The best of design: bedroom/outdoor space
JOny and Sandy Torchia had a dream. Both busy partners in the Manhattan office of global accountancy firm KPMG – where they owned an apartment – the couple, who traveled often for work, wanted to have their own piece of land where they could relax and preserve greenery.
Their wish came true nearly a decade ago when they purchased 150 acres in New Galilee, located about an hour north of Pittsburgh in Beaver County. The land came with a farm – and so the couple became a farmer.
Over the years they have added crops as well as cows, goats, chickens, donkeys and even a few peacocks to their property.
“We have improved a lot [farming] over the last nine to ten years – at least better on the basics,” jokes Tony.
The couple worked with Pittsburgh-based interior designer Lauren Levant to remodel several rooms in the farmhouse, including the kitchen and master bedroom. It turned out that Tony — whose first-generation Italian-American father and uncles all made their own wine — had another dream.
Throughout the farmhouse renovation, he spoke to Levant about his vision for an underground wine cellar with a tunnel similar to those he and Sandy have enjoyed on visits to the Napa Valley region of California.
“The wineries have tunnels in the hillside that open up to an underground winery space,” says Tony. “It was still beautiful and it felt like such a relaxing space.”
Levant was listening. With the help of architect Fred Cincala and builder PW Campbell, she envisioned a rustic yet sophisticated indoor/outdoor building – dubbed The Gathering House – which includes an underground wine cellar (accessed through a tunnel), a hearth room, a full bar, a game area, a tasting room, a whiskey lounge, a weapons room with a secret ammo door and a humidified cigar bar. There’s even an outdoor ax throwing class.
“I blame Lauren for that,” Sandy laughs. “She convinced [Tony] It was possible.”
This year’s Best of Design judges were so impressed that they named The Gathering House their Best Bedroom/Outdoor Space for 2021.
“I love all the different ideas that have been put into this space,” says judge Carissa Smith. “It looks almost like anything but the kitchen sink, but I appreciate creativity and innovation in creating a unique and fun outdoor space.”
After Tony, a Pittsburgh native, retired from KPMG last fall — and Sandy was transferred to the company’s Pittsburgh office — the couple now live full-time on the farm.
Largely completed just before the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, The Gathering House — also called The Party House by Tony — has become a popular hangout for the entertainment-loving couple. They often host Tony’s large family; on weekends, it’s not uncommon for 20 people to come to the property.
“This space is used by people to create really fun memories,” says Levant. “These guys are so fun loving – good old fashioned fun.”
On the main level, The Gathering House features a double sided fireplace which outside is surrounded by a patio, pizza oven and views of the pastoral setting.
Inside are two massive, tiered circular chandeliers that hang from the cathedral ceiling above oversized, custom sofas that Sandy says could probably seat eight people each. Three sides of the building have retractable glass garage doors which, in warm weather, open to let the outside in. In winter, the large glass doors offer a pleasant view of the cold landscape.
“It really feels like being in a snow globe,” says Sandy.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this level is a sophisticated bar that would fit perfectly into any upscale restaurant. Levant used sheets of steel Dekton material – typically used for countertops – as the wall cladding behind the bar. She also used the textured material to create shelves for liquor. The result is similar to an art installation – or maybe something out of “Game of Thrones”.
“It’s like ‘The Wall’ in the North,” says Levant.
The main level also features a full-size shuffleboard table, a refurbished soda machine that holds soda and beer bottles, and a 1950s chrome jukebox that plays 200 songs.
“It really adds to the festive atmosphere at this level,” says Tony.
The building has been cleverly positioned against a hill so Tony can have his stone tunnel, which leads to an arched opening with a view of the property’s creek.
At the entrance to the tunnel on the lower level is a custom-made rounded wooden door that reminds the couple of the beautiful old doors they saw in Italy. That and a live tasting table made locally by Urban Tree of Pittsburgh are two of Tony’s favorite features.
Along with a pool table, whiskey room, and cigar room, the lower level also features two rooms enclosed by arched glass doors. One is a temperature-controlled wine cellar. The other contains Tony’s collection of weapons, which ranges from pistols to rifles to weapons used during World War II. The wares in both rooms are displayed using a slatted wall system with a concrete finish, which Levant says gives the room a modern, industrial take on Napa Valley wine cellars.
Also note a hidden door in the gun room that opens into an ammo storage room. It can only be accessed after pushing the secret version.
“Everyone loves a hidden door,” jokes Levant.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the Torchias’ party plans — the couple had to cancel their annual farm party in the summer — they hope to be able to hold gatherings again. After all, they have a space made for it.
“As soon as COVID is over, we can’t wait to have big crowds again,” says Sandy.
- Architectural design: Fred Cincala.
- Interior design: Lauren Levant Interior.
- General Contractor: PW Campbell.
- Cabinets: Lauren Levant custom cabinets (main bar); Crystal cabinetwork (wine cellar and arms room).
- Material: Top buttons.
- Appliances: Sub Zero, Uline, Miele.
- Devices: Brizo, Rohl, Inserkerator, Staebell, Steel Ladder and Rail by Ed Parrish.
- Lighting: maximum.
- Wine and Gun Room Concrete Slat Wall: Advanced Display Systems.
- Wine cellar enclosure: Rex Glass
- Bar counters and wall cladding: Dekton by Cosentino.
- Windows: Andersen E-Series windows from Lezzer Lumber.
- Polished concrete floor on the lower level: special coatings.
- Porcelain tile: Massaro.
- Solid Knotty Alder Interior Doors: Homestead Doors.
- Boral Stone: EC Masonry.