From House Beautiful
Anyone who sees the Wentz family at home would have no trouble believing their space was designed specifically for them. Betsy Wentz, founder of Studio B design, has an office/command center at one of three kitchen islands (more on those later) while her husband, a doctor, can hole away in a study. The couple’s three boys and youngest girl bounce between sports in the backyard to movies on a sectional large enough to fit the whole gang (plus frequent friends) and the entire family spends most summer nights around the fire pit on their patio.
So it might come as a bit of a surprise that the origins of the home were somewhat coincidental: “We had actually just finished renovating another house,” laughs Wentz, who grew up in Sewickley, PA, where the home sits in a woodsy residential area. “I was out jogging, and I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign. I’ve lived here my whole life and had never noticed this property. So I ran up the driveway, and there was this very ordinary 1970s structure, but it was on a beautiful lot. And I just fell in love with the piece of land.”
She and her husband purchased it… and the recession promptly hit. The young family spent four years living in the “very ordinary” home before finally planning a renovation in 2012. They stayed in a rental while completing their dream home—and the night they moved back in, Wentz gave birth to her youngest daughter. This timing just may be the best possible metaphor for the house, which is a family home in every sense of the word. “There are always kids around, coming and going,” Wentz says. And it’s easy to see why: The designer has created a joyful, functional, and immensely FUN place for those of all ages. Take the tour below.
Though there are many contenders, the home’s “wow” moment has to be the set of floor-to-ceiling lockers Wentz installed at the side entrance (the one the family most often uses). She covered each door in various shades of high gloss Benjamin Moore paint and assigned spaces to each of her four children, effectively turning a mudroom into a piece of modern art. The rolling ladder is the finishing touch—and, like many things in the Wentz home, it’s both functional and highly photogenic.
“You don’t always expect a modern house to have so much color,” Wentz says. “But I obviously love color, and I like that the house has a sense of humor; it’s part of the fun.”
To provide some continuity, Wentz selected white tile for many of the home’s floors. Knowing that, she says, “I wanted to be able to anchor the room with some wood.” So, she worked with a cabinet maker to devise paneled cabinets as well as a desk and eat-in island with warm wood siding. The central island, meanwhile, gets a pop of lacquer that connects back to the lockers (which are to the right in the image above). To keep attention on the views out the windows, Wentz nixed upper cabinets along the far wall, but gave the backsplash a graphic tile treatment to anchor the room.
“This is actually my favorite little spot in the house,” says Wentz of the dining room, which occupies a glass box that she had the architect bump out towards the patio to mirror the glass-encased formal entrance on the other side of the house. A live-edge table adds an organic touch to keep the space from feeling too stark with all that glass and the concrete floor.
The juxtaposition speaks to an important guiding principle of the home’s design: “My husband has always been really interested in architecture and really wanted a clean, modern house, but we also needed it to be warm and kid friendly,” explains Wentz.
As is the case with many family homes, this more formal living room, which sits at the back of the house, doesn’t get as much use as some of the more central spaces. So, Wentz decided to have fun with it, turning it into a jewel box perfect for entertaining—and an intriguing backdrop for the rest of the house. “Even if you don’t go in this room all the time, you can see it through the other spaces,” Wentz explains. “So I really wanted to capitalize on the wall space to give that view.” She covered it with Elitis wallpaper in a graphic tree pattern, then added accents in bold colors “to blend it with the rest of the house.”
Where the family does spend lots of time? The family room, situated just off the always-bustling kitchen. Here, Wentz invested in a large Minotti sectional to comfortably fit the whole family and act as a more neutral backdrop for the punchier elements in the room, like a fire engine red lantern from Urban Electric and an armchair in bold Schumacher fabric.
“Not many men have a lavender study,” laughs Wentz of her husband’s office. But the color enlivens what was once drab 1970s brick, and plays harmoniously into the symphony of color and pattern which Wentz is known for.
“I know it might seem a little crazy to have all these patterns, but these are not decisions I make lightly,” she says. “I put it all up on my board and I go over it and over it, pairing different things, and if something jumps out, it has to go.”
In this room, the graphic rug from ABC Home acted as the connecting thread, pulling together bold elements like lime green Julian Chichester chairs, framed artwork by the couple’s daughter, and curtains by Laura Park. The glass-and-steel Pelle chandelier brings a moment of minimalism.
“This was our dining room in the beginning,” says Wentz. “But once we renovated, I realized we would never use it—we can seat 16 between the dining table and the kitchen island.” So she turned it into a game room for the kids—but, because it’s right off of the main living spaces, “I still wanted it to be sophisticated and pretty,” she explains. Elitis wallpaper, large-scale abstract art (found at an estate sale!), sconces from Urban Electric, and a Lindsey Adelman chandelier do just that.
In her daughter’s room, Wentz wanted to give room for creative expression while still making the space feel designed like the rest of the house. Covering one wall in a pink cork allows Marlowe to personalize (the boys have similar wall treatments).
The main bedroom—which has an adjoining bath with a soaking tub and its own balcony overlooking the backyard—is somewhat a departure from the bold patterns of the rest of the house.
“Some of the most dramatic windows in the house are at that corner, so I started with the drapery,” says Wentz (made with a gray-and-white pattern from Zinc textiles). “I really loved the silver, and I wanted it to be a little bit quieter in here so that you could really get that treetop feeling.” The art above the bed is from Porter Teleo.
Wentz came across a photo in a magazine of a combination pergola/fire pit and became determined to create a similar setup for her home—an endeavor, she soon discovered, that would be no easy feat with the local weather. “I was told over and over again, ‘this kind of poured concrete is just not something you do in Pittsburgh,'” recalls the designer. Suffice it to say, she eventually found someone who would do it, and designed the concrete setup—complete with built-in planters—that has become a favorite hangout for the family. “It’s the exact vision I had of just being able to have my whole family gather around this fire pit together.”
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