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A Tale of Two Spaces

What makes a house a home• Personal taste — those unique touches and influences that reflect one’s personality. For some, it’s over-the-top opulence. For others, elegant simplicity. We traveled to the homes of designers Evelyn Wedner and James Checkeye, whose spaces are as personal — and as diverse — as they come.

For 14 years, Evelyn and Jim worked side by side at Arthur Moser Interiors. When the venerable Squirrel Hill firm closed, the young, innovative team moved lock, stock and swatches across the street to Evelyn James Interiors, a charming studio on Forbes. And their clients followed.

Evelyn and her husband, Bill (owner of the popular Smallman Street Deli) raised their three children in Squirrel Hill. “There was nothing fun about this house,” Evelyn allowed about the Arts and Crafts abode. “I felt I had to introduce it to a new life.”

With glam and elan, she wrapped the living room walls in a bold animal print, then created symmetry where there was none. She balanced the off-center fireplace by placing an oversized burled wood cocktail table off-center in the long, narrow space that’s anchored at one end with a contemporary sofa and at the other by a pair of Henredon chairs and an ottoman. A sleek dolphin chair, lacquered in a malachite finish, catches the sunlight streaming through a woven Roman shade that unifies a wall of windows.

Rooms embrace color, texture and pattern in an exuberant mix of periods and wonderful family treasures. An early 19th-century American, marble-topped washstand is now an end table in the living room, while a 1920s gas lamp was converted into a chandelier for the dining room. “Life is too serious. We all need a little levity in our lives,” she smiled as we entered the dining room that’s lined with palm trees dancing ona black-matte wall covering. Above a splendid 18th-century Spanish polychrome sideboard is a pair of carved hands framing a Gorman print.

Rich terra cotta is the dominant color in the well lived-in family room that was added in 1989. And it’s contrasted by the teal blue leather sectional sofa and the carved-and-tufted cocoa leather chairs whose backs she upholstered in Southwest tapestries. Kilim rugs were lashed together with leather bindings to fashion a pair of ottomans and, for pizzazz, she added a framed Gucci silk animal print scarf above the sofa.

After removing the paved patch that covered the original garden, Bill and his son dug up the floors of his restaurant. They used the slabs of limestone and slate to construct a charming urban oasis with an Asian arbor, blooming containers, raised flower beds and trees that attract a chorus of singing birds.

There’s also space in the entryway for Napoleon, a black miniature poodle, to run circles when they come home at night. “Never name your pet after a dictator,” Evelyn warns. “They rule the roost.”

Decorating, like love, can be a long-term commitment. Such is the case for Jim Checkeye and clients with whom he has worked for many years and whose interiors have been featured in Architectural Digest. “Often when I revisit a client, the furniture and accessories are exactly as I left them 10 years earlier,” he says.

Jim brought a decidedly uptown gloss to his Edgewood condominium. He used an elegant neutral palette in the entry, living room and dining area “where I wanted the walls and carpet to read the same … and the grass-cloth-covered walls are great at hiding nail holes.” That’s a good thing, since the entire apartment is a showcase for his striking collection of contemporary art. To name but a few, canvases by Michael Lotenero and Burton Morris share wall space with works by Alex Katz, Gene Davis and Mark Mentzer.

“The Puppy,” a whimsical white porcelain sculpture by Jeff Koons, stands in stark contrast to the chocolate velvet drapery panel that separates the entry from the living room and frames the view.

The Italian modern sofa is covered in soft chenille, and the Art Deco-style side chairs are upholstered in taupe. Being in this room is like visiting a three-dimensional painting. An oversized glass-topped cocktail table with a woven leather base by Henredon and end tables illuminated by Frederick Cooper lamps are merely pedestals for a Murano glass sculpture, an acrylic cube by Vasarely and other treasures. Then, there’s his vast collection of crystal objects gleaming from a breakfront.

You should also know that the glorious bouquets in both homes were done by Carmel Vandale of Mt. Lebanon Floral.

“Crash,” a large canvas by Vito Acconci, dominates the dining area with its glass-topped Baker table and E.J. Victor rattan chairs cushioned in mohair. In one corner rests a large DayGlo wheel form, a flea-market find, and in another is nestled a small brass cricket for luck. Art-filled countertops in the galley kitchen even hold an Andy Warhol soup tureen.

