking away from the best part of the home, which was the beautiful high ceilings and architecture.”
Which meant the first order of business was brightening the home to restore it to its full potential. Because it was a row home, the only windows were on the front and back of the home; breaking the entire back wall and creating one massive glass window allowed for a steady stream of light to flow in to the now larger-looking kitchen.
Relocating the first floor powder room from the back wall was another big project that took work, but paid off in the end—though according to Ford, it proved to be one of the more difficult obstacles the duo faced in the redesign.
“My brother will tell you it was the days and days of tearing wallpaper off the walls. He still hasn’t fully recovered from that, I think,” she says of the biggest challenge they encountered. “But taking out an outside load-bearing wall to replace it with a glass wall is a big to-do. And not cheap.”
Other architectural changes included adding a box trim to the walls—to create height and add detail—incorporating brick tiling in the kitchen to mimic the exterior of the home, and restaining the wooden floors with a matte natural poly to bring a fresh, clean feel to the space. They covered one of the built-in fireplaces with concrete for a modern feel. Despite these contemporary updates, they did keep a few of the more classic features intact, such as the marble fireplace.
The main source of inspiration was the homeowners themselves. A young couple with a love for art and a passion for supporting local artists, they already owned several gorgeous pieces. The Fords chose a simple black and white theme to act as a canvas of sorts, allowing the art to take center stage throughout the home—from unframed canvases to even the light fixtures, which acted as sculptural accents in their own right.
“By only using black and white in this design we were able to give them a sort of clean slate gallery space to display their art. We added simple trim to the walls to elevate the style of the rooms and painted them a high gloss white. We painted the dining room ceiling deep black to add depth, and to play off the custom art job on the front staircase,” says Ford. “We used lighting as [an] art installation as well, using vintage warehouse lights, simple oversized bulbs, and even making the light over the dining room by hand.”
One standout art piece is slightly bigger in size. The black and white front staircase, inspired by a combination of street graffiti and Cy Twombly, is the work of artist Carolyn Kelly. Ford was particularly inspired by the street art motif when picking materials for the home, such as the concrete and brick in the kitchen.
“My formula for keeping things cohesive is pretty simple, and that’s to stick to a color story first and foremost. White always works; any style, any era, any architecture,” says Ford. “This was a fun project to work on because the clients love street art, but they also are rather refined. I loved marrying those worlds together. We played with the simplicity of a white kitchen, but with the touch of a hard edge with the concrete counters. I even love how the overly pretty and delicate flowers play off of the hard concrete lines.”
The space, which Ford dubs “Paris meets Berlin meets Pittsburgh,” may be inspired by the clients’ love for art and the local scene, but the largely whitewashed aesthetic is reminiscent of Ford’s own personal style. In her own restored 1945 farmhouse, Ford relied on a white-on-white palette, using materials to bring in some contrast and creating a calming oasis in the process. Though this Pittsburgh artist retreat is definitely a step in the bold direction and uses more noticeable pops pops of color in the artwork and smaller decorative pieces, the backdrop remains relatively minimalist.
“I usually really stay away from color in my design projects, but this house led me to using it. Knowing the clients love color, and love art with color, is what inspired the rug, art, and chairs. It is also what inspired the simplicity of the black and white bones of the house,” says Ford, explaining how she balanced color with an overall minimalist aesthetic. “They now have the ability to swap out art and furniture as they find it and are inspired to do so.”
As for Ford’s favorite part of the home? The aforementioned staircase; the biggest piece of art in the house and one that successfully navigates that tricky balance of neutral minimalism and edgy design.
“The art pouring down the stairs—that was a FUN project to work on with [Kelly]. She is an artistic genius,” she says. “I am always so thrilled to work with other creative souls. It inspires me to keep creating!”
We’ll just have to wait until the second season of Restored by the Fords to see what she creates next.
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