Classic Lebo Style
hat makes a classic Mt. Lebanon home? Most residents would say that it’s a house with unrivaled craftsmanship that functions beautifully for entertaining and radiates graciousness through old-world charm.
Under that definition, 54 Roycroft Avenue is the Lebo house.
Let’s start with style—which, in this case, is the distinctive look of so many of our municipality’s houses designed in the ’30s. To begin with, 54 Roycroft is a stone Tudor with the characteristic half-timbering and stucco siding, based on classic English models. There are few places in the country with as many notable Tudor Revival houses as we have here.
The Mt. Lebanon Tudor usually features a steep slate roof, small-paned casement windows, front-facing gables, and large prominent chimneys. Arched or shaped wooden doors open to reveal wonderful details like carvings and beamed ceilings. It all adds up to a welcoming graciousness that defines these old houses and makes them so highly sought after.
The Roycroft house is an attention-grabbing presence in its neighborhood; you can’t miss it. Perhaps this is due to another particular feature: It’s situated grandly on a spacious lot. Most houses in town are on smallish lots, but this one is set back on a total of 1.6 acres. So the property offers unparalleled privacy.
A Private Park
Much of the property has been cultivated into a private park, fully fenced and lovingly restored by current owners MaryAdele and John Krolikowski. Meandering paths with sculptures and places to sit allow for relaxing and taking in the peaceful surroundings. Just for good measure, most of the 100 hardwood trees on the property have been identified and labeled, including sugar maples that John tapped to make syrup.
Looking down from this park affords a good view of the huge working fountain that graces the property, as well as the gardens surrounding the house. Stone paths wind through the beds of perennials and flowering shrubs, most of them designed to be sustainable. In the rear of the yard is a stone utility shed that matches the house.
Completing the tour of the outside is a large flagstone patio in the side yard with an all-weather gas and wood-burning fireplace, complete with roasting spit. John admits that this is the feature that led him to buy the house. “As soon as I saw that fireplace, I said, ‘We’ll take it!’”
This is where the Krolikowskis spent much of their outdoor time year-round and frequently entertained. The balcony outside the master bedroom suite overlooks the patio and is ideal for morning coffee—again, shielded from the road by the house and the majestic shade trees.
“Roycroft is a surprisingly busy street, but we felt quite secluded and private here,” said MaryAdele. “The trees are kind of a buffer zone.”
Inside the Manor
Inside there is a baronial feel to the first-floor spaces in this 5,385-square-foot house. A door leads from the entrance hall to the living room, which features a vaulted ceiling, large stone fireplace and mullioned windows. Two other doorways in the living room lead to the dining room and directly out onto a high-roofed side porch framed by heavy timbers and stone half-walls. This porch feels both private and set amid nature.
One of the seven bedrooms is on the first floor, along with the kitchen and “terrace room,” which were part of a 1982 three-story addition. The house has five full bathrooms and two powder rooms. The terrace room is divided from the kitchen by a curving stone wall and two steps that lead down into a warm and inviting space with a stone fireplace. The original kitchen, now repurposed as a butler’s pantry, is perfect for storing supplies and serving at parties.
Interior and exterior spaces are connected by a number of doors, including the one to the patio, making the spaces fluid and great for entertaining.
The castle-like qualities continue on the second floor where ceilings are slanted, beams draw attention to the high ceilings in the master bedroom, and casement windows are small-paned. Although the home was built in 1938, the closets have all been enlarged and updated, many to walk-in size.
Most unusual of all for a house from that era is the lower level, which the Krolikowskis completely renovated after first lowering the floor 18 inches. With the extra ceiling height, they finished the space into a number of rooms, including a seventh bedroom with full bathroom (a perfect space for guests—it even has its own exit to the outside). They added a bar and pool table, a wine cellar and tasting room with a stone floor, plus a large, updated laundry room. The lower level adds tons of usable space to the floor plan.
A Place for Celebrating
The Krolikowskis are parting with this gem to downsize to a smaller, one-story home. “We wanted to stay in Mt. Lebanon for our grandchildren, so we can be part of their lives at home and at school. We are able to walk to the high school.”
What will the former owners miss the most? The parties and gatherings they held at 54 Roycroft.
“It’s a wonderful house for entertaining. We had a wedding reception for a friend of my daughter, with a tent on the driveway. The bridal couple came out on the balcony to greet the guests,” said MaryAdele.
“For our 25th anniversary, which was the same year our twins graduated from college, we had a huge party, with our family coming from all over the country for the weekend. It was a lot of fun.
“The great thing about the house is that people can flow inside and outside so easily, from the terrace to the kitchen to the yard. It’s a real party house.”
At the time of this writing, the home was still on the market. Lucky new owners will take over this house that bears all the Mt. Lebanon hallmarks, with style shaped by a design sensibility of the 1920s and ’30s, with charm, grace and distinction.
At top: Center: Beams and slanted ceilings are part of the Tudor Revival style. Bottom: As part of the 1982 renovation, the remodeled kitchen leads to the terrace room, and the original kitchen is now a roomy pantry space