Reclaimed Design in an 1880s Loft

Developer Brian Mendelssohn says his Pennsylvania loft looked like a “1980s office building with lousy fall ceilings everywhere” when he first purchased it. To cozy up the area, which is placed within a 130-year-old building which was once home to Arsenal Bank, he spent a year renovating, adding thick wood trim, reproduction light fixtures, a 1920s-style bathroom with cent and subway tiles and much more.

in a Glance
Who lives here: Brian Mendelssohn and his 2 cats, Oliver and Isabella
Location: Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Size: 900 square feet; 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
Year built: 1883

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn and his team at Botero Development made the kitchen utilizing budget-friendly cabinets from Ikea and a white Corian counter tops. He refinished the cupboards (originally brown) at a cheerful blue paint. Wade Caruso Woodworking installed built shelves from reclaimed wood against classic white subway tiles. The huge art is a mixed-media piece by Mendelssohn’s former roommate, artist Peter Burr.

Wall paint: Morning Dew, Benjamin Moore; cabinet paint: Silver Sage, Restoration Hardware; double-hung Baths: Architect Series, Pella; cupboards: √Ądel, Ikea

Jason Snyder

Avid art and book collector Mendelssohn, revealed here, enjoys “big, cluttered art,” he says. His collection consists of classic maps, photos and art made by friends.

The loft’s open layout came with its own challenges. Mendelssohn had to work on a load-bearing wall (the brick wall seen here) and earn a room with 15-foot ceilings feel comfy and inviting.

He coated the first pine floors with a water-based polyurethane from Bona to preserve their unique attributes and imperfections.

Jason Snyder

Caruso used the same reclaimed wood and steel hardware as in the kitchen to make this bookshelf.

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn’s cat Isabella stretches on an integrated pub seat with a custom seat pad created everywhere at T’s Upholstery Studio, which also made all of the drapery and hardware.

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn sits on his grandfather’s old leather chair along with his other cat, Oliver. He discovered the midcentury record cabinet on a jobsite in excellent working condition.

He installed giant double-hung windows and sheer period-looking drapery.

Jason Snyder

The main bedroom highlights are a mirrored wood wall and an integrated bed. Mendelssohn accumulated the reclaimed planks from multiple jobs and randomly assembled them together. A number of the boards are more than a hundred years old and boast a rich patina.

Wall paint: Scenic Drive, Benjamin Moore; bedding: Shangri La, Blissliving, AllModern

Jason Snyder

Original wainscoting and trim painted in slate gray wrap the bedroom. The trim is featured throughout the loft.

All of the doors have been salvaged from different regions of the building and change in width and height.

Bench: Tufted Bench, Restoration Hardware

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn’s second bedroom is a sleeping area for guests, a workout area and a game space. To make the twin-size loft, he utilized 2-by-4 wood studs pulled from among his development jobs. “We save all old wood and reuse it somehow,” he states. He stress washed the wood, lightly sanded it with a hand sander, then sealed it with Bona Mega. The loft is bolted together 7 ft off the floor, leaving approximately 7 ft over the bed so guests can stand up in the space.

Wall paint: Scenic Drive, Benjamin Moore

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn restores and assembles classic pinball machines. “I am a professional pinball participant in the nighttime, and 1970s Gottlieb are my passion,” he states. On the right is a June 1975 version of Quick Draw, a two-player game with original art. Mendelssohn claims the rear glass, cabinet and drama field were all silk screened by producer. The game on the left, El Dorado, is a rare single-player wedgehead-style machine, where the shape of the rear cabinet is tapered.

Jason Snyder

Mendelssohn picked a cast iron tub, a pedestal sink and white and black penny tiles for his primary bathroom. The subway tiles in the shower stretch nearly to the ceiling and are capped off with black-painted wood trim.

Jason Snyder

This 6-foot by 3-foot classic panoramic picture of Pittsburgh is Mendelssohn’s favorite art piece and spans the whole entrance wall; it’s among the many ways he tried to honor his building’s history.

Wall paint: Scenic Drive, Benjamin Moore; photography: “Pittsburgh Panorama, Circa 1905,” Shorpy Fine Art Prints

Jason Snyder

A picture map of Pennsylvania hangs over a shelf (also made of recovered wood by Caruso) where Mendelssohn could fall his keys when he enters the loft.

Botero Development

Moss Architects made the initial layouts for its building, and also the renovated property building is home to five loft apartments and the restaurant Tender, on its first floor.

Lauren Piasecki/Black Cherry Design

This is a historical picture of the Arsenal Bank building in its earlier days. It’s is at the center of the company district of Pittsburgh neighborhood Lawrenceville. Based on Carol J. Peterson, a Lawrenceville resident and founder of Pittsburgh House Histories, the bank weathered the economic depressions of the 1870s and 1890s and the Great Depression, while offering a safe spot for local residents to maintain accounts. The Arsenal Bank ceased business in 1943, when it was purchased by the People’s-Pittsburgh Trust Company, predecessor of PNC Bank and among the first Pittsburgh banks to establish branches in city and suburban areas.

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