Leslie Hornung describes the home she shares with her husband and two daughters as "a really neat, quirky old house."
She is talking about the reclaimed materials used in its 1949 construction. Also, about an electrical system that was considered quite modern at the time. She's also referring to the various woods used throughout, including cucumber wood on the floors and pecky cypress on the beamed ceiling.
Quirky, perhaps, but this Southtowns home -- which sits high on a hill and offers a view of the City of Buffalo and even the Canadian shoreline on a clear day -- is particularly beautiful when it is decorated for the holidays.
"I'm a bit of a Christmas fanatic and decorate just about every inch of the house," says Leslie Hornung. Her husband, Michael Korchynski, and daughters -- Alex, 14, and Lauren, a week shy of 12 -- are into it, too.
A tree heading north to the beamed ceiling in the living room features hundreds of blown glass ornaments. A smaller tree in the corner of the dining room goes retro with bubble lights and ornaments from Leslie Hornung's grandmother. Nutcrackers take over the baby grand. A collection of Snowbabies celebrating Lauren Korchynski's winter birthday -- she turns 12 next Friday -- are on view in an old display case salvaged from a marine-supply store.
Even the oversized mirrors found throughout the home are draped in garland and other holiday trimmings. Is it any surprise to find issues of Martha Stewart Living and other decorating magazines stacked neatly under the coffee table?
A bit of history on the house: Called Longview Farm, it sits on four acres of land on a hill in Orchard Park. It dates back to 1949, when Edward and Lois Roth broke ground for its construction. The Roths worked with artist/architect Harold L. Olmsted.
The couple did much of the building themselves, choosing reclaimed materials including beech beams from an old farmhouse; flagstones from an old sidewalk, and bricks for the fireplace from an old building being torn down.
The Roths' construction project was noticed. Hornung and Korchynski have an old article written about the house that describes how, after the Roths contracted work for the excavation, basement, framework and exterior finishing, moved with two toddlers into the "shell" in May 1950 -- and got to work.
"There was no flooring in on the Roths' moving day and Mrs. Roth promptly set about her first job -- plastering the joints of the dry wall construction," the article states.
Roth finished the garage and workroom first so he had a place to make the cherry paneling for the dining room, the pecky cypress ceiling in the living room and the tongue-and-groove plank doors throughout.
Despite the home's rustic charm, the Roths chose modern remote control wiring with 100 outlets and 75 switches throughout the house.
Among the "quirky" details: Three drawer-front chutes in the kitchen which lead to the basement, for disposing of bottles and cans.
Hornung and Korchynski, who works for Travelers Insurance, are the house's third owners. They have done much updating, redecorating and exterior work the past 10 years -- much of it themselves. Tapping experience from working on their former home -- an old house in East Aurora -- they have done everything from replacing kitchen hardware to retiling bathrooms. Hornung refinished floors, painted and wallpapered, for example. Outside, Korchynski and his parents stained new natural cedar shingles.
Furniture is a combination of old and new, with upholstered pieces over-stuffed and inviting. And decorative accessories include chicken pottery in all shapes and sizes in the kitchen and Tole painted metal trays hung on the walls of the powder room.
Decorating for the holidays takes two weekends -- and several weeknights in-between, said Hornung, who works for SmartPill, a developer of diagnostic capsule-based medical devices.
It's worth it. The family hosts a large Christmas Eve gathering for an ever-expanding group of relatives, and the menu includes Polish and Ukrainian traditions from both sides.
The living room is a family gathering place.
"We have a winter layout and a summer layout," said Korchynski, pointing out that the furniture is cleared from a door leading to a patio once warm weather arrives.
For now, the exterior is decorated for the holidays -- one of Korchynski's projects.
In addition to icicle lights and a pair of old, red skis propped against the house, a big plastic Santa greets visitors at the front door. Illuminated, of course.
"It's kind of kitschy, but we have to have him," Hornung says.