The appeal of these inviting bachelor digs is that one wishes to linger and examine absolutely everything. But there’s more to come because, as Jim sighs, “it’s a work in progress.”

Cuban Tee Time


Mark Cuban always makes a strong first impression. And when the billionaire Internet mogul and controversial owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks breezed into last Sunday’s St. Clair Hospital Golf Classic Dinner at Southpointe’s Hilton Garden Inn, the Mt. Lebanon native charmed from start to finish as he pressed the flesh with most of the 750 guests at the sold-out affair.

Classic co-chairs Don Hastings (with Terri ) and Dr. Robert Shogry (with Marilynn ) once again helmed this annual, two-day links outing that grossed $350,000 — a $110,000 boost over last year’s total — to fund ongoing expansion of St. Clair’s ER and surgical units. Supporting the cause were Cuban’s parents, Shirley and Norton ; St. Clair Health Corp. chair Tom Medwig and Ming ; foundation chair Ed Symons and Louise ; hospital prez Ben Snead with Julia ; Drs. Stephanie and Stephen Colodny ; County Exec Dan Onorato ; Kay and Art Rooney ; Fred Young , JoEllen and Dr . G. Alan Yeasted ; Dollar Bank’s Joe Smith and Lynn ; Cindy and Richard Allen ; Karen and John Dymun ; Joyce and Bryan Hondru ; Rose and Dr. Mike Kutsenkow ; Kathleen and Jack Piatt ; and Carolyn and Mel Rex.

— John Altdorfer

Crawl Spaces


As “Tommy” romped at the Benedum Center and “Lord of the Rings” actor Billy Boyd crooned with the symphony at Heinz Hall, the stage was set Friday for the Cultural District Gallery Crawl . Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust , the city’s biggest block party highlighted visual treats at 16 artful hot spots.

“We want to attract a critical mass to the district twenty-four/seven,” says PCT’s Veronica Corpuz . “This is a showcase of the art, entertainment and dining possibilities that are available to everyone every day.”

From 709 Penn Ave.’s Urban Space, where “4 Women” interpreted the music of chanteuse Nina Simone through oil paintings, to the rock ‘n’ roll nightcap at the Cabaret and Backstage Bar at Theater Square, this crawl proved it had legs enough to run all night long. Among the hundreds we spotted along the way were CD prez Kevin McMahon; Janis Burley Wilson ; Tanya Fabian and Eric Frankle ; Michelle and Andrew Aloe ; Kamau Ware ; Suzanne and Randy Widmer ; Katie McKrell and Josh Munsch ; Susan and Dave Sparks ; Valerie and John Fulmer ; Meagan O’Toole ; Jessica Haines and Andrew Costigan ; Carrie Schneider ; Trib art critic Kurt Shaw with Liz Chontos ; Jeff Pollock with David Spear and Lisa Adal ; Emily Keebler ; Janelle Aiken ; and Jessica Varone .

— J.A.

Welcome Attack


Pittsburgh’s sun-drenched Golden Triangle provided the perfect backdrop for Friday’s ” A Hot Summer Night ” as the Attack Theatre celebrated 10 years of dance at the Mt. Washington home of party co-chairs Pam and Ken McCrory .

As some 75 guests marveled at bird’s-eye panoramas in nearly every direction, AT co-founders Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope thanked the faithful for a decade of support. While some grazed on lite bites prepared by the 17th Street Cafe’s Pat Joyce , others repaired to the rooftop deck to sip mojitos and margaritas. Then dancer Jil Stifel mesmerized all with a solo tabletop dance, accompanied by cellist Dave Eggar.

Joining the attack were co-chairs Lynn and Jamey Coleman ; Barbara Barry ; Mark Power ; Fran and Jim Abraham ; Curt and Dolly Ellenberg ; Ed Harrell and Jim Hageder ; Jamie Sarris with daughters Athena and Candace ; board prez Susan DiGirolamo ; Laura Kronk ; Larry Leahy ; Richard Parsakian ; Richard Rauh ; Jonnie Viakley and Jim Walker ; Corinne Duvnjak and Jean Phillipe Madrid ; Beth Wainwright and Russ Kemerer ; Jessica Coup and Scott Bergstein ; Rebecca Lowe ; and Amy Rappa and Peter Lambert .

— J.A.

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