by Kristina Martin
Everything in O’Hara Township’s buzzed-about “Mirror House” is clear and inviting, much like the reflection in a looking glass. Welcome to 897 Field Club Road, an art-filled oasis that Martin Prekop has called home for three decades — and where he has left his creative mark.
The nearly 4,300-square-foot house — currently on the market for $899,000 — shows off thousands of mirrors, hence its apt nickname, but it wasn’t always so artsy.
Originally, Prekop says his O’Hara home was filled with orange and pink counters and floors, plus linoleum. Over the years, the multidisciplinary artist — who’s skilled in photography, painting, sculpture, furniture and frame-making — added 25 skylights in addition to the exterior’s specially cut mirrors that reflect the surrounding greenery. (Fun fact: Even with our regional climate, the upkeep is minimal for the thousands of mirrors on view throughout the property.)
He also constructed cupboards, furniture and more in his woodworking shop, which originally was the garage and one of the first areas he updated in the residence.
“The home was my canvas; I was motivated to do [things] with the home to exhibit,” says Prekop, who served as dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts for three terms before teaching painting and photography until he retired in 2018. Prekop mentioned photographing his cabinets and exhibiting those photos, dabbling with wood and mirrors on trees on the property, and using a camera he built to make large paper negatives.
The overview in the home’s online listing reads like a “dream home” wish list: three bedrooms, four bathrooms, 1.5 acres, an open interior floor plan, a home theater, an art studio (naturally), and a backyard that includes an outdoor kitchen and a dining room (among other amenities).
One current housing market trend is that buyers want homes to be move-in ready — meaning optimal paint colors (grays are especially popular), light wood used throughout and so on, says Cory Czemerda, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Real Estate. This is good news for Prekop, whose home features shades of white, black, red, gray and tan, along with light wood.
The property may now be formally up for grabs; however, it previously was shared with others. Years ago, Prekop invited his CMU students over to “see how an artist lives, brings life into work.” Also, it once was available for rent on Airbnb — initially for overnight stays and then as an “experience,” allowing renters to enjoy tunes via the high-quality stereo. (Prekop isn’t musically trained but says he has had a “lifelong involvement with classical and jazz music,” and says that one of his sons has worked in the music industry.)
Prekop and his wife, Jesha, want their next home to be “a bungalow, less than half the size of [the Mirror House], with a small wood workshop, a small studio and a small dark room.” They’re moving to New York to be closer to their 2-year-old grandson and his parents, who are full-time painters.
Regarding crafting artistic creations within his home, Prekop notes a long-term involvement and an admiration for the emphasis on the life and work relationship of the Shakers, an 18th-century U.S. millenarian group.
“Integrating my work with my life, my house with my art,” he says, has been top of mind, and is something Prekop did before his Mirror House came into play.
In Pittsburgh, we’ve seen other artists combine their creative and living spaces, and even share with the public — like Randy Gilson of Randyland, with his colorful murals and vibrant hues decorating the exterior of his North Side home, and James Simon, who has for years welcomed locals into his Uptown house that doubles as a studio.
Simon, who’s known for local artworks such as the “Liberty Avenue Musicians,” co-founded the former Gist Street Reading Series with longtime friend and writer Sherrie Flick, and hosted it for nine years at his place, starting in 2001. Simon still opens up his space to others — these days, in warmer months — using his backyard for various types of events.
“I have lived in a lot of different countries and had good experiences there,” Simon says of his interest in melding his home and art spaces to become one (and share with the community). “People visit studios — lots more interaction in living spaces.”
Simon adds that “art factors into the city at large — art is crucial in any city in the world,” and says how it’s “great to create interesting artistic happenings in your community.” He also references Gilson along with the work of vanessa german, a former Homewood artist who is well-known for the ARThouse, which offered studio space to children and adults.
“The great thing about having access, being invited into an artist’s space,” says Flick, “is that you get to see their process, their tools, materials, inspiration by looking at the objects in the space. You’re really privileged to get that … [It’s] creatively inspiring to [be in those spaces] and to piggyback off the creative energy.”
Locally, over time, other artists’ homes have also graced the housing market, with some homes featuring artists’ original creations. As NEXT previously reported, muralist Jeremy Raymer’s place was up for sale at one point; his works, done in his signature style, are found inside and outside of the home. And currently, with a price tag of nearly $2.8 million, the oldest and largest home plot on Mt. Washington’s Grandview Avenue is listed — and features artist Joseph Youssef Kadri’s gilded work in the library.
As for the Mirror House, you might be wondering whether there’s a single highlight of the home, in Prekop’s artistic view.
“It’s a balancing act. If one part meant more than another,” it wouldn’t work, essentially, he says. “Get it all together — [if one part] is too soft, push it forward; I have been doing this long enough and therefore am keen on that. … It’s like writing a piece of music: There isn’t anything that sticks out [in the home] — as it should be.”
Kristina Martin has a background as a magazine editor, and she’s currently a freelancer. Her articles generally focus on lifestyle topics, including food, weddings, wellness — and the hometown she loves.