Award-winning architect Indovina selling cherished O’Hara home
Joseph Indovina isn’t just selling his home. He’s selling a piece of his mind.
Not literally, of course. But there is more to this sprawling home on two-plus acres in O’Hara than just another big house for sale. Its creator is an award-winning architect who has left solid footprints around Pittsburgh.
Indovina designed the Quicksilver Golf Club in Midway, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland, the Hampton Inn in the Strip District, multiple smaller businesses and a home resume highlighted by a 20,000-square-foot behemoth, which featured a house-within-a-house (the family’s living area surrounded by guest and entertainment quarters).
But this structure across the Allegheny River from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is his baby, and he’s living in it.
Set off on the edge of the woods, it has been described as an elaborate treehouse — if you can imagine a million-dollar treehouse with dozens of quirky touches.
“It’s very personal,” the architect says, sitting in the open, modern kitchen.
So, why is he selling it?
“Because I’m 69 years old,” he answers with a smile. “We’re moving to a city house that’s much more manageable. Our daughter moved away, and we’re rattling around in this big house.”
He and his wife, retired English teacher Susan, are moving to the Shadyside-Squirrel Hill area where they were raised. Twenty-five years ago, when looking to move out of the city, Indovina found an undeveloped six-acre plot, a sprawling meadow surrounded by big trees and adjacent to the 180-acre Guyasata Reserve (owned by the Boy Scouts of America).
After purchasing the big lot, he sold half, then set about pondering how to build his dream house on a sloping meadow. “It was an arduous project,” he says. He kept a huge pin oak, which is now a massive, natural flagstaff for the woodsy home.
If you hear a loud “thud” — that’s probably an apple falling from one of the big fruit trees mixed in with red oak and maple trees.
Building the house took about five years, with the sloping land the greatest challenge. He worked with the lay of the land, rather than trying to overcome it, and the finished house has a 15-foot differential in elevation from one end to the other. The garage has the highest elevation, the middle of the house is slightly lower and the expansive open space is at the lowest.
Indovina doesn’t show off his multiple awards or big-ticket designs, which are on display near his study, deep within the house.
Like its owner-creator, the home is demure. You can call it a modest mansion, as it hides its impressive size, which slowly unfolds as one walks through hallways, up and down the stairs.
Some architectural purists might call this a Frankenstein piece; Indovina gleefully admits it reflects multiple styles. “I wanted to do sort of traditional architecture without being in lockstep with ‘McMansions,’” he says.
The result of piecing together his dream home is as “an eclectic mix of a of New England Salt Box, Williamsburg Colonial and Seaside Florida beach house with a generous dose of Frank Lloyd Wright beneath it all.”
You can see through the Wright influences — literally. Though the tempered glass is plenty strong, people who like to throw stones probably shouldn’t buy this home. It’s not quite a glass house, but pretty close: Walking through the skylight-splashed entranceway, visitors are invariably drawn to the step-down living room, which has a fireplace jutting out of window-walls.
“I like to blur the distinction between inside and outside,” Indovina says, running his hand along a glass wall that looks out into thick woods. He later waxed poetic: “If you stand in the corner, the glass disappears, and you are suddenly standing in the woods looking at the moon reflecting on the snow.”
Enticing visitors to go from inside out is a door leading to a narrow “bird walk.” The elevated way juts out about 25 feet, providing a closer look at the trees, birds, deer and other wildlife that wander by. A stone patio and wood deck provide views of a pond that is a watering hole for creatures big and small.
Multiple skylights further pull the outside in, throwing natural light through an interior space that is 5,000 or 6,000 square feet, depending on if you count the basement and a studio where Indovina does sculptures.
There are five bathrooms, including one off the master bedroom that has a jacuzzi and all-glass shower.
Though Indovina will have mixed feelings when this big beauty sells, he won’t go to the extreme of a client who sold a 20,000-square-foot, sandstone mansion Indovina designed.
“He had a wake for the house,” the architect says with a chuckle.
Even if he doesn’t plan to do the same for his own Oakhurst Road home, Indovina clearly has an intensely close relationship with it.
After the very personal home he designed, built and lived in sells, he hopes the next owners enjoy it as much as his family has. “There’s nothing more satisfying,” Indovina says, “than watching a family grow in one of my designs.”
The “million-dollar tree house” at 137 Oakhurst Road has 5,000 square feet on 2.41 acres, with four bedrooms and five bathrooms. It is on the market for $1,095,000.
Details: Kelly Meade of Howard Hanna, 412-389-2175 or [email protected]
Tom Scanlon is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.